Stefan Sagmeister/Mrs Eaves-like Cover For Esquire
Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Bar Refaeli wears merely some body paint on the July 2009 cover of Esquire. Graphic designer James Victore was commissioned to transcribe parts of Stephen King's short story Morality on her naked body. Using what may or may not be shoe polish Victore tried to give the lettering some energy, with varying sizes and styles of lettering, even underlining a sentence and leaving a scrawled-out word. The composition was only mapped out to a certain degree. As Victore explains:
I have an exquisite wife, and I practice on her. Also, we worked with three different models. Everyone is different. The flesh is different, the curves are different.
A quite unexpected problem arose for the cover proofreader. Articles editor Ross McCammon, who wrote about Refaeli, was also tasked with checking her for spelling errors:
I had to read her three times because the first read was a wash – I felt disoriented, I wasn't used to the medium, I was rapt by King's wordsmithing. So the real work began on the second and third passes. As I scanned each line, reading the words out loud, checking for trouble spots (afterward, not afterwards, for instance), Refaeli slowly – but all too perceptibly – moved her body according to whatever I needed to get a good look at. Which was distracting, but I thank her for it.
Esquire have pretty consistently had covers with typographic backdrops – alternating between Christian Schwartz's Stag, Hoefler & Frere-Jones' Mercury Display (see also Christian Schwartz's Farnham Display) and hand lettering – for three years now. It is the first time however that the type/lettering is physically on the cover model. The 23-year-old Bar Refaeli says in the mag:
I haven't seen anything like that ever. So I wanted to be the girl who did it.
Well, I hate to burst her bubble, but design and typography buffs know better.
For starters Stefan Sagmeister did it twice. Once on the classic Lou Reed poster announcing his album Set The Twilight Reeling. As the lyrics to the songs are very personal they tried to express this by writing those lyrics over his face. This design was later plagiarised for the poster for the Jim Carrey movie The Number 23. There's echoes of Shirin Neshat's work in there as well.
Sagmeister even went one step further on the infamous lecture poster for AIGA Detroit. Sagmeister had an intern cut all the type into his skin, in an effort to visualise the pain that seems to accompany most of his design projects.
And then of course more recently we have the dazzling Gemma O'Brien a.k.a. Mrs. Eaves. She used her full body as well, but thankfully stuck to permanent markers for her Write Here, Right Now video that went viral.
So, is this a nice magazine cover? Sure, but remember it has been done before.
:: U P D A T E ::
I have added the Robert Brownjohn titles for From Russia with Love Peter refers to in his comment for your viewing pleasure. The type projected on the bellydancer's body is News Gothic, which was revised and expanded by the Font Bureau as Benton Sans.
Bar Refaeli photographs by James White for Esquire Magazine.
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