Art Direction

Shades of Meaning

08.31.07 | 1 Comment


I considered and then abandoned the idea of writing about the New Republic’s redesign. It seemed a difference without a distinction. If you put both versions of the magazine next to each other, you’d be hard pressed to know from looking which was new.

What has changed at the New Republic—even before the typographical shift—is the quality of the art direction. The magazine has been using illustration brilliantly for the last few months, particularly on the cover. (Short-time readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of illustration in general, and cover illustration in particular.) The current cover is particularly strong.

As an art director, I spend at least part of my brain power trying to avoid clichés. For that reason, I don’t know if this cover could have happened under my stewardship. In terms of overused imagery this concept employs a couple of doozies—the U.S. map and the twin towers have both seen a lot of action. Nevertheless, they are combined here in an unexpected way.

The map doesn’t take the usual North-equal-up POV—as a result the overly-familiar shape takes on a new drama and force. Also, the towers are strikingly used. Small in of themselves, they cast an enormous shadow. This aligns perfectly with the writer’s point—that the events of 9-11 have had an effect out of proportion with the scale of the tragedy. In short, the illustration does what great illustration must—it makes an editorial point clear in an immediate and powerful way.

The cover is the work of Todd Slater who is best know as a designer and illustrator of concert posters. I like his other work, but this, as well as another image nearly as good on the inside of this issue, show an ability to do what concert posters rarely need to be able to do—make complex ideas simple, direct and visceral.

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