Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Tears, fears… and the setting sun

How to present the stories behind the Japanese quake perhaps fell into three approaches round the world, the covers above from the UK, Japan, India and Europe... (Meanwhile, read a story here on The Washington Post about how a newspaper in the tsunami-hit area resorted to hand-written editions)

The radiation issue: most sensitively and imaginatively dealt with by The New Yorker, whose radioactive cherry blossoms at least suggest a rebirth, or the temporariness of the problem country-wide, while also at least hinting at the horror in the area around the nuclear plant. The Japanese AERA went less imaginatively, along with its worldwide tabloid compatriots, with the headline, "The radiation is coming"

The Hinomaru: the Japanese flag (a long-time favourite of designers) got various treatments. It's inevitable and at least occasionally unavoidable in the course of designing covers on a Japanese theme. Hokusai's "Great Wave" was also used more than once. Already each is iconic and applicable to the situation, but of course both are also a fallback

The tears: also inevitable. How do designers get the scale of the story across in a single image? India Today used it to turn questions about the nuclear issue inward to India's own use of nuclear energy.

Below Bloomberg Businessweek used the Hinomaru rather neatly with a hidden crack in the flag, while, when revealed, the crack itself was a crying face. Illustration by Noma Bar.

Presenting the story is a question I'll face later this month when designing the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan magazine's issue on the subject.

Update, April 5: Kyodo News is reporting that the Japanese Consulate General in New York has lodged a complaint with Bloomberg Businessweek about the cover, above, claiming it is inappropriate. I did show this cover to one Japanese friend who said it was "terrible" – the sun represents everyone and the cover means we're all sad. I was somewhat surprised: as this was just such an illustration of the trauma of the nation. The UK's Union Flag is constantly used in a "pop" way (not to all conservative's pleasure but without any real upset), and this actually seemed a genuinely sympathetic design use. Clearly – and from angrily negative Japanese responses to another blog – the same doesn't apply to how many Japanese see their flag. But why single out Bloomberg for this issue?

some images via Magculture and Nascapas

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