October 9, 2011 — Jad Rahme
Julian Assange has become by establishing Wikileaks, an organization that publish official documents that are kept secret or classified by governments or corporate entities. Wikileaks receive documents from sources kept anonymous, then send the leaks to journalists in different countries and publish them online too. Since the creation of this organization a lot of secret information concerning important political figures in “powerful” countries has been leaked and put some political entities in a very bad position.
The TIME Magazine issue of December 13th, 2010 dealt with the Wikileaks phenomena putting a picture of Julian Assange with an American flag on his mouth on the cover page with the following headline: “Do You Want to Know a Secret?”. First, it is very attractive because people are seeking for added value content, they want to learn about something not everybody knows about. Second, Julian Assange is known for revealing classified documents and here, TIME Magazine is talking about revealing secrets concerning the organization that is known to be a secret revealer. Of course, the article titles posted under the headline are attractive too because they bring answers to questions that most of the people are asking: Where and how does Julian Assange get those leaks and what will be the impact on America?
The cover picture has a very mysterious atmosphere and this through three characteristics: The black and white effect, the light effect and the look in the eyes of Assange. The black and white effect is often used to create a special atmosphere and in this case it is supported with a special lighting effect: Half of Assange’s face is completely filled with light and the other half is more shadowy. What does this effect mean? It means that there are two faces for Assange, one that is his public figure known by everyone and another one that is more mysterious and that you don’t know about. In addition to the black and white effect and the lighting, the look in Assange’s eyes will make you feel that this person is thinking or planning something very important in his head you don’t know about.
Now let’s talk about this American flag on Julian Assange mouth. This flag that is obviously added digitally on the picture and is very attractive for American as for non-Americans and may also be interpreted in two different ways. You can understand from this cover that the issues tackled in the magazine are related to the United States, which is a topic of interest for Americans since it is their country, and for others since the US are an important, powerful and influent country. Why is it important for TIME Magazine to add this flag? Because its primary audience are Americans interested mainly in politics, world and business. And there secondary audience is a more global audience meaning people outside the US or non-Americans. Now this American flag may be interpreted in two different ways: It can be interpreted as if the American authorities and political entities are keeping Julian Assange mouth shut about important leaks affecting the US negatively and in this case the flag is a tool to prevent someone of speaking. On the other hand, it can be interpreted as if those same entities are intentionally leaking information to Assange to send specific messages to their allies or enemies or to put them in some difficult positions. In this case the flag is used as a tool to control what someone is saying. Whatever your interpretation is, the magazine will attract you.
The analysis of the whole color palette of this cover page is interesting too: The black background gives more importance to the portrait of the creator of Wikileaks. The title of the Magazine “TIME” is not written in red, as it is usually, to avoid getting the focus on the title instead of having it on the picture. Using white and grey for the text also helps in setting the level of importance: Text in white is more important than text in grey and this is implied unconsciously by the stronger contrast of a white text on a black background than the contrast of a grey text on a black background. That’s why the titles of the articles concerned with Wikileaks are in white while the author names and the other articles titles are in grey. I explained in the previous paragraph how important the American flag on Assange’s mouth was important, this importance is also being intensified by the fact that it is the only element on the cover page that is colored.
To conclude, this cover attracts people interested in politics and the world and seeking to now more about Wikileaks or to read about some secret information they don’t know about or analysis they didn’t thought of.
I generated an alternative cover for the same story that would have generated a different atmosphere and attracted a different group of persons. You will find the alternative cover above: I chose a different image and changed the title to “Wikileaks: How is it Organized?”
The new picture I choose is first of all colored unlike the picture on the real cover of the magazine. Second, the picture shows Julian Assange in a more relaxed situation where he is laughing and I added to it a light “sketchy” effect to make it smoother. The new title is more classic than the original one and does not contain the word secret; it is more “straight to the point.”
With a new picture that doesn’t generate anymore a mysterious atmosphere and a title that doesn’t imply anymore secrets revelation, this alternative cover will not attract people in search of getting information no one knows about. The group of persons that would be attracted by this new cover is more classical and looking for more serious information about the organizational structure of Wikileaks etc. Two different cover pages for the same story may attract different kind of readers…