Monday, January 26, 2009

Back to Back Barack

Esquire was the first magazine I subscribed to after graduating from college. That was back in the 1980s, after Phillip Moffitt and Chris Whittle had turned Esquire into a sophisticated and smart, but also sharp-elbowed and sassy publication that dominated the market for intelligent mags for men. I’ve been a subscriber ever since, and have held onto most of the back issues. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t winced occasionally at some editorial decisions. Such as the choice to put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cover (more than once) or say nice things about John “I Sway with the Winds” McCain during the last presidential race. No magazine is perfect, and Esquire has its faults.

One of the most obvious problems in recent months seems to be with choosing cover imagery. Twice over the last year, Esquire editors and designers seem to have gone out of their way to imitate the considerably less hip Time. In the first instance, the front of Esquire’s June 2008 issue, featuring a cross-armed but cool-looking Barack Obama (who the magazine soon after endorsed for the U.S. presidency), appeared to employ the very same photograph of the candidate that had already graced the December 18, 2007, issue of Time. (See the comparison below.)

Now, the February 2009 issue of Esquire bears a marked stylistic similarity to Time’s “Person of the Year” issue from last month. The covers of both were illustrated by street artist Shepard Fairey. But at least Time commissioned an original illustration; Esquire looks to have simply picked up Fairey’s “Hope” poster, which became iconic during last year’s presidential contest.

C’mon, Esquire. I expect more creativity out of you.

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