The New York Times Op-Ed by Mirko llic 1992
Ilic’s backstory and his view on the role of a Graphic Designer
These creative opposite-editorial (Op-Ed) layouts were created by Mirco Ilic for the New York Times newspaper and it can be accredited that the way he treated typography and the text of the article as a medium made his work so eye catching, therefore making the layout a visual point of interest, something which is was an uncommon feature in newspaper layouts, especially at the time of its creation in 1992.
Starting off, Ilic mainly focused on Graphic Design and Illustration before moving to New York in 1986 where he was first introduced to The New York Times and soon became appointed Art Director of the Op-Ed pages, which were usually reserved for opinion based articles. His work was characteristically controversial and he was so fixated on his work having a message that he was willing to abandon his style as a compromise for a powerful message to be attached to his work. This notion and work style is certainly applaudable, as it raises questions on how we view the role of a Graphic Designer and whether we should value the importance to produce appealing images or to convey a critical message.
Ilics personal style
Ilic’s style is frequently described as controversial and ferocious however this could be due to the fact that his work often revolves around equally controversial topics and events. Ilic is known for trying to incorporate powerful messages into his work and his layouts for his Op-Ed page in particular create a visual tie between his message, the contents of the article and the layout of the text.
Pafko at the Wall
This specific layout by Ilic includes two very contrasting topics; the main articles takes the form of a moving ball filling up the biggest part of the page. The second article is pushed to the left of the page in a straight, formal, defaulted column as it discusses how fostered children are being let down by NYC and in particular mentions the attempted suicide of a 5 year old orphan who was finding it difficult to be loved.
The subconscious yet startling effect of this layout
The shocking contrast in the varying seriousness of the articles creates a controversial message on what we value more, more specific to this case, the article about the mistreated, suicidal 5-year-old orphan shies in the corner in a less attractive, thin formal column layout. This greatly contrasts with the fun, attractive layout of the sports game article which takes up a considerably bigger portion of the page. The article about the sports event is also adorned with multiple small flags and the baseball shape in the middle is emphases by some darker low-opacity details only adding to its attractive style and increasing the readers interest.
The detail in which the sports event is described creates an almost wasteful and unnecessary atmosphere, whereas the article about the troubled orphan is described in gory and disturbing, yet sparing detail.
Jefferson is America and America is Jefferson
This haunting layout featured an article about racism in America and before even reading a word of the article, it is clear that the theme is about America’s racist attitudes, due to the imagery and clever layout of the piece which I will discuss further in this section.
How does the layout create imagery for the article?
The imagery of the piece is simplistic and sparing and comes a shock to the viewer as it takes a moment for the hidden image to become clear. The use of negative space surrounded by text creates a defined triangle shape in the centre of the page and the two portraits of Jefferson in the lower portion of the triangle mimic terrifying, staring eyes: these two components complete the haunting image; a KKK mask, a well-known symbol for racism and brutal hatred. This symbolism combines image, text and negative space in a clever way to create a daunting atmosphere and is able to convey the articles message to the viewer before they have even started reading the text.
Similar pieces of work/possible influences
Even though this style of layout is uncommon for pages of text, it is certainly not the first of it’s kind. Pieces of work that similarly create shapes and images from bodies of text can be dated back to 1499 with Aldus Manutius’s book Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (above). This piece also uses white space to create shapes from the text, strikingly similar to Ilic’s layouts for Op-Ed. Therefore, this is evidence that Manutinu’s layouts were very ahead of their time and that even in 1992, 5 centuries later, they were still effective, eye-catching and popular to the reader today.