Too rude to print?

Illustration agent Dutch Uncle Tweeted what appeared to be a saucy new Time Out cover yesterday, created for the magazine’s new sex issue by its illustrator Noma Bar. So it was much to our surprise that Time Out arrived in London this morning with a blank, doodle-your-own cover instead.

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Illustration agents Dutch Uncle Tweeted what appeared to be a saucy new Time Out cover yesterday, created for the magazine’s new sex issue by illustrator Noma Bar. So it was much to our surprise that Time Out arrived in London this morning with a blank cover instead.

Shown above is what was purported to be Noma Bar’s intended sex issue cover, in all its naughty glory. However Time Out appear to have had a last-minute change of heart, instead running the below blank cover, underneath a cover wrap.



Noma Bar’s original cover illustration has been moved into a feature, with text overlayed.



Time Out say that the replacement blank cover is part of a #SexUpMyCover competition whereby readers are encouraged to doodle their very own naughty cover, which they can then Tweet. The best illustration, as judged by Time Out, will win an iPad mini, apparently. The Time Out team have kindly provided some examples of their work, to get people started.


According to Time Out’s editor Tim Arthur, on Twitter, the original design was moved to a feature to “give it the most impact”, and to allow Time Out to run their draw-your-own-cover competition. Hmm, or else someone got cold feet. The magazine is distributed at tube stations so perhaps it was felt that, despite the cover wrap, Bar’s image was just too much for the travelling public?

We have approached Time Out for comment, and will update the story as we know more.

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  • Frank

    MasterCard [allegedly] booked the wrap last minute and didn’t like the cover artwork. Absolutely disgraceful and spineless behaviour from both the advertisers and the publishers of Time Out.

  • A cover from Time Out that is basically sexist crap? How utterly unsurprising.

  • @Michael Preston – What’s wrong with being Sexy?

  • I love Noma Bars work, clever, sharp, economical and humorous. I’ve seen more offensive material on the cover of some tabloids!

  • Well, I don’t know really… Sex is awesome, but society is in such a mess with it as a subject that it’s difficult to comment whether it’s good or bad on the cover. Genius illustration I have to admit. I can also understand the back off from printing it however; you don’t want to alienate some of your less comfortable readers nor encourage your creepy ones. “Pleasing everyone” – now there’s a skill.

  • David

    Pleasing everyone, as we know, is impossible. The illustration is brilliant, the subject matter is printed in the mag anyway, and moving the illustration to the feature to add impact is cobblers cop out. The greatest impact would be to have it on the cover without the cover wrap.

    And I agree with Adam, some of the sensationalist, sexist, bigoted and xenophobic tabloid covers are far more degrading and offensive.

  • David

    A few things…

    I wouldn’t say the cover is sexist…

    I would say that if what Frank says above is true, then it’s a real shame the advertisers didn’t want it on there… What have they got to be afraid of? If anything, having that cover would engage more with whoever has picked it up and give the reader more time infront of the advert?

    I think the exciting thing about Time Out becoming a “Free Sheet” is that it doesn’t have a readership anymore, and they CAN take risks. Anyone picks it up because it’s free, and shocking a few people wouldn’t go a miss. I wouldn’t say you’re alienating people, espicially as you can simply put it down if you don’t want it. Everyone is de-sensitised from the Time Out brand now, so why not give the public something “shocking” to get people talking about it again?


  • Mathew Bond

    Moving the illustration into the feature and slapping text over it ruins the impact. What are you banging on about Tim Arthur.

  • Jay

    Pretty sad state of affairs if advertisers forced the illustration from the cover, but guess that’s what the free magazine market has to deal with, advertisers are more important than readers.

    It’s blatantly obvious when you pick the magazine up that this was a last minute pull, otherwise they’d be plugging #sexupmycover in the issue and on the cover as well. No mention in the print edition about prizes etc it’s all online, added to the fact their staff are frantically tweeting trying to push the daft hashtag in the vain hope of getting this god-awful mess trending.

    They’ve made an absolute hash of the situation and have ruined the lovely illustration by sticking lots of ugly type over the top. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the Time Out building last Friday. This situation could have all been avoided if they’d asked Noma to do another version that was slightly less risque as a backup.

  • Cat

    @Michael Preston
    This is about as sexist as a wooden table.
    Perhaps you should stop instantly dismissing effective works of design that challenge your YouTube-tutorial-based design knowledge and think more so about the message and how it is conveyed.
    When you say ‘utterly unsurprising’ and not back it up with any degree of logical argument, you sound like a pretentious first year Uni student.

  • ‘YouTube-tutorial-based design knowledge’ brilliant putdown…

    Love the Noma work. Quite like the idea of people doing their own designs for the cover. Not sure about NEYO though. How does he come into this?

    Perhaps I should rephrase that last statement…

  • Siobhan


    “I think the exciting thing about Time Out becoming a “Free Sheet” is that it doesn’t have a readership anymore, and they CAN take risks.”

    I wouldn’t say this was true – being a freesheet they have to pander to advertisers’ demands even more, especially as they’re already struggling.

    Shame though, would have caused quite a stir…

  • Give it the most impact by retiring it from the front cover? Not quite sure how that works. Personally, I think it’s an excellent work and far more worthy of the front cover than the other illustrations represented here, or, the crass commercialism of the cover wrap.

  • Ed

    While usually a fan of Noma’s work, the whole “Big Ben looks like a dong” concept doesn’t really do it for me.

    It’s all a bit obvious without much (any) of the visual wit he’s so respected for.

    I’m not surprised they pulled it off…

  • A

    @ Ed

    Big Ben look’s like a dong!!!!!

    Am I the only one who is definitely not seeing a dong.

  • Ed


    I saw it as a kind of ‘reverse cowgirl’ arrangement w/Big Ben as aforementioned dong.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it and the clock face is more indicative of the intended depiction.

    … Having to write the description of what I made it out to be sort of follows my previous point.

  • John-Henry Barac

    Great illustration, cowardly act by the editor – I agree with @siobhan: I guess a freesheet is more prone to censorship by advertisers, which is a pity. We NEED magazines which push boundaries in interesting ways.
    The illustration is clever and witty, simple and uses colour well – it would have been a fantastic cover, it’s relegation to an inside page, covered with type totally wrecks it’s impact. ah well…

  • JB

    This mess shows how weak a position Time Out are in these days. The move to a freesheet is the last throw of the dice for a once great magazine, should have bit the bullet and gone web only, in truth the new format has been disappointing. They must be desperate for the cash to bend over backwards on the whim of some media buying idiot who doesn’t appreciate a great cover.

    Cowardly behaviour from the sales team who let the client see the cover, cowardly from the buyers, and I can’t believe the utter BS explanations spouted from the editor who I’ve now lost all respect for. It’s a real shame as it was a brave choice of cover from a very talented art director.

    I can’t imagine how disappointed Noma must be with the dogs dinner of a page his illustration now sits on. Apparently it’s got more impact now…

  • @tim sinclair lol
    What’s wrong with being Sexy?