It looks like a head about to explode. Smack in the middle of a recent cover of The New York Times Magazine was the face of Hillary Clinton blown up into planetary proportions. This was for “Planet Hillary”, a story on the vast network of allies, friends and supporters that Hillary must manage if she was to successfully run for president in 2016.
Using the analogy of the universe, the cover turned Hillary into a planet surrounded by other cosmic elements such as “The Super-PAC Nebula” and “The Friends-of-Bill Black Hole”. While this concept sounds decent in theory, the cover looks less than stellar in reality.
Instead of resembling a celestial object, “Planet Hillary” looks more like a bloated orange juxtaposed against an image of the galaxy. The background is what defines the context and cover. It is also not immediately obvious whose face this is as we are only given a pair of eyes, a nose and a mouth to identify the subject. Even though the planet is the anchor element of this cover, it is the title, “Planet Hillary”, that tell us what we’re looking at.
Although some may take issue with this unflattering portrayal of the politician — and one wonders if there is an intention to poke fun at Hillary — the bigger problem is the cover is not very pretty. Not that all design has to be beautiful, but this looks like a crude rendering of the very first concept that came to the designer’s mind. Perhaps it was also a poor choice to use photography to execute this. It sets up an expectation of realism that is let down by how unreal this image looks. An illustrator might have been better in bringing out the fantasy universe this cover is trying to take us to.
The overall direction of this image also looks out of place with the style of Times Magazine covers. A glance through past issues show an intelligent use of photography and typography, as well as covers that have more depth and are open to interpretations. In contrast, the “Planet Hillary” cover is literal and one-dimensional, offering nothing more after the first look.
The one redeeming factor of this image is how absurd it looks — Hillary as a planet? While it fails to impress as a cover for the Times Magazine, its gimmicky visual messaging makes it prime for a few rounds of sharing and retweeting as just another slick Internet meme.
Written for Steven Heller’s Researching Design class at D-Crit.