Analyzing a Rolling Stone cover
April Newton/ Patrick Johnson
The magazine Rolling Stone has had covers in the past that reflects the social situations in America ever since the magazine released its first issue in 1967(Greene, 2010). Rolling Stone’s covers have shocked people and earned their envy, as well as, always showing great creativity in their covers. When America was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, the editors decided to release an issue that only focused on the attack. The cover that they chose to use for that issue sent a lot of messages through color choice, font, images, and placement of images. The cover is a part of America’s reaction towards the attack and showed the people of America what was most important at that moment.
The colors in a picture have the power to evoke emotions and memories. When one looks at Rolling Stone’s cover for their special issue remembering the event of September 11th , there are different parts that are colored in specific ways to evoke certain feelings and send certain messages. The colors that were chosen for this cover are an old fashioned red and blue; the designers of this cover chose to use an older blue, white and red in the illustration of the American flag to enhance the history of the United States of America. The old looking blue, white and red in the flag says that we have been here for a long time with our values and beliefs, and a catastrophe like this will not change our identity. Those colors are also chosen to evoke a feeling of patriotism, a feeling for the classic spirit of America. The importance of the colors in the flag and for what the flag stands for itself was put like this when the author Wayne Whipple quoted the Medal of Honor receiver Julius Langbein in the book The Story of The American Flag, “In all the world there is not such another flag, that carries within its ample folds such grandeur of hope, as our dear old American flag, made by and for liberty, nourished in its spirit, and carried in its service; its priceless value cannot be estimated; wherever our flag has gone it has been the herald of a better day; it has been the pledge of freedom, justice, order, civilization and Christianity” (Whipple, 1910, p.91). Rolling Stone also chose to have their name at the top of the cover in the same colors as the American flag to show that they are a part of America’s society. They are just as affected by the event as any American citizen. The cover is illustrated with a daft black numbers printed on a daft white background to send a message of how serious and important it is. There is also a big difference used in the white color on the background of the cover and the white that is used within the American flag. The white in the flag looks older to send the same message as the red and blue, which also looks older, and creates the feeling of old values that have been part of the foundation of America since the country broke free from the English and became independent the fourth of July 1776 (Hogeland, 2010, p. 87). That feeling of independence, freedom and values and beliefs created from that moment and forward is expressed in the old white that almost looks yellow because of its age, the torn red, and pitch dark blue that is the American flag illustrated on the Rolling Stone cover.
When Rolling Stone’s editors sat down to choose what they would have on the cover for this issue, one can only imagine what they were saying. However, at this moment it was clear that American society, more than ever, needed to unify as a country and help each other. The American flag is a great representation of this idea. Therefore, they put an American flag as the most dominant part of the cover, but they also have the date “9.11.0” in the cover. That is to remind people of what happened and when it happened. The typography they chose for the date is very plain and simple, but also abrupt in how it looks. The numbers are not in a straight line and they are not exactly the same size, they are also a little bit blurry. What evokes from that is the shock that this happened, no one was expecting it and afterwards everything was chaos. Nothing seemed to be in place, and a little bit out of order just like the numbers on the cover. The typography creates an emotion with its design, as it is put in the Visual Communication book by Paul Martin Lester, how words and numbers are presented is just as important as what they say for the audience to interpret the full meaning (Lester,2006, p. 142). The presentation of the typography for the numbers 9.11.01 chosen for this cover created a feeling of uneasiness and chaos in the audiences mind; this represented the feeling of the event on September 11th.
There are two images on the cover, the date 9.11.01 and the American flag. These two are positioned in a specific way to send an exact message. The message that is sent is that America as a country is: bigger, better, more important, greater, stronger, and one step ahead. They illustrate this by simply putting the American flag in front of the date. Those two images are also in central part of the cover, and the flag more so than the actual date, and that is to drag the audience attention towards the American flag when as they lay their eyes on the cover. As the author of the visual communication book Lester puts it, one part in the image should be more dominant than the others to capture the eyes attention first and that should be the most important part of the whole picture (Lester, 2006, p.178). They still acknowledged the date, but by putting the flag in front of it the picture, it becomes so much more powerful for a country that just had one of their darkest moments in history. It sends a message that the country will fight through this mess because what America stands for is more powerful than what the terror attack stands for.
In this cover, Rolling Stone does not have a picture or drawing of a human being and that is rare compared to all the other covers they have used throughout the years. The decision to not use a human in the picture was absolutely correct; the message that is conveyed to the audience becomes much more powerful without a human on the cover. The event is not about a specific person, it is about the American country handling a catastrophe and coping with loss in the best way possible. Having the American Flag and the date of the event all alone the cover sends the message that this is all we need and should be thinking about and that America can cope with this dark hour of its history. What we see here is what Lester describes in his book Visual Communication, less can at some occasions be more (Lester, 2006, p. 178). If something else, such as a picture of the president, would have been added to the cover, the message would have been weaker. By having the cover in this way really conveys not only that this is what is most important now, but also that the American people need to come together as one. This ensures that the American society will come out of this catastrophe not only a stronger nation, but also as a stronger people.
This cover had a historical significance; it touches on the darkest hour of American history. It is important to remember that all the American people during the days that came after the terrorist attack showed the world how strong they are as a nation and as individuals. As President George Bush said in a speech to the American people on September 20, 2001, “In the normal cause of events, Presidents come to this chamber to report on the state of the union. Tonight, no such report is needed. It has already been delivered by the American People” (Christopher, 2001, p. 18). The people editing this cover decided to put the American flag in front of 9.11.01, and with that they evoked feelings of the American society is in higher standards than this event, and that is a greater part off how the American people reacted to the catastrophe. In the book “Betting on America” the authors quoted President Thomas Jefferson, “Nothing gives a person so much advantage over another as to remain cool and unruffled under all circumstances” (Cortada & Wakin, 2002, p. 1). This is what the image is displaying with its simplicity and basic lay-out. The historical significance comes from the magazine writing about one of the most horrid events in American history and by showing on its cover how people should react and how they should be thinking. The cover acknowledges what has happened but ensures that it displays the American people coming together is more important than the actual event.
Throughout the years, Rolling Stone has had covers that reflect the society in America during that time. When America faced its worst moment in history, Rolling Stone realized an issue only for that day needed to be special. The cover they used for that issue involved a social message about how the American people should react and think about the event. Rolling Stone sent that message with the different colors in the cover, the images they used and the placement of those images. The typography they used also played a role in what message they sent to the people in America, and by using all of these aspects in their cover they showed their integrity and importance during a significant part of American history.
Christopher, P. C. (2001). Harvard Journal Of Law And Public Policy. Address To A Joint Session Of Congress And The American People, 1214. Retrieved from http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/hjlpp25&div=8&g_sent=1&collect ion=journals
Cortada, J. W., & Wakin, E. (2002). Betting on america. Upper Sadle River: Pearson Education. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=NXkSiK9- SmsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=terror attack 9/11, american society stronger&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iHxJT7m9B9TrggeJ46zuDQ&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAA
Greene. (2010, November 11). Rolling stone’s first issue: An anniversary flashback. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/rolling-stones-first-issue-an-anniversary-flashback-20101111
Hogeland, W. (2010). Declaration. New York: Simon And Schuster. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=Xtm74mcqDfEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=america became
Lester, M. (2006). Visual communication. (5 ed.). Boston: Wadsworth.
Rolling Stone. (Designer). (2001). Rs 880: 9.11.01. [Print Graphic]. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/photos/2001-rolling-stone-covers-20040512/rs-880-9-11-01-35831772
Whipple. (1910). The story of the american flag. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus Company. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=KWw9AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA38&dq=blue white and red american flag&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HzxRT_rLL6nm0gHR_8HzDQ&ved=0CFYQ6AEwAw
Some time issues at the moment, I am on my way to see the Hunger Games. The book was awesome, and hopefully the movie will be that to!
Oh and yeah this is my visual communication paper, received 100/100 so it should be pretty awesome.