FREAK Shots: Who Wins for Best Recession Cover?

Since the recession was made official, and even before, magazine covers brought out a host of recession-related imagery: downward-slanting arrows, roller coasters, and even (groan) the passé bear or bull.

Back in October, Vanessa Voltolina, writing for Folio magazine’s blog, asked BusinessWeek‘s art director Andrew Horton what makes a good or bad recession cover.

“There are a slew of recession clichés to choose from,” said Horton, but the best covers, in his opinion, are “simple and direct.”


He gave The Economist‘s “What Next?” cover (above left) low marks for being “confusing and a bit too muddy.”

But he liked Time‘s “The New Hard Times” cover (above right), because “I actually got sad looking at it — that’s how you know it’s good.”

What are your favorite recession cover picks for 2009? (See a few examples below.) And what clichés are you especially sick of by now?


May I suggest one of my own recessionary images:


Subtle, yet pointed. Though maybe the nearby Tilt-A-Whirl would have been more appropriate.


I like The Economists' first one the best, because it presents the anxiety of the situation, but also recognizes that we can determine our own destiny by the choices we make. The TIME cover is just too depressing and fatalistic for me. Perhaps it is even a self-fulfilling prophecy. BusinessWeek and the second Economist are too blame-gamey, and the New Yorker is just weird.

Tim H

TIME's cover fits in with a theory I've been kicking around lately. Lots of people have been asking if we're in for another Great Depression, but I don't think they're really expecting, you know, masses of people in bread lines and whatnot. I wonder if beneath the talk, people are subconsciously worried about the world going back to black and white. I wonder if we should really keep an eye on Crayola sales -- when people start hoarding crayons you know there's going to be trouble.


I'm sick and tired of hearing every sentence started with "In these uncertain times," or some variation. Especially since it often then tells me that I need to go buy something.

Nuclear Mom

See the Thugz post about the public punishing of "bad apples." I'd like to see covers showing former Masters of the Universe (high finance/banking) losing houses, cars, being castigated by Congress. A little Schadenfreude is in order right now.


"in the difficult days ahead"


"building the new economy"

These should all be added to any recession-themed drinking game.

Ed Kay

re: ...maybe the nearby Tilt-A-Whirl would have been more appropriate.

So you've watched the "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920).


Thankfully I think the media written news media finally got the main street/wall street thing out of its system in September and October. I still hear it referenced in pundit speech/politcal speeches/tv media every now and again, though, and it makes me want to punch someone.

Brad Swain

And what clichés are you especially sick of by now?

Articles, news headlines, and commercials that start with...

"With the economy in free fall..."

Leland Witter

#2 - Tim H - after the election of Obama, I don't think that anyone wants to go back to a Black and White world.

Leland Witter

With all the stuff going down The Economist's swirling toilet bowl, we're going to need Joe the Plumber all the more!

Walter G

Wheel of Fortune on bankruptcy! That pretty much sums up the risks game of Wall Street. I would also add one other game show. Deal or No Deal. It seems that people got greedy and did not know when to stop.

As for the Time cover. Artful but of a different time. I think a cover depicting a Mad Max type economy where people fight for gas and live in fortresses would be a more thought provoking depiction.

Dan R

Annika, I think your Dow picture is upside down.

dePaul Consiglio

All of the above.
The problem that DOD should solve in DC however , is why the CIA is running rackets to run guerilla wars whenever it doesn't want Congress to find out where its spending money.

Lotto anyone?

dePaul Consiglio


Maybe not my favorite picture - but more my favorite image of the recession came from an article I saw on There was a blog post ( that discussed what the a 2009 depression would look like. Good Stuff!


I'm loving the New Yorker cover.

Maybe anon. doesn't live where the businesses hire walking sign posts to carry a piece of advertising and bounce around on the corner pointing to the pizza/ furniture/ electronics/ whatever store.

Here in Phoenix, there are EVERYWHERE these days.

Yeah, I'm feeling that cover pretty much nails it.


I hate the TIME cover. The Great Depression was unique to the late 20's and 30's. Our current situation was completely avoidable. I also find the idea that what did not work 80 years ago will work today.

The New Yorker has the cover trueist to our times.


The Economist's cover is more with the "Times".

Alex Ognev

Here are few more covers from overseas:

Not surprisingly different cultures come up with slightly different imagery for the crisis.


I prefer the economist cover. it gives the impression of "sh*t - what the hell is going on?" yes the cover is confusing, but that's the point, its a confusing time and we don't know if its a depression yet or how its going to go.

TIME assumes that its bad and tells us how it is; the economist gives us the message "what the f***?" which is the right message at the moment.

Chris Ryan

What about TV news segments? There has to be some TV graphic that makes the crisis a lot worst than it is.