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Regulars / Printed Pages

Cover Stories: The Guardian’s Chris Clarke on the magazine covers that influenced him and his work

In the run-up to the release of Printed Pages SS18, we’ve asked a selection of influential people in creative publishing to choose the seminal magazine covers that they loved, and made an impact on them and their work. The magazines could be from any time, place or niche of the publishing world. In this series, they’ll tell us why these particular covers left a lasting impression.

Chris Clarke is deputy creative director of The Guardian, where he was instrumental in the newspaper’s recent design overhaul. After several months of work, the redesign launched in January 2018, shaking up tradition with a new masthead, typeface and layout in print and digital, but also an entirely redesigned suite of magazine supplements including Feast, Review, Sport and Weekend. At this year’s D&AD Awards, The Guardian design team was named the third most awarded design studio.

Somehow Chris makes time in the day to art direct and commission illustration and photography for all these mags and the newspaper, and work as a design consultant on the side – he designed the branding for agency Grand Matter, for example, and is co-director of affordable art company Room Fifty. So we’re lucky to have nabbed a small portion of his day to ask him to pick out the magazines that have influenced him over the years.

“When choosing these covers – much like when I create one – I referred to the same four guiding principles as a guide: originality, wit, courage and surprise. I believe a good cover embodies some of these, a great cover synthesises all four. These covers are examples of where these qualities meet.” Below, he explains his choices.

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Private Eye: Woman has baby
July 2013

Chris Clarke: This cover searingly captured the mood of a divided Britain over the exhaustive coverage of a royal baby in just three carefully crafted words: “Woman has baby”. Well, eight if you include the trail “Inside: Some other stuff” – which you should, as they artfully articulate the saturation of this topic throughout the news by downplaying the other (arguably more serious) stuff.

The cover cleverly predicted and juxtaposed the tone of the other news publications by borrowing from the language synonymous with tabloid newspapers and subverting it with jostling honesty.

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Sleazenation: I’m with stupid
Scott King, 2001

CC: Sleazenation started as a free monthly publication given out in clubs during the early 90s. It later took to the newsstand as a high street culture magazine. When this cover was published in 2001, the newsstand was a bustling marketplace of magazines selling impossible, derogatory and often demeaning aesthetics.

Borrowing a phrase known throughout popular culture and re-appropriating it, this cover is remarkably effective at critiquing its unknowing neighbour. Blunt in its message, it aesthetically elbows the ribs of the other newsstand magazines and simultaneously asks the observer to question the often subconscious choices they make.

Also, I’ve always believed that objects that contribute to the cacophony of noise in the public eye have a duty to agitate and upset the status quo whenever possible.

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Colors: Fuck Aids
Oliviero Toscani and Tibor Kalman, 1994

This magazine by its very manifesto is “driven by the belief that diversity is positive and all cultures have equal value”.

During his time as editor, Kalman creatively explored the world’s problems with courage and intelligence. This cover ticks all the boxes of wit, courage, surprise and originality. It is a daring piece of communication, and will forever stand the test of time, highlighting the importance of visual communication at portraying and highlighting difficult subjects. It underlines the designers’ and editors’ responsibility to do so.

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New York: Cosby: The Women
July 2017

It’s impossible to mark a list of great cover design without citing New York magazine. With so many to choose from, I focused on one that recently resonated the most. It’s also one that represents to me the magazine as a whole.

This cover of New York powerfully displays the 35 women who have alleged sexual assault on Bill Cosby, but what was arguably more powerful was the embodiment of the women who were not pictured, quietly depicted by the solitary seat, asking the viewer to question, who else? It sparks an evocative discussion on rape culture, which later inspired the #TheEmptyChair hashtag – a public and open discussion of rape.

It’s both incredibly shocking and sobering, resonating powerfully as a cover that contributed to the conversation around sexual assault and symbolic in immortalising the women who ultimately took down Bill Cosby.