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.”