These Are The Economist Staff's favourite Covers From The Past 20 Years


The Economist is quietly killing it.

One of the reasons: amazingly good covers.

But that is not a recent phenomenon. The publication prides itself on its covers. Before there was the astounding Rupert Murdoch image and the man who screwed an entire country, there was the world on edge, Brazil blasting off, and the first article calling out Sergio Berlusconi (way back in 2001!)

We love our covers. We spend a lot of time and energy on them, and have fun doing them. Some are subtle, some strident, some funny, some moving, some shocking,” Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist, says.

But all express the paper’s character, and all, we hope, are intriguing enough to persuade somebody walking past a newsstand to pause, think and stop to buy a copy.”

The magazine’s staff picked out 14 of their favourite covers from the past 20 years and offered some words about what makes them special.

'The mating camels for 'The trouble with mergers' cover was a big hit and a perfect example of the witty irreverent humour The Economist is know for. It came down to a choice between mating hyenas, rhinos and camels, and which looked the most ungainly. Many readers loved it, but there were a lot of complaints in America.

We have heard it was banned in Saudi Arabia.'

'Kevin Kallaugher ('Kal') has drawn more Economist covers than anyone else. Many are classics. We have seen this one reproduced the most.'

'Our energy correspondent couldn't go anywhere without people reminding him of our poorly timed 'Drowning in oil' cover, with talk of $5 oil, which ran just before the oil price started an epic, eight-year climb to a high of $145. To be fair, the article didn't say that prices would fall to $5, just that it might be smart of Saudi Arabia to let them fall - but no one remembers it that way.'

'This cover from 2000 showed Kim Jong-Il, the reclusive North Korean leader, waving stiffly to crowds. The headline was: 'Greetings, earthlings.' We think it captured the absurdity of the hermit kingdom and was very funny.'

'The picture of Berlusconi on the cover looked somewhat sinister with a touch of mafia boss. This was the first time a foreign newspaper decided to look closely at the man.

This issue had a massive impact in Italy and the cover is still used to illustrate stories in the Italian press. It has not been forgotten by the public or by Berlusconi who sued.'

'Our Africa editor at the time offered to write a cover leader, pegged to the 10th anniversary of the genocide and about what we had learned from it.

The consensus at the editorial meeting was that there was not much new to say about Rwanda. The editor asked if anyone in the room could name the man who organised the genocide. There was an embarrassed silence. The editor said that if even the well-informed people at The Economist could not answer this question, this suggested that there was in fact more that could usefully be written about Rwanda.

The cover with a pile of skulls may not have sold well, but we think we were right to publish it.'

''Germany - A surprising revival' caused a huge debate in the German media since it was published at a time where the German press did not see any hint of Germany's economic recovery. Germany's subsequent economic success proved The Economist right. And it sold surprisingly well elsewhere in the world, too.'

'This was an important cover, as it boldly illustrated our bearish housing view, at a time when the boom was in full swing.'

'The July 7 London bombings happened on a Thursday morning. Our covers are printed overnight Wednesday-Thursday. We had some other cover ready to go, but when it was clear what had happened, our cover designer responded brilliantly: he put together an image whose simplicity both gave it a huge graphic strength, and made it easy to produce quickly.'

''The shaming of America' cover after Katrina was emotional and hard-hitting. We had lots of angry letters from America about it, which goes to show the impact it had over there.'

'From the thick of the financial crisis, 'World on the edge' was widely circulated and viewed as capturing the drama of the moment.'

''Brazil takes off' had an enormous impact in Brazil and did very well in the US. When our journalists interviewed Lula last September, it was the first thing his people commented on. We worried a bit that some readers might find it sacrilegious, but in the event we only had one letter of complaint.'

'A cover inspired by Hemmingway's heartrending six-word short story: 'For sale: baby shoes, never used.''

'Last July's cover on the Arab world, showing a Ramses-like Mubarak sinking into the sand, made a big splash in Egypt, was perhaps the most prescient we've run. Six months later some people held it up as a sign in Tahrir Square during the huge protests demanding his fall.'

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