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 a last-minute vendor we found in the UK. 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.
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.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.