Lots of buzz online about the termination of editor Dave Seanor over this cover, which refers to a thoughtlessly stupid remark by golf anchor Kelly Tighman.
It’s worth noting that the controversy over this cover is inextricably wrapped up in its conceptual quality. The insipid stock image brings nothing to the package that isn’t explicit in the headline. The noose may be a loaded cliché, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as tiresome on a magazine cover as any other over-used icon.
Now, clichés have their place, and all visual communicators must rely on them (at least once in a while) because they provide a shared visual language. But the trouble with using them unthinkingly and without a context that makes them story-specific is that either they’re boring and obvious–or they convey unintended meanings—or both.
If the noose (or better yet a net—”Caught in a Net” works just as well, once you aren’t relying on the noose to provide a link to Tighman’s quote) was clearly catching a television set showing Tighman on the golf channel—it might not have been wonderful (especially if the new cover maintained the phony small caps and clunky outlining on the headline), but it’s hard to imagine it getting the same strongly negative reaction as the generic “ominous noose” pictured here. And, if nothing else, a reader would have known—just by looking—that this is a media story.
[Editor’s note: For more intelligent design talk, buy Jandos’ new book.]