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15 Best Covers

A great photo by itself does not make a great cover. Nor does a headline.

15 Best Covers

A great photo by itself does not make a great cover. Nor does a headline. It’s when they come together in a perfect balance of idea, image and typography that a cover good enough to launch a thousand subscriptions is born. Dayanita zooms in on what she thinks are Outlook’s 15 best covers.

1995 Where this blood-splattered photo and typewriter font meet, a crime thriller begins. Like the cover of an action film DVD, it conveys suspense and urgency.    1996 A photograph memorable for its casual approach to a national leader makes for a surprising cover. The double cutouts playfully enhance the ‘encore’ effect.   1997 An iconic photograph presents the familiar Tricolour in an unfamiliar way. The contrast with the man in the frame underscores the headline’s ‘Little Men’.

1998 The typographical cover ironically overturns the celebratory sense of the word ‘shortlisted’ by using it to bunch poll candidates with grimy records.   1999 Elegance of the simple cover sets off the gravity of the contributors named on it. The key is the allusion to The Idea of India, Sunil Khilnani’s classic.   2000 Clinton in an achkan against the iconic Taj Mahal could have become full-on kitsch. But by moonlight, it adds to the drama, making it a cover that lingers. 

2001 The green cover is unusual for a news magazine, as is the idea of using a boldly illustrated Pervez Musharraf. The little boy denotes the scale of things.    2002 Vibrant Mumbai dead? The paradoxical idea is accentuated by a seductive
photograph that would make a telling book cover for a megastory. 
  2003 ‘Democracy’—a jaded word turns explosive when paired with ‘whore’. Complemented by a provocative photograph,
this scathing quote piques curiosity.

2004 Brilliant use of limited material: a simple archival photograph used obituary-like, and placed in context by a picture of the dead Mahatma. A designer’s cover, totally.   2005 The illustration, with its Last Supper analogy, dominates, as the colours set the tone for this collector’s issue. Contributors mentioned are names one would always want to read.   2006 One can imagine this bold red cover with a confident political stand to match, as a poster of appeal plastered everywhere. Simple layout sans distracting elements.

2007 The photograph anchors the cover. Shot from an ant’s point of view, as Musharraf towers over, the typography echoes what the words allude to.    2008 ‘Azadi for India’—provocative and baffling words stand out against an atypical snapshot from the burning Valley as men rally on, as if walking through fire.   2009 Compelling portrait capturing Indira Gandhi in a vulnerable and reflective, yet powerful mood. Makes the reader pause and reflect: ‘Devi or Demon’?

  2010 Shocking words in red, symbolising blood, and black, set against a b/w shot, while ‘Ayodhya’ becomes part of the structure itself. Cuts to the bone.  

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