media and technology

the lowdown


the cover of 60s Esquire.

0 there you are in the newsagents to pick up the latest copy of your favourite men's lifestyle magazine. The one with Damien Hirst and his kid on the cover. Only thing is, that cover isn’t what you expected. There’s no moody black and white photo or brash head and shoulders shot. Instead, under the cover line ‘Father and child’, there’s Damien and offspring, dissected, mounted in glass and preserved in formaldehyde. It’s a neat idea, but it’s not too likely is it? Magazine covers just aren’t that playful. A sense of adventure these days means a shot of a pregnant Demi Moore


Magazine cover design ain’t what it used to be, says Teddy Jamieson, as he looks back at the ground-breaking George Lois images that graced

dangling from Johnson’s knee. ‘A cover.’ Lois argued, ‘should be a statement.’

Lois’s covers had what GQ’s current British editor Angus McKinnon describes as a sense of ‘future past’ about them. ‘They are the kind of covers you imagine you’re going to look at in ten or twenty years and think, “Gosh. they’re a wonderful flavour of their time” McKinnon says.

However, as Rosie Boycott, editor of the UK edition of Lois’s erstwhile

employers points out:

an naturel. Glossy shots ‘I would Ilko nothing ‘Covers aren’t like that of glossy people are the more than to put an any more. These days norm. stars won’t do that kind Art designer George absuact “"398 on the of thing. Their agents Lois might have con! 0' 60' But you won’t let them. appreciated the Damien comm” do no "moss you ‘People were much Hirst idea, though. out someone on your more approachable Lois’s own designs coy" who is A) sexy, 0'- then,’ Boycott adds. graced the covers of the B) tamous It doesn’t There were very few American edition of , magazines, so it was Esquire back in the 603 work easy to do something and a new book that different. You were brings them all together Mugzflfflsnon’ dealing in a world of

- Covering The 60s - suggests jusr how radical his ideas were, in comparison to their modern day equivalent.

Here is Andy Warhol sinking into a can of his favourite Campbell’s tomato soup; Muhammed Ali, in the wake of his conversion to Islam and subsequent media vilification, depicted as the martyr Saint Sebastian and American Senator Hubert Humphrey, whose unquestioning loyalty to President Lyndon Johnson damaged his own political hopes, presented waspishly as if he were a ventriloquist’s dummy,

four or five magazines. now you’re dealing in a world of four or five hundred. And you’re dealing with Hollywood publicists who completely control every image that their client does. It’s become a very different place.’

Both Boycott and McKinnon admire the work of Lois, but they admit

that if he was to turn up with his portfolio they’d be hard-pushed to give him a job.

‘I would like nothing more than to put an abstract image on the

cover of GQ,’ says McKinnon. ‘But


Cover star: loIs’ Innovative Image of Warhol drounlng In his own soup

you couldn’t do it. Unless you put someone on your cover who is A) sexy. or B) famous. it doesn’t work.‘

Boycott suggests that Lois’s interest in political issues would be a non- starter today. ‘You would die a fantastic death playing games with Tony Blair, John Major, William Waldegrave or whoever. You would not sell any magazines.’

And that’s the bottom line. With such a wealth of magazines available, floating buyers may make a choice after a ten-second scan of the shelves and it‘s not innovative images that have them reaching for their wallets.

‘lt’s “people” that sell magazines more than these kind of [innovative] images,’ argues Boycott. And, it seems, as long as these ‘people' are either famous or beautiful (or even better, both) it doesn't really matter how they’re presented. Angus McKinnon certainly thinks so. ‘There is a certain brashness abroad.’ he says. ‘If you look at the magazine that’s doing best in the market at the moment it’s FHM and their covers are incredibly crude. They’d never dream of doing something elegant and they don’t have to.’ Covering the 603: The Esquire Era by George Lois is published by Monacelli Press priced £19. 99.

Scanner covers the latest developments in media and technology. Address comments and queries to mediaList@aol.com

The List 28 Jun-ll Jul 1996 89