Much to my surprise, the Economist uses a mix of both photography and illustration. On the cover of every issue is some sort of illustration about the main article. The illustration is not necessarily the most complex thing, but it does make the reader stop and think. For the cover of an article about Trump, the White House is the most predominant image, but hidden in the trees is a small Twitter bird. Any conscious adult knows that Trump loves his Twitter account, so it is a graphic that makes sense with the illustration. I think it’s unique for a news magazine to make an illustration the cover, rather than a photo, because it makes the magazine stick out from the rest. In this case, I think an illustration is more thought provoking than a photo, because as I said before, it makes the reader stop to really study the image, so they can piece together an understanding of what the article might be about.
The magazine uses graphics in lieu of photographs throughout the magazine, but I can’t seem to find a correlation of when they’re in use. While some look like the cover (simple images with flat colors and not a lot of shading), the Economist uses a wide array of illustrations. They range from pencil-like drawings, comics, and digital images. Some serve as the main photo and span across the two-column grid, while the smaller ones sit in the column itself.
As for the actual photographs, the contents also vary in style. Most feature a variation of a head-on shot of the person they are talking about in the article; for example, in an article about the Brazilian President, there is a three-column wide photo of the president and his wife, and that is the only photo for the article. The photos chosen seem “newsey” in the sense that there wasn’t much creative thought put into them – the photographer just pointed the camera and took the photo, but that works with the Economist because I believe they just want to use the images to elevate the words rather than to distract. Another way these images seem no-nonsense is that all the images are either rectangular or square.
But then, on the complete flip side, you have photos that focused in on one person or a group of people, and the image invokes some emotion. These photos are different from their newsey counterparts because the it makes the reader pause to contemplate how they might relate to the image.
The Economist is not wed to just one type of photo. With a wide range of illustrations as well as traditional photos, the reader is kept engaged as they make their way through the dense content. Text is never overlapped on an image, so it makes the two elements seem very separate.