DataViz as Art: National Geographic Planet or Plastic?

National Geographic Cover

National Geographic’s June 2018 magazine cover provides a chilling affect to any reader concerned about our oceans and our planet.

The classic orange-yellow framed cover surrounds a picture of a plastic bag submerged underwater with one of its tips pointing out of glacial-blue waters and appears to look like the tip of an iceberg.

“Planet or plastic?” the cover asks the reader.

“The 18 billion pieces of plastic that end up in the ocean each year are just the tip of the iceberg,” reads a caption on the lower left side of the cover in smaller print.

National Geographic’s senior photo editor, Vaughn Wallace, posted the image by Mexican artist Jorge Gamboa on Twitter Wednesday, and it’s now on fire across the Internet, sparking a lot of conversation.

The consensus, so far, seems to be that this might be among the 130-year-old magazine’s best covers yet.

 “Brilliant cover,” wrote one. “This one will be an icon.”

“One of the best covers I’ve seen,” shared another.

“Jorge Gamboa deserves an award for this,” proclaimed a Twitter user.

Wallace’s initial tweet has received more than 54,000 likes and 27,000 retweets.

The June issue is timed with the magazine’s new Planet or Plastic? campaign that includes dropping the plastic bags that have long wrapped delivered issues.  This will save 2.5 million single-use plastic bags every month, says Editor-in-Chief Susan Goldberg.


A Lifetime of Plastic


Parker, Laura, WE MADE PLASTIC. WE DEPEND ON IT. NOW WE’RE DROWNING IN IT., National Geographic, June 2018,

Photographs by Randy Olson.


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