Thursday, May 15, 2008


Photograph by Richard Avedon. Cover subject Steve McQueen. Design by Ruth Ansel. Bazaar 1962.

Once upon a time, covers were selected because of their graphic boldness and visual panache. Now they are chosen based on market research that tests the appeal of various stars and cover lines. Is today’s method really more effective or does all this testing just make up for a lack of imagination?

Take this 1962 Bazaar cover featuring Steve McQueen. You might get George Clooney today but you would never get the arm, which to me is what really makes the cover.


ginger b said...


everything now-a-days is designed to fit a mold

Anonymous said...

That is a particularly fine cover.
I'm not sure if I totally get your point though - surely Steve McQueen was the celeb-de-jour at the time - and putting him on the cover was done to up sales. Is it just that we look back on this image with a certain nostalgia for a time when everything wasn't all plastic-coated and brand-heavy? Sure I agree that, these days, all products - including magazines - are totally driven by sales and achieving the perfect pitch and demographic - but I'm certain that publishing houses in 1962 still had their bottom-lines.
I do however agree with you that these days we are lacking quality and imagination - and, I'll throw this one in - originality too.

Anonymous said...

The media today, be it the fashion
industry or the film industry or
the magazine industry, is out to
make a buck. Money is the drving
force behind the exploitation of
women, be they celebrities or
everyday people. We as individual
consumers, viewing all of this, have to use our common sense, and
say yes or no to it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with chose to show a picture of Steve McQueen circa 1962, which seems to imply that you are saying that the celebrity-as-cover is an old trick. (Although I will predict that you will say "but he is on the cover of HARPER'S BAZAAR!") But you crossed us up. I thought you would've gone the other way, and instead illustrated your observation with a selection or three from the new exhibit at the MOMA on George Lois' Esquire covers over the 62-72 decade. Those definitely had "graphic boldness" that would have defied market research.


Barry said...

Your point is spot-on. Although the Bazaar cover shown in today's post is perhaps not the best example, magazine covers in the late 1960s and through the 1970s were driven by concept, not celebrity. That's not to say that covers didn't feature celebrities -- they did, of course. The the featured celebrity was woven into a larger story.

Personally, I think the Esquire covers in the late 1960s (can't remember the art director's name) set a standard that no magazine has again achieved.

For a great example, check this out:

By the way, this link takes you to the entire Esquire cover catalog -- quite a remarkable visual treasure.

Anonymous said...

And you wouldn't get the crow's feet and laugh lines that make Steve McQueen so appealing!

Alice Olive said...


However what also gets me in is his cheeky grin and those eyes... and the arm. A great shot.

Unknown said...

I am in love with that cover. It's perfect.

nina corvallo said...

what maegan said!

Anonymous said...

It's also worth noting that that cover was the first time a man had appeared on the cover of mainstream American women's magazine.

jen said...

After reading your last post and subsequently the article on Pascin, I became obsessed with the image of Gwyneth Paltrow on May's Vogue. Here's an obvious example of cover shot as prime advertising real estate for a star's latest film.
What I can't understand is who approved this image where one of today's most interesting actors looks like an alien life-form - aggressive retouching erases what we love about these people. What would that cover be without Steve's fabulous lines?

Eyeliah said...

I though I posted a comment before, maybe I forgot. anyways I featured you on my site, I hope you do not mind.

Joanna Goddard said...

cheeky is right. love this.