Ten years of Vice in the UK

Love them or loathe them, there’s no question that Vice magazine is instantly recognisable. This week, Vice reaches its tenth anniversary in the UK, and to mark the occasion, we took a look back at ten of their most significant, and divisive, UK covers…

Love them or loathe them, there’s no question that Vice magazine is instantly recognisable. This week, Vice reaches its tenth anniversary in the UK, and to mark the occasion, we took a look back at ten of their most significant, and divisive, UK covers.

Vice Magazine, well known for inciting differences of opinion (to put it mildly) amongst its readers, reaches its tenth anniversary in the UK this week. We met up with European editor Bruno Bayley to talk about the last ten years of Vice covers, and how the magazine maintains its trademark identity.

There’s an aura of controversy that tends to surround Vice and their covers and, despite working with well-respected photographers and illustrators like Ryan McGinley and Johnny Ryan, the magazine still manages to divide public opinion. A recent cover, by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, employed the use of an image featuring a toilet plunger, a stapler, and a dildo. Whilst such a cover pefectly summarises Vice’s visual approach, it was censored in various countries, with some territories forced to use an entirely different image. Perhaps surprisingly, the UK was the only territory that printed the cover completely uncensored.

Vice created similar controversy for themselves with their UK launch issue, shown below, which employed the use of a mirrored section, and also some sponsorship help from Rockstar Games, who produce the Grand Theft Auto series of games. Bayley sees the cover as Vice’s typical combination of something intended to cause a reaction, whilst not intended to be taken too seriously, “This, in a way, sums up all the things that people don’t like about it. But it was also a joke as well, and it’s good to make fun of the things people hate about you.”


This sense of irreverent humour, purposefully used to provoke a reaction, recurs across many of Vice’s covers. Often the cover images bear no relevance to the issue features. The cover shown below was shot by Jamie Taet – now head of Vice’s LA office – and is an outtake from a series of photos taken when he was a teenager entitled ‘she was never bored, because she was never boring’.


Other issues, such as the Poverty issue shown below, draw their cover photography from a main feature. For this issue, each Vice team chose a different area to cover, and a trip to Nottingham provided the photograph taken below, by Alex Sturrock


There’s also an ever-present undercurrent of gloom. Despite the cover imagery varying wildly, Bayley sees them all fitting into a similar, unifying theme, which is the Vice world view. Bayley describes this as “swinging wildly between everything is fucked and we’re all ruined, and don’t worry about it, there’s lots of fun things to do.” Laura Park’s illustration for the Universal Sadness issue, shown below, seems to sum this up.


Vice also worked with illustrator Johnny Ryan for the cover for their Afghan issue, which again stretched the bounds of good taste, to put it mildly. Another demonstration of the ‘Vice world view’, the issue had two separate versions of the cover, one showing a hopeful outcome, and another where the happy scenario of the first image descends into violent chaos.


The Nature issue employed the talents of photography Ryan McGinley, who Vice work with on an ongoing basis.


The Noxious Fumes issue featured the work of photographer Gavin Watson, known for documenting skinhead culture in his book Skins.


The History issue marked the first time Vice used a famous person on a cover of the magazine. Bayley sees their hesitance to feature celebrities as one of Vice’s defining features, “Unlike a lot of magazines, we don’t rely on having beautiful people on the cover, or having famous people on the cover. This is the first time we showed a famous person on the cover, and you couldn’t find a more suiting-our-cover celebrity than Shane MacGowan if you tried.”


Last, but not least, is the US cover for Vice’s tenth anniversary, shown below, which drew endless letters and emails of complaint from Vice’s legion of readers. Needless to say, they probably didn’t take it in the spirit it was intended.


There’s no question that Vice draws extremities of opinion, and in many cases goes out of its way to be provocative. That said, they’ve maintained an instantly recognisable visual identity in the UK for the past ten years, and one that’s refused to bow down to controversy or public opinion. In amongst their tendency to poke fun at themselves, and everything else, they continue to work with great photographers and illustrators to produce covers that evoke an immediate and unavoidable reaction.


CR In print

In our December issue we look at why carpets are the latest medium of choice for designers and illustrators. Plus, Does it matter if design projects are presented using fake images created using LiveSurface and the like? Mark Sinclair looks in to the issue of mocking-up. We have an extract from Craig Ward’s upcoming book Popular Lies About Graphic Design and ask why advertising has been so poor at preserving its past. Illustrators’ agents share their tips for getting seen and we interview maverick director Tony Kaye by means of his unique way with email. In Crit, Guardian economics leader writer Aditya Chakrabortty review’s Kalle Lasn’s Meme Wars and Gordon Comstock pities brands’ long-suffering social media managers. In a new column on art direction, Paul Belford deconstructs a Levi’s ad that was so wrong it was very right, plus, in his brand identity column, Michael Evamy looks at the work of Barcelona-based Mario Eskenazi. And Daniel Benneworth-Gray tackles every freelancer’s dilemma – getting work.

Our Monograph this month, for subscribers only, features the EnsaïmadART project in which Astrid Stavro and Pablo Martin invited designers from around the world to create stickers to go on the packaging of special edition packaging for Majorca’s distinctive pastry, the ensaïmada, with all profits going to a charity on the island (full story here)

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