About the Cover (Code Red)

All about this month’s cover.
ARTIST RICCARDO SABATINI SAYS that his cover for our “Code Red” issue illustrates the virality of emotion, especially extreme emotions. “It demonstrates how reactions can triggered, or turned ON, like pushing a button. And then spread exponentially, since nowadays society, and especially media, is a network of communicating devices,” he explains. “The power button turns ON, and fear is triggered. The pusher is whom spread fear at first. It could be anything or anyone. From a single harsh comment on a social network to a well conceived political propaganda.”
An early inspiraton for our “Code Red” cover was this animated GIF seen on Sabatini’s portfolio site. The hard edged typographic approach became less interesting after Sabatini submitted—on a lark— his hand-drawn concept that was ultimately chosen.
A sequence of GIF images that Sabatini offered as an alternative, apocalyptic vision. This was exciting and immediate, but lacked the dark and disturbing poetry of the final cover.

One of the first visual references Sabatini received from Topic’s creative team was the United States’ Homeland Security advisory system, which goes from green, denoting low risk of attack, to red, the highest. (Interestingly, the two colors stand on opposite sides of the chromatic color wheel.) He first attempted a type treatment displaying the name of the issue with a mechanism similar to that found in the final. His second proposal went in an entirely different direction, “not showing any calm state, but only the altered one, in a sequence of images and text related to the topic, all under a red light.”

For this final version, Sabatini, based in Florence, Italy, drew and animated his design in Photoshop, where he gave it “an eroded look with a mix of noise texturing and bitmap dithering.” He says that the illustration isn’t a specific comment on the United States, but rather, a global pattern. “[It’s] a useful tool for those who know how to use it,” he says. “Not only chaos is a ladder, fear is too.”

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