Print is alive: The New Yorker magazine cover and animation

In a week when people are snapping up printed media as personal mementos of an event of a lifetime (I jokingly asked on Twitter why people didn’t just print out a copy of a website), I’d like to make a prediction that you can verify in 50 or so years. The cover of the current issue of The New Yorker will be considered among the best magazine covers of the first half of this century.* (Ironically, another New Yorker cover from the campaign — the Obamas as knuckle-bumping radicals — could also make the cut.) The illustration is titled “Reflection” and was created by Bob Staake. Below is an video Staake created that animates the cover:

*Later: I’ve been asked “why is this cover so great?” so here goes: First, the most daunting challenge a magazine designer and editor face is a cover of an issue when every magazine on the newsstand is going to be featuring the same story. How do you capture the event and moment uniquely? Secondly, an illustrator for the New Yorker has an additional competitive challenge: how to tell this story more dramatically than all of the previous New Yorker covers that appeared following unique historical events.

This cover responds to the challenges on many levels: evoking both Lincoln and Martin Luther King. However, what makes this cover a masterpiece to those who love magazines is its striking awareness of context — this is not merely an illustration: it is a magazine cover and the “O” of the magazine logo is providing the illumination of the story. This, “my friends,” (to quote the losing candidate) is one of those times when genius is an easy label to apply.

Update (12/8/2008): Accolades as “the best cover of the year.”

  • I’ve got chills. It’s gorgeous. Thank you for sharing!

  • I got goosebumps as well. I agree with your prediction.

  • “why people didn’t just print out a copy of a website”
    screenshots not printouts:

  • Rob, I think it’s great that people have archived so much online content related to the campaign and election. My joke was regarding the relative permanence of digital vs. paper media. In the long run, the digital version should be able to last forever. But for the first century or two, the paper version will look better in a collection of memorabilia.

  • Pending that you’re a digg user or at least know why the web site is significant, wondering if you can draw any comparisons with the future of digital capturing of history when viewing this screenshot:

    It’s not a piece of art, but I’ve taken screenshots of web headlines so I could reflect on them at a later time. The art will certainly get captured in the same way but for now, the print version still holds more nostalgic value.

  • I didn’t mean to imply — but in hindsight did — that we shouldn’t record the ephemeral way in which the the web responds to breaking-news and historical events. I was merely offering a glib observation that memory-catching is perhaps not the best property of the web.

    For the record, I have written about the need to collect the ever-changing way in which the web responds to breaking news and have even engaged in some user-archival collecting myself.

  • Matthew Hageman

    Posted this last night but for some reason it didn’t “take.”

    There’s a neat story in this past Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer about the group of 26 people who actually were at the Lincoln on election night:

  • I wouldn’t have caught this, even after holding the cover in my hand this week. Brilliant thinking on this and I think you are right. Now I have to dig mine out of the trash and save it, since all the other “covers” are only saved digitally.