Michael Bierut | Essays

Every New Yorker is a Target

Print advertisement for Target Corporation, Me Company, 2005

I have been a faithful subscriber to the New Yorker for over twenty years, but I have to admit that I had forgotten that the issue of August 22, 2005 was supposed be different. So I suspected nothing when I opened the front cover to find a full page, red-and-white illustration by Stina Persson featuring a woman's face, some vague neon signs, and a pattern made up of the dot-in-a-circle motif that is the logo of the Target Corporation: a typical image ad. On the opposite page, however, was more of the same: subway car, taxicab, skyline, boom box, Target logo, this time rendered by Linda Zacks. Turn the page, there's a single column ad next to the magazine's table of contents (an illustration by Carlos Aponte featuring more than thirty Targets in various New York settings) facing still another full page ad, this time a group of Target logos dropping over an art deco skyscaper rendered by none other than Milton Glaser.

For the first time in its eighty-year history, the New Yorker was giving itself up to a single advertiser.

I must confess, the effect is unnerving. In high school, I read a book called Subliminal Seduction, an early "expose" of the psychological techniques used by advertisers to market to unwary consumers. The most thrilling passages described sinister exercises in which the word "sex" would be almost imperceptably airbrushed onto the ice cubes in a photograph of a glass of whiskey. This effort was somehow meant to push the viewer one step closer to alcoholism. How exactly this process was intended to work (particularly in view of the fact that the glass, encoded ice cubes an all, was usually photographed in the hands of a woman with mammoth breasts and spectacular cleavage) was always unclear to me. But the idea that ad agencies were skillfully imbedding secret messages in product photography had immense appeal to my inner 14-year-old conspiracy theorist; it also explained why I was always so darned horny.

The all-Target New Yorker is the product of more nakedly mercenary world where advertisers no longer need conceal their aims. There's nothing subliminal about it: I counted over 200 Target logos in the first 19 pages alone, and there were still eleven ads left to go when I gave up. The illustrators acquit themselves well: Robert Risko turns in a funny image of a substantial construction worker perched on a typically un-ergonomic modern cafe stool with a single logo on his back-pocket handkerchief; Yuko Shimizu turns in a spirited biker chick crossing the Brooklyn Bridge with the logo rising before her. Best of all is Me Company's vertiginous computer-generated cityscape, the last ad inside the magazine, which surely pushes the logo count well into four figures, if not five.

Although the publisher has publicly stated that the decision to go with a single advertiser had no effect on the magazine's editorial content — as editor David Remnick put it in the New York Times, "Ads are ads" — the inescapable world of Target creates a disorienting context. Every non-Target illustration in the issue looks a little...funny. Indeed, when I saw the large woodcut that Milton Glaser's former partner Seymour Chwast produced to illustrate Gina Ochsner's short story "Thicker Than Water" (two blackbirds with round eyes that sort of reminded me of...never mind), my first thought was: didn't Seymour get the memo? No, and he no doubt didn't get the paycheck, either. Even the cover drawing by Ian Falconer gives one pause: two boys, playing with a beach ball, a round beach ball, a round red and white beach ball...

Isn't it every advertiser's ultimate fantasy to implant a predisposition to see their logo everywhere you looked? So Target's experiment — which may have cost a million dollars — must be rated a resounding success. But after my head cleared, I managed to actually read the issue, and came across a review by Ian Buruma of Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley Martin. The review is illustrated by a full-page comic by graphic novelist
Guy Delisle that recounts his brief stint working in Pyongyang. "Everywhere you look, you look at one of the Kims," reads the caption. "At first I found it amusing. But after a while that omnipresence began to weigh on me. And at the end of my two month's stay it was driving me crazy. On my return flight, I saw North Korean apparatchiks taking their 'Dear Leader' badges off. So maybe I was not the only one who had that feeling."

Like I said, after a while, it just seems like everything's about Target.

Posted in: Business, Media

Comments [56]

That picture, especially combined with the title of this post, is just plain spooky.

I'm a rabid New Yorker reader. I devour it every week. But as a kid, I puzzled over it...flipping through dusty stacks of old issues at my parent's one-room cottage up north.

Back then, as now, some of the most interesting bits were the quirky ads in the back pages alongside the Current Cinema. Can I really publish 1000 copies of my book for $1.65 each? What's a poke boat? How can Beverly Berner's Silver Shop replace a missing piece of my mother's cutlery at up to 75% off retail? Who wears a size 13EEEE loafer? That's not a shoe size -- it's a hex color.

So I disagree with Mr. Remnick. Ads are sometimes more than ads. They can be part of your publication's personality. Maybe he meant to say "revenue is revenue"?

And what's wrong with "everything Target" as opposed to the usual popourie of Chevy, Armani and various Liquor ads? I thought the idea was a breath of fresh air— upstaging the dusty old stable of usual suspects found in the NYer. Target has really out done themselves here. Robert Risko, a usualon page 20, has a half-decent illustration for once! If anything, this campaign will serve as a wake up call to art directors Chris Curry and Francoise Mouly. Bravo Target!... and golf claps for NYer...

felix sockwell

i really dont see anything subliminal (or was it subliminable...?) going on here, especially since the new yorker's readership doesn't strike me as one that's this easily influenced, openly or not. and hey, any reason to pack a magazine chuck full of decent illustrations (especially one that has been sorely lacking in this department for the last few years) is a good reason to me. then again, i'm just an illustrator...
thomas fuchs

What can we infer by Target (a decidedly cheap-chic brand) being the first solo sponsor of the New Yorker, a magazine with a self-regard that's generally more elite than that?

I've always had the same interest in the smaller New Yorkers ads that Dave mentioned. They seemed to be somehow independent and whimsical, like a series of quirky small town shops who each specialize in just one kind service or product. The Target ads, while perhaps wonderfully executed, sound like a big name mall that has forced all the small downtown businesses to close their doors though.
Jen Renninger

I seem to remember Apple doing this also, but with Time or Newsweek magazine. I could be mistaken. It was during their revolutionary Mac launch---a la 1984.

Anybody recall?
Jason Tselentis

I think it's a little disingenuous to assume that the New Yorker readership is less easily influenced than other members of the population. After all, isn't this the constituency who has been stereotyped as name-dropping elitists?

I don't know if there will be a direct influence, but if any of the artists that created the advertisement pages are mentioned, the association between product and artist (by way of magazine) now exists -- one of the connections prized by some of the culture-trainspotting readers of the NYer. Whether they will actually verbalize their recollection in terms of a brand is yet to be seen.

> If anything, this campaign will serve as a wake up call to art directors Chris Curry and Francoise Mouly.

Felix — I think one could safely say that Chris and Françoise are firmly on the side of illustration and illustrators. If you want to hurl brickbats at anything, consider the typical editor's fear, stubbornness or lack of awareness.
m. kingsley

Further commentary can be found here at Gothamist.
Michael Bierut

Not hurling bricks in Target practise (see wake-upgolf claps). Careful, I know where you live buddy! Don't get all Maven on me! (Marken?) Seriously, theres rather good reason to give pause on some of their choices.

On positive tip, one recent benchmark in the editorial columnn has to go to Luke Hayman over at New York Magazine who hires typographers as illustrators. Now theres an idea that seems progressive. Doesnt it seem NYer's deep roots can't find the big pay dirt of late? Probably just me.
felix sockwell

Ironically, this issue will probably be one of their top sellers this year, though not because of the content but because of the ads.
Michael Surtees

here in minneapolis, target paid for a mini-golf course in the walker sculpture garden. i counted 192 (or was it 198?) target logos on their hole, the final one, which featured a red-and-white doghouse for spot, their fiberglas spokesdog. across the street, they get a gallery named after them! so their full-on incursion into culture is, well, old news.

By the way, subliminal advertizing is bunk. All those images they were finding in ice cubes were examples, not of diabolically clever madison avenue executives, but of pareidolia, the phenomenon by which the Virgin Mary is discovered in a grilled cheese sandwich and auctioned on eBay for lots of cash.

Call it superliminal advertising.

Previously in the New Yorker: From time to time an advertiser will place several cartoon ads in the magazine, illustrated by regular cartoonist contributors, who obviously provide only the art: they are invariably unfunny and a waste of the opportunity. I remember specifically a series of ads for Hummer which I found personally offensive. (Not because the vehicles themselves are awful, but because the "jokes" were hateful.)

As Dave said, "revenue is revenue". Much respect to all involved in the New Yorker: it's the best loss leader in publishing.

The first thing that I understood about this issue of The New Yorker is that Target is making a not-so-subtle push to ingratiate itself upon the purchasing public of New York. They have been moving very hard in the past 10+ years to create new markets on the East coast, notably in Boston and New York cities. To me, aligning their brand in such a major way with (one of) the eponymously titled magazines of their main "target" market is a bold, if obvious move.

Notice in the NYTimes article that the city of New York does not have a single Target store in the borough of Manhattan? I haven't seen the issue yet (the Left Coast mail is a bit slower perhaps), but from the description of the ads mentioned here and elsewhere, it sounds as if most of the references to NYC show bits of Manhattan, not Queens, The Bronx or Brooklyn.

They are advertising themselves as integrated into the city lifestyle and skyline. Perhaps these ads, when considered from a New Yorker's point of view, are hopeful of a future rather than reflective of the present.

"The all-Target New Yorker is the product of more nakedly mercenary world where advertisers no longer need conceal their aims..."

Michael, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned or made an analogy to Colors. Whether under Tibor Kalman or Kurt Andersen, Colors has always been an awkward place of original editorial content surrounded by the presence of a single advertiser or sponsor/publisher. The New Yorker now seems to have entered this same complicated terrain.

As the world progresses, "church/state" editorial lines seem naive. The New Yorker Festival is a blatant use of editorial talent in the service of marketing. For David Remnick to say that "ads are ads," and then to put red-and-white beach balls on his cover, is simply disingenious.

Years ago, Drenttel Doyle Partners ran ads in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and New York Magazine to announce the opening of the World Financial Center in lower Manhattan. We commissioned short stories about New York by writers like Dana Gioia, David Rieff, Jamaica Kincaid and James Salter. The New Yorker flipped out (some of these writers were feature writers for the magazine) and wanted all kinds of revisions so that the ads were clearly identified as ads.

At the time, I thought this was cool. Today, I'd prefer that advertising was advertising and editorial was editorial.

As these lines get more and more blurred, why couldn't the beach balls on the cover at least have been blue-and-white?
William Drenttel

William - I'm with you that the cover illustration is probably the biggest (easiest) issue to call to question.

I can't say I really am shocked or care a whole lot about this. Everything is for sale, the New Yorker is a for-profit magazine - owned by Condé Nast - in the company of magazines all about buying (Lucky, Cargo, GQ, Vogue, Brides, House & Garden, among others). I would be shocked to come to Design Observer and see the site splayed with Target ads, but not in a magazine like The New Yorker. Look at all the mileage the publication is getting! I rarely buy The New Yorker, but this week they've got a sale out of me.
Andrew Twigg

Maybe this is just an indication of a) how brand-focused our culture has become; b) the desparate finances of the publishing industry; c) the illustrations incorporating the logo are clever and well-done, kudo's to that. I'd rather have that than photos of the dog and to-cute-to-be-true models.

One thing that does puzzle me, from a more strategic point of view, I don't really see the typical 'New Yorker' reader as a key demographic for Target. (Obviously, somebody's research says otherwise) But then again, my late grandmother did love going to Staples once they opened in the Bronx. (I think it's on Broadway). So, maybe they are trying to be the intellectual's WalMart. Or how to buy mass produced merchandise, of somewhat questionable quality, that's aesthetically pleasing without having to disguise yourself before going to the store.


>Look at all the mileage the publication is getting!

I'm guessing this wasn't done just to impress readers of the New Yorker. I don't think Target will be at all unhappy for Americans to gaze upon it through the NY's glow
Jeff Gill

New Yorker... the best loss leader in publishing

Yes, poor poor New Yorker... with huge holiday sales of it's 3 inch thick book of cartoons (they own all rights in perpetuity), it's dinnerware for sale at Pottery Barn, etc, etc. So poor! Look, I've had a subscription to NYer for nearly 10 years and it is my favorite magazine... but let's not get all teary for the Conde Nast suits.
Their contracts are the most abhorrent reads in the business.
felix sockwell

My take:
Great for illustration. Bad idea in reality. I found it overkill and I too wondered about the cover being circular and red. We expect advertising to exist in a certain context, when it's beamed into the sky so we can't enjoy the stars at night, it's gone too far IMO. I liked the illustrations with the fewest logos.
Risko's, Yuko's, Beck's. I did wonder if the illustrators had to be approved by NY'er staff.
I'm waiting for the Viagra or Preparation H issue to come next!

I believe all the ideas about subliminal words in advertising have been repeatedly refuted. People just don't see them. Even subconsciously. It might bother us on a conspiratorial level. But that's about it.
An interesting article about Target's new stores (which are intentionally unique and really well designed) was recently penned by the architecture critic at San Francisco Chronicle. (Who along with their TV critic is about the best thing about the paper.) Find the article here.

I don't think Target will be at all unhappy for Americans to gaze upon it through the NY's glow

Or vice versa.
Andrew Twigg

I am surprised that there is only one posting here that touches on what I felt when I first went through the NYer issue.

Within a few pages I became disturbed by the application of a target in various NYC locales. Haunting.

Maybe the symbol now stands more for discounted goods.
Michael English

When the advertiser 'owns' the published material (even temporarily), all of the material becomes suspect. Every bit of content must be viewed with a vigilant skeptisism that it may be advertising.

Kind of like when Disney is mentioned on ABC.

Isn't that the basic premise behind full disclosure? Is it really any different (in perception, not reality, mind you) than reading Target's in-house magazine?

I just got my issue. Was looking forward to it after reading this. But I think it looks cheesy.

My two cents: when one advertiser sponsors a publication and has a small, subtle note on the masthead or colophon, I cheer. When the logo and identity of that advertiser is everywhere in the publication, it's no longer anything but an extended ad with excellent copy-writers and illustrators to fill the spaces around the ad elements.
Isaac B2

The New Yorker is one of the few magazines that puts illustration on the same level as photography. Because of this, the Target campaign looks perfectly at home in this week's issue and should be celebrated.
Oliver Henry

I have an alternate theory about the subliminal roots of your hornyness. It came as a result of the combination of your bookishness, fertile imagination and love for typography. Too many times a day your eyes ran across words like too, book, mood, tooth, groom and blooper, which took some nook in your brain off to the same too (I mean two) components of female anatomy. The much rarer cleavage combination, as in ovoid and ovonic, did the same. Some words rang multiple bells, though stayed in the subconscious. Wood, for example, in connoting both the stimulus and your response. Others probably burst through to consciousness, as did both nooky and whoopy, combining those two big o's and a wished for related activity.

I hope that in making you conscious of this dynamic, your reading pleasure is enhanced in the future.
Dr. L

I didn't think the illustrations were particularly obnoxious; if anything it seemed like there were fewer ads this week than usual. As for Target doing this, I'm sure it has more to do with being able to buy out a full issue of a prestigious magazine, knowing that the attendant press (and blog) coverage will easily triple the bang for their buck.

Now if their stores actually came close to the brand experience promised in the ads...

Sometimes I wonder why troubling yourself so much in searching for design felonies out there just to rant about them. An advertiser is what lets you keep reading the New Yorker for over twenty years, an advertiser is what lets the New Yorker keep commissioning excellent writers and illustrators, an advertisement can be boring and an eyesore - but magazines need to have it to pay the bills.

One can say that most of the recent New Yorker's ads are a bit more interesting than the average ad pages in any publication in this country, but that's just one's opinion. I personally don't see what is wrong with putting together a group of talented artists to create an ad campaign - especially for a magazine such as the New Yorker, whose legacy has an endless appreciation to the trade of illustration and it has been a great value to this profession, to me it kinda make sense for a project like that to take place in this magazine.

And just one more thing - what exactly does none other than Milton Glaser means? are you saying that all the rest are just a bunch of young, innocent and unexperienced artists who sold their soul to the corporate monster and a 75 years old illustrator with such remarkable lifetime achievements should have known better?
Toto Schillaci

Where's the rant about the advertising on the New Yorker web-site? I mean, courage of your convictions and all that.
Chris Gruber

i read the new yorker on a semi-regular basis and bought this issue because James Jean did one of the Target ads.

not that i would want every magazine to start doing this, but hey, some of these illustrations are damn sexy.

Target's ads in The New Yorker are most likely NOT targeted towards the Manhattan elite. Quite the contrary, they are attempting to create the illusion -- through a highly publicized advertising stunt -- that they are; all to attract consumers across America who have cultural aspirations to maybe one day become part of such an elite. More about this here

I'm not convinced that the red and white beach ball on the cover is meant to be a comment on the Target ads--the cover is a pretty typical summertime cartoon cover after all. It's a comment on cellphones more than anything. But there are some amusing points in Jim Holt's review of three bullshit-related books, including Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit (previsouly discussed ). Some choice lines:

"If "bullshit"... is a distinctively modern linguistic innovation, that could have something to do with other distinctively modern things, like advertising, public relations, political propaganda, and schools of education."

"Both the liar and the bullshitter typically have a goal. It may be to sell a product, to get votes, to keep a spouse from walking out of a marriage in the wake of embarrassing revelations, to make someone feel good about himself, to mislead Nazis who are looking for Jews. " (That sentence sure takes a turn at the end!)

"Most of what passes for news," Laura Penny submits [in "Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit"], "is bullshit"; so is the language employed by lawyers and insurance men; so is the use of rock songs in ads."

And most of all:
"When it takes the form of political propaganda, management-speak, or P.R., [bullshit] is riddled with euphemism, cliché, fake folksiness, and high-sounding abstractions [sounds like my own work!]. The aesthetic dimension of bullshit is largely ignored in Frankfurt's essay. Yet much of what we call poetry consists of trite or false ideas in sublime language. (Oscar Wilde, in his dialogue "The Decay of Lying," suggests that the proper aim of art is "the telling of beautiful untrue things.")

In this advertising age, truth may simply be a convenience.
Sam Potts

I read Michael Bierut's piece, Every New Yorker is a Target, with some interest since I am mentioned in the first paragraph with the inference that sounded to me as though I had just been outed in a drug bust. I am trying to understand what Michael was talking about. If he is concerned about the confusion between editorial and advertising material in the media, he is correct to worry. In fact, this has been one of the more deplorable developments that has taken place in recent years. However, Target's ads are overt and clearly differentiated from the editorial material in the New Yorker. It's hard to imagine a reader being confused between the two. Target made a smart advertising decision in response to the New Yorkers offer to provide the entire issue to a single advertiser. If Michael is concerned about the effect that advertisers have on editorial decisions he has also a right to be worried. Actually that does not seem to be his concern. The New Yorker has an enviable reputation for resisting corporate pressure that has been demonstrated most dramatically in their coverage of the war, the Abu Ghraib scandals, and the other political machinations that our current administration has been practicing. If one is concerned about the collapse of journalistic integrity in the face of political and commercial pressure, it would be more useful to look elsewhere. After re-reading Michael's piece, the only real concern he seems to have is that the advertising is too intrusive and doesn't match his idea of appropriate style. Our profession has frequently confused style and content. But let us not confuse the fundamental nature of advertising. Intrusion is its job.

On the other hand, a continuing discussion on how advertising might have damaged the American psyche is a worthwhile subject for all of us engaged in the design profession.

Michael also makes a gratuitous reference to my former partner, the talented Seymour Chwast, about his not seeing the memo or getting a paycheck. Seymour got his paycheck for doing an illustration for the New Yorker to which he is a regular contributor. I got my paycheck for doing an ad. But I must say, I found the reference a snide one.

It is not easy to find clients concerned with the social meaning of what they do. To be sure, Target is in business to make a profit, but what else is new? My experience with Target has been a satisfying one and has included a series of posters for their Children's Day and Fireworks event at the South Street Seaport, a reading at the Chicago book fair that they sponsored, an identity project for The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and most importantly, a revolutionary pharmaceutical packaging project conceived by Deborah Adler who works for me, that could save thousands of lives. I know of few other corporations in America with better instinct for social intervention.

One more thing. Some years ago, I discovered through a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal that the Chrysler corporation had established the practice of previewing editorial material in magazines in order to determine whether they would advertise in that magazine or not. Over 100 magazines had agreed to cooperate. This was a frightening assault on our first amendment, which had the potential of profoundly affecting the editorial content of most magazines. I declined a nomination for one of the Chrysler design awards as a means of protesting this attack on one of our basic democratic principles. I encouraged other designers to join me in this protest. At the time, only Tibor Kalman, Jessica Helfand and Steven Heller were willing to voice their opposition to Chrysler advertising policies. After a year, the press coverage of the opposition paid off and Chrysler officially changed their policy. Perhaps the reluctance of other designers to take a stand on that issue came out of the perception that the design awards elevated designer's importance in relationship to society, but self-interest is not the best guide to ethical behavior. Maybe the climate is different now and an increasing number of designers are willing to express our concerns about our role...That could be the start of something big.
Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser and other commenters on this article have read things into my original article that are not there. I simply say that the effect of placing what may be more than a thousand logos from one company in a single issue of a magazine creates a disorienting and, for me at least, unnerving context for the non-advertising material.

I do apologize for assuming, without evidence, that Seymour Chwast was paid less for his illustration than Milton Glaser was for his. This was based on my own experience that corporate work generally pays better than editorial work. If that was not so in this case, my congratulations to Mr. Chwast and my condolenses to Mr. Glaser.

Milton Glaser does raise excellent points about the relationship between advertising, editorial content and design in the publishing world, and I encourage our readers to follow up on them.
Michael Bierut

Beirut vs Glaser - you kids kill me. good to see the latter diffuse the former (unlike the fantastic AIGA Journal "readable typography" debate 8 years ago). Classic stuff.

I have to join Glaser's ethical Target toast. Having worked with them for years I've found them rea$onable and professional. They once paid me to design logo for a local Minneapolis gradeschool! Also, their sister company- Mervyn's- spends alot of time and money giving back to local communities.

Oh... Where for art thou, Wal-Mart?
felix sockwell

What a great conversation, really.

Though stylesignals seemed to hit closest to the mark. Target more than any other understands the deep aspirational drive of the middle classes. The New Yorker gets that too. It's a marriage made in Times Square, the world HQ for deadened, sterilized culture and unbridled materialism.

After actually seeing the magazine, I must say that the cover does not look Target-y to me; it is simply another bittersweet and ironic cover from the great Ian Falconer. If his red and white beachball is an ad for Target by palette, then all of his Olivia books and many of his previous New Yorker covers are also (subliminal) ads for Target. (Maybe so subliminal that Mr Falconer isn't even aware that he's doing it!)

As for the rest of the magazine... Besides the sea of logos, what was disorienting to me was the sheer "black & white & red all over" and illustrated flavours of the issue. Had Target decided to run more existing ads, including photographic ones, the issue would probably have been less remarkable. I found myself confused by non-Target imagery in 4c, photographic and illustrative.

I wonder how the issue was regarded by regular (non-designer) readers of the New Yorker; has anyone had a discussion with a fellow citizen about it?

Beyond all of the Target stuff, I was happy to read Adam Gopnik's Paris Journal. As has been pointed out in this discussion, advertising makes such content possible, and we should be grateful that Target underwrote an issue of such a fine magazine without reviewing said magazine's content beforehand. As Mr Glaser says, that kind of (p)review is unconstitutional to both demand and submit to.

An obvious statement about advertising: We can choose to ignore it. Just turn the page.

My New Yorkers are in a tall pile near the bed and is constantly being knocked over and re-piled so that the newer issues fall somewhere towards the bottom. Hence, I only now saw the issue with all the Target ads. Wow, what a coup.

What's interesting here is that for a few years now many designers I know - in fact, most - have praised Target for a fantastic public relations campaign - the TV spots are entertaining, the print ads engaging, and the logo sublime (hey, who can argue with a target - bullseye!). So now they take their remarkable skill and create a tour de force.

You don't have to be a capitalist dupe to appreciate the monumental effort. You also don't have to be a captialist stooge (to quote my uncle Izzy) to appreciate the value of the store itself. When you strip away the PR and Promo its still much better than Walmart or that one on Astor place (K-Mart). It offers good value, decent products, and pleasant service - who can ask more from a mass market emporium?

Bad corporations have long been inveigling their way into the pubic mind (and space). So why not celebrate a good corporation doing so (I know Target is subsidiary of a "red" company, but that's another story). Target delivers on its promises, more or less, and they are truly advocates of good design (and not always when it is expedient to do so).

Now, the topic of ad and editorial and church and state, and subliminal this and that. When I was 14 I read Huxley's Brave New World Revisited, which pointed out that theater owners would include a few frames of popcorn between the coming attractions to whet the audience's appetite. He used this as an example of how media is increasingly finding covert and overt ways to sell products. The New Yorker makes it VERY clear that its ads and edit are separate. The editorial typographic style is unmistakable, and even when its cartoonists flak for advertisers there is a clear distinction. This issue is a case in point. Its handled as well as it can be. Ads are ads, edit is edit. Sure TARGET gets its money's worth, but it does so with taste and intelligence. If all advertising (and let's agree that advertising is endemic to our capitalist system) was handled this way, we'd have little to critique on design blogs.
steve heller

Steve makes a fine point ... Target is one of the good guys, for sure. But living in Minneapolis, as I do, one sees the sort of monoculture that they have helped create. They are the arbiter of so many things cultural around here, and as such have put their corporate stamp on many parts of this community. Overall, I find the aesthetics they promote lifeless and stultifying. Seeing the New Yorker give itself over completely to Target for one issue gives me the same creepy feeling that the new Target-funded Michael Graves additions to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts do.

The tension, of course, is that Target is a huge arts patron, a huge employer and their ads are very striking (I know and admire many folks who work for the agency behind the New Yorker campaign). Who can complain? Me! I'm tired of the whole world around me being painted with red bulls eyes.

though i don't subscribe to the new yorker, i do read
it from time to time. after seeing a friend's
illustration for a Target ad and then several others,
i couldn't help but wonder. did the editors feel
awkward at all? i mean the illustrations/ads look
great and i may not have paid that much attention to
it, but think what u will, the very fact that target
used the same illustrators that the art
directors of The New Yorker use on a regular basis for
editorial content blurs the line, no matter how clever
and tastefully it was done. you can't tell me that if
Target had run their regular photographic campaigns
instead of illustrations in that issue that it would
have raised the same number of eyebrows.

that being said lines are being blurred more and more
often. think of the "Special Advertising
lines u see on many pages of some of our
favorite magazines. those disclaimers are put there
specifically to draw the line between ads and
editorial content, had those companies used the same
typefaces and specs used in those publication's
editorial pages they would have never been
allowed to run.

i like the fact that on 60 minutes when they do a
piece on something like Bob Dylan and his book
Chronicles Volume 1 at the end of the segment the
reporter informs the viewer that the book "is
published by Simon & Schuster which is owned by Viacom
the parent company of CBS."

William- i remember feeling had after reading
several issues of Colors and realizing it is
published by Benetton but remember forgiving
the publication not only because of it's great design,
but also because i felt the stories were intriguing,
thought provoking and real.

we have 3 Olivia books by Ian Falconer which we
read to our daughter and in all three he uses black
and white with red for accents throughout so i don't
think it was to symbolize Target at all, though for a
second the thought had crossed my mind.

chester- i asked a stranger on the train the
other day what he thought of the issue, and he told me
he was insulted (don't know if he was a designer or

as for the editorial content of the issue, i didn't
take a look to see what was in it after flipping
though the ads, not because of disgust, i just didn't
think of it

we all know that we need advertisers to cover the
costs associated with keeping magazines, newspapers,
and television running, it's just how it's done
that is sometimes worrisome
Rodrigo Honeywell

As a person who has background in advertising and marketing, and now an illustrator, I found the article very interesting to read, although, I don't necessarily agree to his point of view.
It feels like the matter of "subliminal" versus "subconsious". When you want to see "things" in what you see, you see them. Birds' eyes look the way it is regardless of who draws them, because they do actually look like them if you look at the real birds.
Actually, I was comissioned to do a small editorial illustration in the same issue, which I finished, and the art director at the New Yorker approved. When I was working on this small illustrations, I was not thinking of which issue it was going to be, and that actually was the issue my illustration was supposed to appear as an ad for TARGET. They pulled away my spot illustration from the issue the last minutes and replaced with the one by another illustrator who did not participate in the campaign, which was a smart decision. They were very careful about that borderline between advertising and editorial.
In fact, none of the regular contributing illustrators who did ads had any editorial illustration in the same issue.

I want to look at a different side of this whole campaign though.
It was undoubtfully a very innovative advertisign campaign whether you like it or not. It is proven by just how many people are talking about it. I have been seeing so many companies getting too cautious on creating new ads and campaigns that all the ads start to look the same. If you are an illustrator who has worked on ad campaigns, you know that you get so much art directions because the clients get so cautious. On the otherhand, Target always works on very innovative, bold, strong campaigns whether they use illustartions or not. It was fascinating, as it probably was the least art directed illustration job I had ever worked on. Target bacically gave me all the freedom other than the theme that it was "Target and New York". And they know the artists do their best when they leave it up to them. They also know that way they can always be the innovator of fresh, new and creative advertising.

Yuko, thanks for the contribution. Yuko's illustration, which I singled out for praise in the original article, can be seen here.

Michael Bierut

I think what I like about Yuko's image is that the Target Logo becomes somewhat deconstructed by taking on the look of the Japanese flag thereby blunting it's (the logo) sometimes overpowering impact. I don't know if this was her intent or not.

Thank you. Well, I didn't intentionally try to blur oberpowering impact of the logo, however I did try to think of an idea that logo turns into something else that has meaning in the image (my solution was sun setting behind Manhattan), rather than just throw in 5 million bullseyes into a picture so it looks like "a Target ad".
What I thought was funny was that in actual magazine print, Target added one more small white bullseye to the top right of the page in case viewers didn't notice my big blurred bullseye in the picture.

Yuko, I thought you were trying to make sly reference to the moon! I hear Target has acquired building permits for the dark side of it too.
felix sockwell

I was talking to some magazine art directors earlier today and realized there were a huge misunderstanding among people about the process of this campaign. (They thought I was working with the magazine art department)
So I wanted to add one more comment.
From the beginning till the end of this whole project, I had ONLY talked to people at Target and their ad agency, and I had not even once worked with art directors or anyone else from The New Yorker itself.
I wrote earlier that art department pulled my editorial illustration from the issue. That was done the last minutes, probably when art department finally saw the advertisements and probably thought that was a smart decision not to have anyone participating in the ad participating in editorial.

They pulled away my spot illustration from the issue the last minutes and replaced with the one by another illustrator who did not participate in the campaign, which was a smart decision. They were very careful about that borderline between advertising and editorial. In fact, none of the regular contributing illustrators who did ads had any editorial illustration in the same issue.

Thanks, Yuko! This is good to know, because what I found a little bit creepy at first - is it too obvious to spell this out? - was the fact that the ads had been created by illustrators or designers usually known for, or associated with, editorial content.
Ricardo Cordoba

Ricardo, what you said actually came up in the conversation with art directors on Friday. So I want to add a bit more.
We illustrators were surprised to hear that a lot of graphic designers and art directors think of "advertisng illustrators" and "editorial illustrators" as completely different category. It is true that a lot of us mainly do editorials, but that does not mean we don't do advertising. There are also a lot of illustrators who's main jobs are related to advertisng, but that does not mean they don't do editorial either. Right, Felix?
There were 24 illustrators appeared in the campaign in this issue of the New Yorker (in the newsstand version. subsciription version had 21 illustrators). out of which ONLY 3 illustrators are actual regular contributing editorial illustrators of The New Yorker.
Fact that a lot of the ads looked more like editorial to the viewers, I believe, have more to do with how Target ads are designed (not just in this campaign, but how they design ads in general): no copy, very simple, just bullseye(s).

Thanks again for your comments, Yuko. I guess I fall into that group of graphic designers who "think of 'advertisng illustrators' and 'editorial illustrators' as completely different category"... :-)

You make some very good points about what type of work illustrators can choose to do, and how this campaign was designed. Thanks again.
Ricardo Cordoba

Ricardo, this is an interesting situation which I would not have guessed existed. An art director or designer not knowing that illustrators work outside perscribed market boxes sounds like it's time for a wake up call to all illustrators to get the word out about their range.

Frankly, I don't know of one illustrator who either had a problem with or misunderstood the "process" of the Target ads making their way to the pages of the New Yorker. It was very clear that the company was not dictating numbers of logos to the illustrators. In some instances, such as James Jean's piece, the plethora of logos captured the sensibility of logomania in our culture. In others, the illustrator chose wisely in how many were included. Overall, I feel Milton's comment cleaned the table on the issue. And the recollection of Apple's 1984 advertising [Superbowl adverts] makes it clear this is not "new" but perhaps missing to a degree in what we typically expect from advertisers. That said, not great campaign is at it's best if not underscored with social involvement.

As a reader/subscriber and an illustrator, I was tipsy with enthusiasm for the bold visionary stroke by Target and for the great work produced by my peers. Kudos all around. What an exciting thing to see! Volumes of original illustration. Next time, prime time.

Thanks Yuko for providing an insiders account of the 'deal' and sober numbers on how many New Yorker "regulars" were commissioned for the ads.

Whitney Sherman

I wish my blog was as popular as this!! I too was startled, but not surprised by the Target New Yorker marriage. But no one responded . . . So if you want to trash the NYer from a left of liberal perspective, or really, from any perspective, please stop by . . .


Jobs | July 23