Cover Art Exhibition

RCPsych Insight

In 2023 we held a special exhibition to celebrate the cover art of our RCPsych Insight magazine.

Below you can learn more about each cover with descriptions written by Gemma Mulreany, RCPsych Insight Editorial Manager and Frances Wotherspoon, Editorial Assistant.

Also, see this blog post by Emily...the designer of the cover issue on 'Navigating neuroscience'. She explains how she - as a neurodivergent individual - approached the design for this cover.

Cover of RCPsych Insight, Summer 2017RCPsych Insight magazine launched at a time of change for the College – Professor Sir Simon Wessely was coming to the end of his term as President of the College, and Professor Wendy Burn was set to take up the mantle. Here, we see the transfer of responsibility and authority depicted with a Naval metaphor – a Changing of Command Ceremony. The outgoing and incumbent presidents are shown in the centre of the composition with sailors in the background, next to a ship representing the College (with pillars mimicking those at the building entrance of RCPsych’s London office headquarters).

The image was created by political satirical cartoonist Martin Rowson, who has previously described his work as "visual journalism". He went on to be the cover artist for a further 10 issues of RCPsych Insight.

Cover of RCPsych Insight, Autumn 2017This cover artwork celebrated the success of the College’s Choose Psychiatry campaign, which launched earlier in 2017 aiming to promote psychiatry as a career choice for medical students and foundation doctors and to increase awareness and understanding of the role of psychiatrists in healthcare.

To capture the notion of securing the next generation of psychiatrists, as well as it never being too early to pique a young person’s interest in a career in psychiatry, the cartoon shows the then Dean and President of the College, Dr Kate Lovett and Professor Wendy Burn respectively, handing out Choose Psychiatry campaign branded balloons outside a primary school named after Anna Freud. In the foreground, we also see two school children discreetly commenting that they have already been signed up by the previous College president, Professor Sir Simon Wessely.

Cover of RCPsych Insight, Winter 2018This cover reflects a powerful social media campaign run by the College towards the end of 2017 which helped to avert cuts to mental health funding in England for the following financial year.

The cartoon shows the NHS England headquarters in the background, with a crowd of protestors holding placards demanding that mental health (MH) cuts be stopped. In the foreground we see some prominent figures involved with the College’s success – Dr Trudi Seneviratne (now the College Registrar), Dr Lade Smith (now the College’s President-Elect) and Dr Agnes Ayton (Chair of the College’s Faculty of Eating Disorders). The man on the right appeared in the previous year’s highly successful #ChoosePsychiatry TV advert.

Cover of RCPsych Insight, Summer 2018Actor, presenter, comedian and writer Stephen Fry was the star of this issue’s front cover, after he showed his support for the College’s annual Choose Psychiatry campaign. That year, hundreds of medical students crowded into Barts and the London Medical School to attend an event at which Stephen Fry spoke about the debt he owed to psychiatry. He was brutally honest with the audience about his own mental health experiences and credited his psychiatrist for saving his life.

The front cover cartoonist designed the image as an homage to a famous photo montage poster ‘Books please – on every subject’ promoting literacy and education by Aleksandr Rodchenko, a Russian and Soviet graphic designer, artist and sculptor. By using striking geometric shapes, bold colours, and typography funnelling out of the speaker’s mouth to form the shape of a megaphone, the importance of the message is elevated. In this case, the message from Stephen Fry, who is announcing that medical students and foundation doctors should ‘Choose Psychiatry’.

Cover of RCPsych Insight, Autumn 2018Awarded as a mark of distinction and recognition, Fellowship of the College is acquired by demonstrating significant contributions to psychiatry. In celebration the College’s latest cohort of Fellows at the time, this issue featured an article which highlighted some of their many achievements which were recognised in much more depth at the College’s first ceremony entirely dedicated to honouring new Fellows.

This cover artwork makes a play on the word ‘Fellowship’, showing some lost and confused Tolkien characters having turned up at the College’s London headquarters, having seen the sign for the Fellowship (ceremony).

Cover of RCPsych Insight, Winter 2018After NHS England announced its Long-Term Plan for the NHS in 2018, the College was asked to contribute to the development of the mental health chapter. The College’s Policy and Campaigns team put together a comprehensive 100-page submission, which included a call for the government to commit to the biggest expansion in access to mental health services across Europe. The College’s key asks included 70,348 more mental health staff on the ground by 2028/29, including 4,218 psychiatrists – a figure we see being referenced on this issue’s front cover.

As this issue of the magazine arrived in time for Christmas, its cover shows Father Christmas and Rudolph the reindeer discussing the logistics of delivering 4000+ psychiatrists down a chimney.

RCPsych-Insight-Issue7This issue included a feature on social prescribing – a healthcare approach that involves connecting patients with non-medical resources and activities, such as exercise classes, art therapy, or social clubs, to improve their overall health and wellbeing. The goal of social prescribing is to address the social, environmental, and psychological factors that contribute to poor health outcomes, such as social isolation, lack of physical activity and stress.

The front cover highlights this topic and makes a play on words, showing a man going on a nature walk alone, asking ‘Where is everyone? I thought this was social prescribing?’ While many activities considered to be social prescribing involve social interaction, not all do.

RCPsych Insight 8This cover highlighted the biggest annual event in the College’s calendar – International Congress – which took place in London that year. The coverage in this issue offered the opportunity to preview three standout sessions from the event – keynote speeches by Louis Theroux on making documentaries about mental health, and by journalist and TV presenter Mark Austin and his daughter Maddy telling the story of her anorexia, as well as a talk by Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasin – who assessed the boys who survived the famous Thai cave rescue the year before – speaking about what we can learn from the boys about wellbeing and looking after each other.

RCPsych Insight Issue 9This issue celebrated the 25th anniversary of RCPsych in Scotland first opening its doors, and reflected on some of the devolved office’s most significant achievements in this time.

This cover artwork marked the milestone with a celebratory cake iced in the design of the Scottish flag, complete with candles which read ‘25’, an RCPsych logo on the ribbon on the cake’s base, and sparklers in the background creating a sense of energy and celebration.

RCPsych Insight Issue 10 - Winter 2019This issue of the magazine landed with readers just after the December 2018 general election had taken place. While this meant the respective election campaigns had come to an end, those for the RCPsych presidential election for its next president had just begun. Three candidates were running – Professor Kam Bhui, Dr Adrian James and Professor Pamela Taylor, and this issue of the magazine encouraged engagement with learning about the candidates’ plans for presidency. Dr James went on to win the election in January 2020.

The front cover for this issue depicts political journalist Laura Kuenssberg as if she were presenting live TV coverage of the College’s election while speaking to fellow news presenter and journalist Huw (Edwards) back in the studio.

RCPsych Insight 11 - Front coverTo mark International Women’s Day in 2020, this issue of the magazine included a personal reflection on equality by Dr Kate Lovett, who was Dean of the College at the time.

Highlighting the message in this article, the front cover cartoon depicts Kate climbing to the summit of a mountain, having made significant progress but with a sign indicating that she still has a rather non-specific and long way to go – something she comments on in her reflection:

“For many women in 2020, factors like class, race, sexuality and disability mean that we cannot claim to be ‘generation equality'. For the one in five people working in the NHS from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background, for instance, we still have a long way to go.”

RCPsych Insight 12 coverThis cover marked a shift in the magazine’s aesthetic, following a decision to modernise its look and start using a diverse mix of illustrators, chosen depending on the theme of the image.

This piece by Petra Eriksson, a visual artist and illustrator from Sweden, was commissioned while the UK was under its first lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. To reflect the extended coverage within this issue of the magazine of work being done by the College to help its members and people with mental illness to adapt and cope with the challenges presented by the pandemic, Petra was given the brief of portraying a sense of togetherness and solidarity.

The task was made artistically challenging as, in line with government guidelines at the time relating to social distancing, she was asked to depict physically distanced healthcare staff wearing face masks. By illustrating subtle but compassionate body language and expressions on (the top half of) the two women’s faces and by using a soft colour palette, Petra deftly captures a sense of warmth and unity, despite the restrictions. Additionally, by using strips of colour that appear to be swirling around and between the women, a further sense of connection is created. There is also a contrast between the activity and movement coming from the coloured strips and the stillness of the individuals, creating the sense of an intimate moment taking place amongst wider ongoing activity.

RCPsych Insight 13 coverThis issue of Insight was developed in the context of the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 and the subsequent escalation of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement around the world. The content of this issue of the magazine, included extended coverage of work being done by the College to address systemic racism in healthcare, and spoke to three eminent psychiatrists about their personal and professional experiences of racism.

This issue’s front cover captures BLM protestors wearing coronavirus masks, white policer officers watching a Black man, as well as a positive conversation between two Black men. There is also a hospital and a psychiatric assessment form – representing racial inequalities in healthcare and psychiatry. All of these visual elements overlap on the head and shoulders of a young Black man, shown in profile, who appears to have some sense of hope in his eyes. We also see a boy, whose expression is harder to read, who could be the man’s younger brother or a younger version of himself watching.

This artwork was created by award-winning graphic designer and illustrator Kingsley Nebechi, who had featured on the BBC website earlier that year as one of seven Black British illustrators who were asked to illustrate honest accounts of how they were coping with their mental health in the face of the uncertainty and distress caused by the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd.

Front cover of Insight issue 14As 2020 drew to a close, this issue of the magazine included coverage of the challenges and changes to delivery of psychiatric services as the pandemic continued, including considerations about how to deliver remote mental health consultations effectively.

On the front cover image, we see a young woman hanging decorations on to a Christmas tree, capturing elements of the pandemic. We see baubles mimicking the shape and colour of the red ‘spiky ball’ representation of COVID-19 commonly used at the time on pandemic-related communications. We also see facemasks, which were required by the government to be worn in certain indoor settings. Also hanging on the tree are smartphones dialling into video-calls – which became the go-to method for more communicating with others while restrictions were at their strictest. There are also decorations in the form of rainbows – an image commonly used to signal gratitude to NHS staff and other keyworkers.

Representing another defining and significant part of 2020, we see decorations in the shape of the iconic symbolic fist often used to represent the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained momentum following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.

The illustration was created by Avila Diana Chidume, who founded a greetings card company which produces cards, mugs and stationery items with designs that represent people from underrepresented groups, such as people from ethnic minority backgrounds, LGBTQ+ and disabled communities. Like the illustrator for issue 13, Kingsley Nebechi, Avila also featured on the BBC’s website earlier that year as one of seven Black British illustrators who were asked to illustrate honest accounts of how they were coping with their mental health in the face of the uncertainty and distress caused by the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd.

RCPsych Insight 15 coverThis issue of the magazine landed with members of the College ahead of the first virtual delivery of the biggest annual event in the College’s calendar – International Congress. While the pandemic prevented the event from being held in person, the College’s ambitions for the event were not curtailed. The requirement to deliver the event online paved the way for the College to create an immersive and interactive platform to host the conference.

The front cover artwork for this issue set out to capture this: that the spirits of the events team had not been dampened and that the event would still be interactive and immersive, and continue to deliver cutting-edge content about developments in psychiatry.

Created by award-winning illustrator Owen Davey, the image captures a sense of energy and interest in the various activities and, on the top left, shows an artist’s impression of Chris Witty, then England’s Chief Medical Officer, who delivered a keynote at the event on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health.

Up until summer 2021, the College had never run a full membership survey to find out what its members thought of the organisation, and its activities and services. But, as was announced in this issue of the magazine, that was all set to change – with the first ever RCPsych membership survey having been launched.

This issue’s cover was illustrated by Rebecca Strickson, who has previously been shortlisted twice for the AOI Illustration Awards. The image served as a call to action for members – using bright, eye-catching and optimistic colours to encourage members to take part in the survey. The image contains the text ‘Your voice matters’ emerging from megaphones. Despite the text being in block capitals, which is often associated with shouting, the choice of font and colour sets an upbeat, inclusive and welcoming tone.

Insight 17 front cover_small for webBearing the message that the climate crisis is also a mental health crisis, in November 2021, the College had the unique opportunity to make its voice heard on this topic at the highest level – at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26 as it is more commonly known. As was explored in this issue of the magazine, although mental health was not on COP26's agenda, RCPsych was granted official observer status, and College President Dr Adrian James led a delegation to the conference.

Drawing on the more optimistic messaging within this issue’s coverage of climate change – that action is the antidote to despair – this cover image by animator and illustrator Celyn Brazier shows children taking action in the face of the climate crisis, peacefully protesting with placards and banners.

RCPsych Insight 18: front cover imageThis front cover artwork was used to raise awareness of the College’s survey of LGBTQ+ psychiatrists and their colleagues, which encouraged participants to reflect on their workplace experiences and whether they had witnessed or experienced discrimination, bullying or harassment related to gender identity and/or sexuality, and how employers responded.

Designed by illustrator Mojo Wang, the image shows a lit candle with an atmospheric billowing flame – made up of bright colours evocative of the rainbow flag. As this issue of the magazine as published in the lead-up to Christmas time, the use of light also gives a gentle nod to the festive time of year.

Insight issue 19 front coverThis issue was in development when news broke of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing conflict that continues to this day. In response to this humanitarian emergency, the College acted to facilitate the provision of mental health support for those affected, including arranging psychological first aid (PFA) training for those working on the front lines, and developing translations of mental health information leaflets into Russian and Ukrainian.

Given the prevalence of the conflict in the global conscience, the College felt it was crucial to communicate to its membership about the action it was taking, and additionally, to create an Insight cover that would reflect our supportive efforts and demonstrate RCPsych’s solidarity with Ukraine.

Several iterations of the cover were explored, to find a design that would capture the reality and the emotion of the moment but still depict the flag respectfully. While it could sound simple, choosing an appropriate representation of the flag to use was more difficult than it sounds - simplistic block-colour versions appeared too bright and lacking in depth, while highly textured or 3D-looking versions giving the impression of ripples tended to make the flag look overly dark and, in some cases, damaged, torn or stained.

The final design struck a good balance between the two; it is compelling in its simplicity, yet still has subtle textures and imperfections that bring the image to life. The development of this cover was a reminder of the many connotations that even a relatively minimalistic image can evoke.

Insight issue 20: front cover imageThe cover art of this issue highlights an article which celebrates the strength and value of neurodivergent psychiatrists and medical professionals, and the need to increase their visibility in the workforce. The College is proud to be leading on this issue as one of the first medical royal colleges to publicly acknowledge neurodivergent doctors but believes there is still much more work to do to ensure neurodivergent practitioners are given the support they need to thrive.

Insight’s editorial team approached Emily (@21andsensory) – a talented illustrator and graphic designer and someone with autism and sensory processing disorder – drawn to her clean style and simple use of colour.

Emily was able to add a layer of authenticity and integrity when creating an image for this topic. After reading the magazine’s article on neurodivergence, she developed her concept: a marble maze game where the player would need to tip their board and roll the marbles through a labyrinth of ‘stress’, and ‘stigma’ to reach goals like ‘balance’ and ‘acceptance’. It effectively represented the difficulty that individuals with neurodivergence can face in environments that do not support or accept them. It was impressive how Emily was able to communicate this complex issue in such a simple image.

RCPsych Insight Issue 21 coverWhen Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passed away on 8 September 2022, the College, like the rest of the world, mourned the loss of a hugely inspirational and influential figure who had devoted her life to public service.

To honour the Queen and the legacy she left behind, the cover of RCPsych Insight featured the same simple and elegant black-and-white photograph that the royal family had used to announce her passing. Taken by critically acclaimed photographer, the late Jane Bown, the image captures the Queen’s distinctive calm, regal demeanour.

As a mark of respect, the colours of RCPsych’s logo on the cover were also changed to black and white, and the cover’s typography was changed to a combination of white and a colour reminiscent of gold to create a balance of colour.

Accompanying the cover, the magazine issue also included a short article in tribute to the Queen, and an article reflecting on the College’s longstanding relationship with its royal Patron and her son, His Majesty King Charles III.

insight-issue-22-front-coverAt the time this issue published, voting was open to elect the RCPsych's next president – with the winner taking over the role from Dr Adrian James at the end of his term. The College wanted to encourage members to learn about the candidates and have their say. The candidates were Dr Kate Lovett, Professor Russell Razzaque and Dr Lade Smith CBE, with the winner of the election set to not only shape the future of the College, but also the future of the psychiatric profession.

Issue 16’s cover artist Rebecca Strickson illustrated this cover, incorporating images such as mobile phones and ballot papers to communicate that the vote would be online. A diverse group of members hold a board on which a message is written: ‘Choose your next RCPsych President’. Above them, a large banner holds the inclusive and welcoming message ‘Your vote matters!’

The bright colour palette aims to capture a sense of liveliness. Simultaneously, the combination of reds, greens and golds serves as a subtle nod to the festive season.

RCPsych Insight issue 23 coverThis issue featured an interview with President-Elect Dr Lade Smith CBE after her decisive win in the College’s presidential election in January 2023. As RCPsych's leader, Lade will make history by becoming the first Black woman to be president of any UK medical royal college. In this issue, she discusses her ambitions and priorities as she prepares to take on her new role.

This front cover image was designed in-house by Editorial Manager Gemma Mulreany, based on a photograph of Lade taken by Richard Hubert Smith. In the design, Lade is shown looking off to the right – and perhaps to the future – with a look of quiet strength and determination.

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