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The Radical Evolution Of The New Yorker’s Covers

Political satire is in, and fruit bowls are out.

New Yorker editor David Remnick doesn’t hold back when describing the past style of his magazine’s covers: “a lot of abandoned beach houses, bowls of fruit, and covers reflecting the change of seasons,” he told the New York Times.

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No longer. Ever since the week after September 11, 2001, when the weekly periodical ran a somber cover of the World Trade Center towers rendered as dark silhouettes, Remnick and art editor Françoise Mouly have increasingly featured political subject matter and set tongues wagging.


The New Yorker‘s shift toward political provocation has resurrected the traditional political cartoon, a format which has been disappearing along with the newspaper op-ed pages it once inhabited. Recent covers have featured political figures both close to home (New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, speared for his role in the George Washington Bridge lane closures) and on the other side of the world (power-hungry Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the Sochi Olympics). Even as photograph-based covers became the newsstand norm, artists have drawn or painted covers for every issue since the New Yorker‘s 1925 founding.

Mouly told the Times that her goal is to “try and take a series of snapshots that can be looked at by the art director in 2030 and give a sense of what it was like to live in New York now.”

This week that philosophy took a less political tone, with a rainy day scene that is also the magazine’s first animated GIF. Next week? There’s a good chance that no one knows quite yet.

“I think what David and I are aiming at is that you don’t know what the cover next week will be,” Mouly said. “We have the privilege, because we don’t do a political cover every week, to only do it when we have something good.”

[Read more in the New York Times]

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About the author

Senior Writer Ainsley Harris joined Fast Company in 2014. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.

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