Time magazine's new cover is a stunning optical illusion

A screenshot from a video from Time Magazine featuring the words "Today you are creating the cover image"
(Image credit: Time)

We've seen plenty of optical illusions here at Creative Bloq, but they're usually found among the corridors of TikTok, Twitter and the like. It isn't often that one pops up somewhere as illustrious as the cover of a world-famous news publication – but Time magazine's latest features a classic 'stare at the dot' illusion with a shocking twist.

Designed by Olafur Eliasson, the latest cover is actually two covers. The first features an 'overheated' earth in orange and red tones. But if the viewer stares at the green heart in the middle then flips the page, they're in for a surprise. (Looking for inspiration? Check out the best optical illusions of all time.)

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When the viewer flips to the blank page after staring at the heart for 12 seconds, they can  “re-imagine our overheated planet in the greens and blues that are the colours of a healthy earth." As Time puts it, the new issue’s cover is "the first one where the viewer’s eyes create the image." The cover was conceived to speak to the intensity of the current climate situation in the run-up to the COP27 conference. 

On Time's website, Eliasson explains the effect. "An afterimage is basically created within your own perceptual apparatus—by your eyes and brain, that is—whenever you look at something. You don’t generally see or notice them unless you look at something for a long time and then turn away to look at a blank surface,” he says. “The colours that you then see—the colours that are produced on your retinas—are, generally speaking, the complements of the colours printed in the image: blue for orange, red for green, and so on.” 

We've seen plenty of bold and brilliant covers from Time over the last few years, including another climate change design, and the time the magazine replaced its logo. For more design inspiration, take a look at the best print ads of all time.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.