Four years ago this month, Wired Magazine ran this photo on the cover (for its December 2013 issue). I’d made some observations at the time that I’d forgotten about, but was just reminded by Facebook’s handy “Your Memories on Facebook” feature. I thought I’d promote that obscure social media post to a full Medium article, as I’m still quite fascinated by this photo.
So, here are some observations about the Bill Gates / Bill Clinton cover photo appearing on the December 2013 Wired Magazine cover:
- They’re both named Bill, and shown sort of as a set of power bookends.
- Gates sits on Clinton’s right, and we see only his right ear, right arm, and his tie (oriented just a little bit *right* of center).
- Politically, he sits “right” of Clinton, of course, embodying the status of conservative corporate living idol (the golden tie perhaps subtly reinforcing this).
- Cleverly, Gates offers the viewer opportunities for subjective interpretation. If one finds him surprisingly humble, one might interpret the casually open jacket as perhaps inviting. However, while he offers us a bona fide *literal* glimpse up his right sleeve (as if to declare: “no tricks, nothing up my sleeve”), the suspicious viewer may wonder what’s hidden under the table in the other hand and, metaphorically, what that means. Gates’ right hand is also closed.
- Of course, presumably, one thing Gates definitely has under the table on his left hand, but not shown, is a wedding ring — which he has no PR-related reason at all to show. Clinton, on the other hand — now further removed from scandal as ever — may well be communicating something here. If this photo could be viewed or imagined in 3-D, Clinton’s ring in this instance might arguably be the closest object to the viewer (aside from the table, which doesn’t count). His cupped hands also almost look as though they’re covering something such as an unimaginably high-stakes poker hand.
- Clinton shows only his left ear, favors his left over his right hand, and sports a tie off-center to his left. This all fits in ideologically with his more liberal, humanitarian leanings — which is the overarching message of the shot if one takes the entire cover, text and all, into consideration. That there *is* one overarching message is reinforced by the photoshopping, where they’ve blended the background and foreground together — although, they’ve done it in such a way as to suggest that pretty much the whole universe, except for our two Bills, represents perhaps just so much neutral-colored noise.
- Neither men show teeth in their smiles. I suppose that’s a 25% probability from the possible combinations of teeth/teeth, no-teeth/teeth, teeth/no-teeth, or no-teeth/no-teeth. We got the latter. There’s more to this, but I’m not sure what … most likely, it has to do with underscoring the seriousness, programming the viewer to accept that the world is noise / chaos, and that the great harmonizers of such are being presented.
- Now, Clinton’s suit jacket is noticeably darker than Gates’. This is also certainly metaphor on par with Gates’ hidden left hand. The darker tone offers the skeptic an opportunity to read into things a bit more. But, is Clinton evil, or just perhaps more stylish (down to the suggestive blood-red textured tie) than the bland gray Gates?
- The watch. If you ever flip through an edition of Wired Magazine, you’ll no doubt notice many watch advertisements. This strange unintended feature of Wired can be one of the more interesting each month. If a university ever cared to sponsor me, I promise I could write a fairly entertaining and illuminating dissertation on this topic alone. In many ways, this cover can be seen as the ultimate men’s watch advertisement. That alone almost prompts me to forgo stating any psychological theories about the presence of this gigantic watch on Clinton’s arm. With Wired being, as stated, basically synonymous with chronograph fanaticism, the watch serves as a validating factor here. Yes, Clinton was a POTUS, and yes he was always a promoter (perhaps the first since Kennedy) of a better future through technology. But, he still needs a prop like this to provide Wired readers with the psychological credibility. (Stated as a mathematical proof: Tech = Wired. Wired = Watches. Clinton = Watches. Clinton = Tech. QED.)
- Gates is the big name here (it being a tech magazine and all); his name (not shown) appeared on the cover in the same font as Clinton’s, but significantly larger. Gates’ name also appears at the top, Clinton’s below.
There’s more. Much more… But why should I have all the fun here?
Jim Dee heads up Array Web Development, LLC in Portland, OR. He’s the editor of “Web Designer | Web Developer” magazine and a contributor to many online publications. You can reach him at: Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com.