Cover Critique: Rolling Stone’s Barack Obama Endorsement
Designers weigh in.
In the midst of a fascinating 2008 presidential race, Rolling Stone unveiled its endorsement of Barack Obama last week with this cover. Like anything this race seems to touch, the cover was immediately tagged as controversial (with some cable news pundits suggesting the magazine touched up Obama’s skin color to make him appear "whiter").
Putting that, and Jann Wenner’s politics, aside for a moment, FOLIO: asked some of its friends in the design world to weigh in on the cover. Here are some early returns:
NAME: Dan Trombetto
TITLE: Art director, FOLIO:
CRITIQUE: From a design standpoint, the composition and typography are very straight-forward – nothing very interesting going on there. The use of an Obama illustration portraying him as a glowing savior peering off into an unknown future? It seems a bit melodramatic. But I’m sure it will get some religious folks up in arms and create some controversy, which is probably the desired effect. If nothing else, it sure gives Barack a lot to live up to—especially since “A New Hope” contains no question mark after it.
NAME: Marco Turelli
TITLE: Art director, Wine Enthusiast
CRITIQUE: Doesn’t really do much for me. Coverlines don’t help sell it to the reader. Barack isn’t looking out into the distance nor is he making eye contact, so in effect he isn’t creating a sense of “greater purpose” nor is he connecting with the viewer. I would expect a more provocative coverline like “America’s Only Hope.” I’ve seen much better from RS in the past when covering political figures. They need to get Woodard back. Hillary’s Last Stand could have been fun though.
NAME: Paola DiMeglio
TITLE: Associate art director, Psychiatric Times
CRITIQUE: First reaction was that this looked like something from a Jehovah’s witness "The Watchtower" cover (those brochures that they pass out for a quarter) … has this religious feel to it. It’s more like he’s doing a Superman stance. Maybe they should have put the "S" shirt under his jacket with the cap. That would have gotten the effect, but maybe taken as more of an insult than an endorsement. I don’t really care for the fonts but I see it’s their standard serif font. It looks more like The New Republic or The Week instead of Rolling Stone.
NAME: Randy Dunbar
TITLE: Freelance designer
CRITIQUE: Presumably this an illustration. As illustrations go, it’s unremarkable. And Barack appears to have more lines on his face than Georgia O’Keefe. He also appears to be all ear. Personally, I am not inspired by this cover—by design, color, graphics, etc. If this is the "new hope" cover, the future appears to be cloudy … I did check the cover out at the RS Web site and in a smaller version. It has more impact … whatever that means …
NAME: Robert Siel
TITLE: Production director, Sumner Communications
CRITIQUE: Very solid cover. I like the painterly touch to the illustration. Nothing really pops out at me about this cover, either great or bad, but it’s solid. The stance of Barack and the one touch of color on the red tie seem to symbolize a Superman pose.
NAME: Bryan Canniff
TITLE: Owner, Bryan Canniff Designs
CRITIQUE: I have several reservations about this cover. If I were a Barack supporter I would not be too happy about his angry expression. The candidate for change seems to be looking forward to hard times ahead instead of "A New Hope". He looks so mad he is literally steaming. The blue color scheme is also not very positive. It makes his skin look even redder in contrast (and angrier). I don’t see the need to cover up so much of the logo, unless it is an awkward attempt to say Rollin one. It looks forced since his head is so small and there is no need to show more of his rumpled suit and askew tie. Starting with his pitifully small light yellow name, the typography is very laid back and the layout is too predictable and unexciting.
UPDATE: Tim O’Brien, the illustrator behind the Obama cover, responds …
What do you think? Drop us a line [dstableford AT red7media DOT com] or drop your own critiques in the comments section below.