The Fifty Percent Rule

Would you like the quality of life to increase exponentially over time? Try this.


Enforce a rule that 50% of the cover of every magazine and periodical must be professionally illustrated.

The idea that the money doesn’t exist to do this is a myth, and let no publisher tell you differently. Photography doesn’t have to be done away with; it just can’t occupy more than 50% of the cover. Once one magazine pulls off a really nice custom type treatment for their title, the others will follow suit, or risk looking like office supplies.

Healthy artistic competition will become a part of life again. Did graffiti ever go digital? Of course not, and graffiti is currently the only place artistic competition exists in culture. Not coincidentally, graffiti is some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful art you could see outside of a museum. (Note: free.)

No one saves copies of magazines with glossy photos of people on the cover, unless they plan to continue masturbating while viewing those people. People save illustrated material, because instinctively, they sense its value. The craftsmanship is visible. This appreciation is a human trait passed down over generations.

Once publishers follow the 50% rule, high schools will get funding for art again, now that it’s a solid moneymaker. When I was in high school, painting album covers was a viable career option. Now a record label’s art department is called “Photoshop”. You have the benefit of looking at the last few decades, and seeing the decline. Meanwhile, a little window of highly-rendered album covers from 1960-1989 is still remembered and celebrated today. Can’t you figure out the reason why?


Before long, the newsstand wouldn’t be an eyesore of bad graphic design. Kids would be more organically inspired to draw, or paint, and express themselves thusly. Then we can get music back in schools, and kids can learn about instruments that have existed for hundreds of years, instead of computer programs that have existed since February. You’ll see. It won’t even take a decade. You’ll look back on today and laugh at how shitty things were.

A horrendously toxic precedent has been set, regarding the monetary value of artistic expression. This is more damaging than any fabricated media scare you might be fretting over. Virtually every single annoying behavior in children can be annihilated with one solitary act: put a pencil and some paper in their hands. 

Every single person who’s ever made you smile or laugh has little pages of doodles somewhere in their past. If the doodles weren’t “good” (there is no standard of good for doodles), some bully might’ve said so, and natural artistic output was stamped out like a sapling. Doodling is a direct line into your mind, and feels personal. If a stunted asshole decides to lay a critic trip on you, it can kill your motivation for good. And the world might be robbed of a unique artistic perspective.


The unforgettable Saul Steinberg.

The only harm I can foresee the 50% rule doing is to the crummy graphic designers responsible for most of the magazine rack. They have capitulated to an anemic, simplified form of cover; they can re-adjust to designing around actual artwork. I know it can be done. It was implanted in my brain as a child!!!

The great Sam Viviano.

The great Sam Viviano.

Little by little, the balance would shift back towards craft, instead of convenience. Artists are quirky and erratic because they’re artists. They’re the ones who make you immortal: you move your schedule around them. 

In the past eight years, I’ve watched too many artists to count suffer and die. There is no way to make a living as an artist in America anymore, even a pitiable one. The corporations are seizing power, and if you’re not connected to one, you’re extinct. The 50% rule would be a bold step toward restoring the country’s artist and intellectual classes.

That’s why it’ll never fucking happen in a million years.

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