TIME – Images

TIME magazine uses a combination of photographs, illustrations and graphic images throughout its magazines. Illustrations and graphics are much more frequent in the front and back of the book, while photographs are used more often and in larger sizes in the well for feature stories.

In The Brief, The View and Time Off sections, the content is shorter and more bite-sized, so it is more suitable to use silhouetted photos and talking heads to fit more elements on the page. Additionally, many of the images in the front and back of the book came from Getty Images or are otherwise stock photo images, and are pictures of public figures. The photographs that accompany the features in the well tend to be photos taken by photographers for TIME, so it’s apparent that TIME puts more effort into getting high-quality photographs for the in-depth stories.

Graphics are used less often and are usually maps or graphs. The graphics and illustrations tend to be or tri-colored, either red, black and gray or black, gray and another accent color, like blue here. In regular issues, the graphics stick to the red, black and gray color palette but in this double issue, blue is used as an accent color on the cover, so some of the graphics in this issue take on that palette also.


Like I said before, TIME reserves most of the high-quality photos for the images in the well of the book. Opening pages for these stories contain one photograph covering the entire spread, sometimes bleeding off the page. This pattern is repeated throughout the well, so the reader knows when they see a double-truck photo, it’s the beginning of a new story.

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Images aren’t ever placed on top of one another, but text sometimes is. Opening spreads usually have type placed over the image, whether it’s the headline, subhead, byline or caption. Sometimes the story also starts on this page, and sometimes it jumps to the next spread. Regularly-appearing columns use talking heads as part of the byline, and in the front and back of book, a lot of talking heads and silhouettes are used to bring attention to the person, usually a celebrity, and usually it accompanies a pull quote of something they’ve said.

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In these instances, silhouettes and talking heads suffice because the background of the image is irrelevant to the accompanying content, or a background would be distracting. For example, there’s usually always a silhouette of someone (often a celebrity) in the table of contents, as a teaser to some story in the Time Off section. In this issue, Jennifer Lopez is used. Looking at the stories for the rest of the section, Jennifer Lopez is probably the only person that many readers would have recognized from any of them.



In the front and back of the book, spreads can contain up to 8 or 10 images, including graphics, illustrations and photographs. The features contain 1-4 images per page, usually all photographs, or maybe one graphic, like a map.

Illustrations are very simplistic and use 2-3 colors, but the reader still understands what it’s showing. Illustrations are used to give variety to the types of images on the page, and are used when photographs aren’t necessary or would complicate the design (i.e. using a photograph in this space would be so small that it’d be hard for the reader to make out the photo)

Illustrations are also used for uniformity. For example, in this bit from The Brief on Chinese investments in American companies, the topics are Jurassic World, pork, hotels and cell hones. The visual team probably came to the decision that whatever images they use would need to be visually similar to let the reader know that these four elements all belong to the same story. And like I said before, many of the photographs in these pages are stock photos, so it’d be hard to find four similar photos of these very different topics. Unless they had one photographer take all of these photos with this idea in mind, it’d be hard to manage, but an illustrator could illustrate these four things in the same style relatively simply.

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Finally, TIME uses graphics more sparingly than photographs and illustrations, but usually uses them in the form of maps and charts. For example, in this chart, using an illustrated graphic allows the artist to create his or her own scale that is understandable to the reader. Using a real map would’ve been more difficult to show the comparative distances between North Korea, Japan, China, the US Pacific bases and Hawaii.