Edel Rodriguez on creating his signature simple yet striking magazine covers for all people, not the select few

Edel Rodriguez charts his epic journey for us from student painter to creating satirical depictions of notorious world leaders for publications like Time and The New Yorker.

15 October 2021


For this September’s Nicer Tuesdays, we were joined by Edel Rodriguez, the creator of some of the world’s most recognisable magazine cover illustrations. Edel lead us through his vibrant and varying career – starting out as a painter in New York before landing editorial commissions. He’s had work exhibited all over the world, carried out a 14-year stint at Time magazine as an art director, and he’s written children books. He’s now become synonymous with his witty and satirical depictions of world leaders from former US President Donald Trump to Chairman Mao. In this Q&A, Edel began by telling us how, on his third attempt reaching out to the publication, it was a big break from The New Yorker that saw his career soar. Since then, his work has been in Newsweek, Der Spiegel, The New Statesman, Time, and It’s Nice That’s very own magazine, Printed Pages.

Edel credits illustration with teaching him how much of an impact design can have – when he started at Time as an entry-level designer, he explains that something as basic as cropping an image could be the difference between an effective and an ineffective cover: “the cover is never finished until published,” claimed Edel. We heard some of the designer’s advice, such as how becoming an artist is a very slow process – “you do entry-level stuff and you progress slowly.” And, not being a fan of over-complication whilst wishing to communicate a message in his designs, he told us he’s always keen to “get rid of excess.” Whilst on the topic of Trump, Edel didn’t hold back in telling us that “everything he does is a mould of evil,” which led to some of the artistic decisions he’d have to make when designing the former US leader, such as a lack of eyes. Taking a democratic approach to his designs, Edel “gets a kick” out of the fact that magazine covers are for all people, not for only those sophisticated in the arts.

Find out more about Edel Rodriguez and his journey from student painter to activism-driven illustrator, and how he continues to craft with purpose, by watching his Nicer Tuesdays Online September talk.

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Nicer Tuesdays is our monthly event of creative talks. You can find out more here.

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