The Burnout and Escapism Issue

The Story Behind the Cover of VICE Magazine's December Issue

Our magic mushroom cover star was inspired by LSD tab art and printed on custom blotter paper. Here's how it came together.
December 4, 2018, 5:00pm
burnout and escapism issue cover

This story appears in VICE Magazine's Burnout and Escapism Issue. Click HERE to subscribe.

We really wanted the cover image to speak to the Burnout and Escapism theme in a playful way. We were thinking a lot about popular imagery tied to drug culture—like blacklight velvet posters and head shops—when we decided that an original illustrated character, specifically a mushroom looking worn-out from a long day at the office, would be the best fit. Kit and Lia wanted to blend their styles and pay tribute to Silly Symphony cartoons. After a couple of rounds back and forth in Photoshop and Illustrator, they came up with the cute fungus you see on the cover.

Once we had our cover star nailed down we knew we wanted to put it into real-life scenarios and make it feel like an object through photography. To take the idea of drug culture one step further we printed the character on custom blotter paper courtesy of BlotterShop UK's Chris Hill. Lia’s illustrations reference LSD tab art throughout the issue, so we liked that this would be like a big Easter egg in the magazine as well.


A sampling of the alternative covers we shot for the issue. In the end, we preferred the final cover because it showed the physicality of the blotter paper while layering different props related to the theme of burnout and escapism into the frame.

Once in the studio, Liz shot the blotter paper against different scenes: a depressing office, a vision of paradise, clear blue skies, and a trippy fog. In the end, it was a grungy apartment floor that we liked best. To show the texture and purpose of the blotter paper tabs we tore corners off and poked tabs out, scattering them across the floor alongside other props that reminded us of burnout (a charging cable) and escapism (junk food).

It’s hard to escape the routines and pitfalls of everyday living, even if you’re a magic mushroom. And with this cover our goal was to create an entry point to the binaries we present in the issue’s stories.


Our Burnout and Escapism cover was designed by illustrator/graphic designer Lia Kantrowitz, graphic designer/art director Kitron Neuschatz, and senior photo editor Elizabeth Renstrom.

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