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Why Businessweek’s Ugly Tim Cook Cover Is Subversive Genius

It’s impossible to design a cover that makes someone look like this much of a clown by accident.

To say that the design of Bloomberg Businessweek‘s latest cover has raised eyebrows is to underestimate the ability of human eyebrows to literally rip themselves off of the skull to which they are attached.

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After the announcement of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, Businessweek put Apple CEO Tim Cook on the cover, flashing the most shit-eating grin in history. “Tim Cook’s Apple” is scrawled over his portrait in an ombré version of the free Learning Curve Pro cursive typeface. It looks as if a righty wrote backwards with a Crayola Color Switching marker using his left hand, then flipped it in post-production.

In a post about the Tim Cook cover, Boing Boing’s Rob Beschizza said: “A graphic designer at Bloomberg Businessweek just ascended to world grandmaster of not giving a fuck.” XOXO Festival co-founder Andy Baio tried to make a meme of the new cover, and others soon followed suit:

Me? I think it’s brilliant: not only the most memorable Businessweek cover in a while, but a brilliant jab at Tim Cook’s non-existent design chops. I mean, just look at this cover. There’s no way this was an accident. You don’t pair that shit-eating grin with that font and those colors unless you want to make someone look like a clown.

It says: Whereas Steve Jobs was a maniac about typography, Tim Cook just doesn’t give a fuck. He’s going to download a freeware cursive font and call it a goddamn day. And where as Jobs cared about color so much that it took days at a jelly bean factory for Apple to find the perfect shade of translucent blue for the iMac G3, Tim Cook’s all like, “Just barf some yellow and blue together and give it a red outline! Like who cares, whatever!”

This isn’t the first Businessweek cover that has made Tim Cook look like an idiot. Just last year, Businessweek put Cook on the cover with the tagline “What Us Worry?”, drawing a parallel between the Apple CEO and Mad Magazine‘s gap-toothed buffoon of a mascot, Alfred E. Neuman.

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I asked Businessweek Creative Director Robert Vargas if the intention was to send a message to readers about Tim Cook’s credentials (or lack thereof) by choosing these specific colors and typeface for the cover. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Vargas stuck with Bloomberg’s official story that the only intent was make Tim Cook look like a happy, fun-loving CEO.

“We were really happy with the spirit of the cover photo, and how it’s the antithesis of the formality and seriousness you might expect from a portrait of a powerful CEO,” Vargas told me in an email. “We found and experimented with the font Learning Curve– we thought the playfulness of it made a great match and enhanced the surprise.”

So maybe it was unintentionally genius. Businessweek has had its share of horrible covers over the years, but in this case, horrible is good.

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