You know how magazines are coming under fire a lot lately for using a ton of PhotoShop? Marie Claire South Africa found a way around that when they featured Kate Middleton (also known as Duchess Catherine) on their cover. In fact, Kate Middleton looked so fabulous that they didn’t need to airbrush her at all.
Does that mean Kate Middleton is naturally perfect? No. Does it mean Marie Claire is taking a stand against unrealistic beauty standards? Again, no. It’s actually because Marie Claire South Africa didn’t use a real photo of Kate Middleton: They used an illustration! Kate Middleton won’t pose for any magazine covers, so they completely–but honestly–fabricated this one. There wasn’t even a photograph to begin with. Weird, right?
The mag lauds Kate Middleton as a style icon, but since she’s not the most accessible celeb, they made do with what they had and used what they called “hyper-real” illustrations of the Duchess of Cambridge, dressed up in duds from local designers.
On one hand, this is kind of awesome in theory. Back in the day, most magazines actually used illustrations instead of photos on their covers, and thus the mag has kind of a vintage feel to it. On the other hand, the illustration they used is so lifelike (serious props to that artist!) that it could really confuse a reader who wasn’t looking at it very closely–it looks more like a really heavily airbrushed photograph than an illustration.
We sort of love the idea of illustrations on magazine covers, honestly. It may help prevent girls from being bombarded with unrealistic images that are supposed to look realistic–you’re less likely to feel pressure to make yourself look like a sketch than like an airbrushed photo of a celeb, right? Because you know it’s fake. It’s a drawing! It could also be a fun way to get more people interested in art, and it would save a lot of celebs the drama of getting their hair and makeup done and alleviate their own pressure to succumb to the pursuit of perfection.
Unfortunately, we don’t think illustrations will necessarily take off in popularity for other magazine covers. A big part of fashion mags is to shill fashion–and while designers often start out with sketches, their ultimate goal is to have their actual creations worn by big names, photographed, and used for the publicity. An illustration of those designs may not fulfill that goal and get people to purchase the goods, in part because it’s less realistic and in part because a drawing may be interpreted as less legitimate than someone’s favorite starlet actually being photographed wearing a real designer gown. Additionally, fashion and beauty magazines often want to look “aspirational,” meaning they want you to buy into their ideals so that you’ll purchase more of the beauty and style goodies advertised within its pages in an effort to improve yourself. (When in reality, you’re already awesome. For real.)
As long as the ultimate goal of fashion mags is to sell ads, we may have get our illustrative artwork elsewhere–but only time (and cover sales) will tell.
Do you think more magazines should use illustrations on their covers? Do you think photographs are better suited for magazine covers than illustrations are? Do you like the illustrations of Kate Middleton on the Marie Claire South Africa cover? Tell us in the comments!