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Edward Steed’s New Yorker cover
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Edward Steed’s New Yorker cover

Usually at this time of year we’re taking a look back at the last twelve months, but who wants to that for 2020? Instead, leading up to Christmas we’ll be drawing attention to some of the simple things that keep us loving magazines – reasons to be cheerful, antidotes to 2020. We start today with this week’s New Yorker cover.

Every week The New Yorker publishes a new issue and a new cover. The ones that usually get the attention are the more news-orientated and political ones: remember how the magazine marks the anniversary of 9/11 each year for instance. The cover illustrations are unique in that they are standalone pieces, unencumbered by the need to link to any one story inside the issue.

The past four years have seen a spectacular series of Trump covers portraying the President’s failings, often in a more subtle manner than he deserves. One exception was Brian Stauffer’s 9 March cover ‘Under Control’, perhaps the closest the magazine got to going full Edel Rodriguez. Many of this year’s covers have refrenced the pandemic: last Adrian Tomine portrayed a Zoom date from a messy apartment, and the week before that Barry Blitt drew a Thanksgiving dinner being enjoyed outdoors.

But the front covers also regularly turn away from need for currency and continue the magazine’s tradition of publishing beautiful pieces of illustration. Art for art’s sake, if you like.

This week’s cover design is a perfect example of this. ‘Tree of Life’, drawn by Edward Steed, shows 40 or so imaginery creatures, loosely attached to a tree, which has a smiling bean at it’s base. It’s a beautiful image: colourful, fun, childish, silly… a world away from a serious comment on the news.

Some of the creatures that didn’t make the cut

On the magazine’s Instagram feed (worth following) Steed says of his cover, ‘It’s easy to design a completely new and unusual creature, but it’s difficult to make something new that is also sort of believable. A lot of fantasy creatures are quite unimaginative, just two existing animals glued together—and some real animals are fairly unbelievable.’

It’s a lovely cover that just makes me smile. A reason to be cheerful.

Read more about the cover on the New Yorker site.

Editor: David Remnick
Art director
: Francoise Mouly

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