Thursday, 2 April 2015

Story hacking

Here's a magazine oddity. This month WIRED UK and WIRED USA have the same cover feature, about attempts by North Korean defectors to send USBs etc with data about the outside world into North Korea with the aim of loosening the powerful grip of the dictatorship. Obviously a case of sharing content between the UK and US issues, you'd think, with just a different design approach. Oddly, not.

They are different stories written by different writers with different photographers, even if sometimes taking photos of the same people. (An attractive female defector gets a full page portrait, subtly different, in each.) 

And yet, the magazines do share stories and images – the story on sex workers who are missing a now-banned website appears in this UK issue a month after it was in the US one.

Well, I guess someone wasn't talking to someone. Or magazine owners Condé Nast are flush with money! (Or simply want to get back at NK for the Sony hack?)

Anyway, it happens to be a design master class – as both magazines are design masters – in which the US issue comes out on top. Better cover, better cover line. None of the militaristic power of the UK photo, which presumably sees the shot of the defector in front of missiles as a sort of parody of a dictator shot. Its cover line needs the logo to be read as well – which is unusual – but the change in colour adds to the confusion. (Apart from there, confusingly, being no "hacking" involved. That prominent cover line is simply to get people referencing NK from recent news.) The UK leads its feature with a nighttime shot of balloons being launched across the border to drop USBs in North Korea. The US demotes that project to a paragraph that says its a largely failed attempt compared to smuggling by people. (And The UK follows the NK article with a feature on quiet hideaways, confusingly – since the NK article is all about defectors – headlined "Escape". The US moves on to beer and an interesting article on the illnesses and industrial accidents in Chinese factories making tech products.)

The US cover is a great illustration that brings down Kim Jong-un, which is a better summary of the story than the empowering (militarily) of defectors that the UK approach goes for. All very interesting from a design view though.

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