Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley

The cover of the New Yorker’s March 6 issue was in Cyrillic. Every year around its anniversary (February 21), The New Yorker displays its mascot Eustace Tilley on the cover. His outfit and the context varies; typically, it reflects the magazine’s content and is a commentary on the times. This is an excellent example of supporting a brand through a familiar face.

In the March 6 issue this year, Eustace Tilley is shown as President Putin and his butterfly as President Trump. This hilarious play on the two leaders’ relationship is emphasized further by displaying the magazine’s masthead in Cyrillic. In the upper left corner, in a small black bar, we find the original logo; maybe the editor feared that the cover could be mistaken for a Russian magazine.

The story behind Eustace Tilley dates back to the first number, released almost a century ago. At that time, The New Yorker was a rookie. It was conceived as a gossipy periodical, what today we would call tabloid journalism. The founders didn’t have enough ads, so humorist Corey Ford came up with an ironic Victorian-style dandy character to fill the empty pages. Eustace Tilley was featured on the first cover (drawn by the art editor Rea Irvin who also designed the iconic New Yorker font) and in a couple of playful stories about making the magazine. Incidentally, Tilley, with his ironic appearance, intensely curious about a butterfly, became the perfect face for the magazine’s future voice: intellectual, yet humorous.