Publications often seem to like to make parts of images poke above text or design elements, either subtly or clearly.

For example, in this Radio Times cover, the top of a woman's head is positioned above the title of the publication.

What name is given to this, and is there a reason for it?

  • 1
    My goodness, I haven't seen the Radio Times since the 1980s! Talk about a blast from the past! :) Jul 13, 2012 at 2:33
  • It used to be the biggest selling magazine in the UK by far, but that changed swiftly when they lost the monopoly on TV listings...
    – e100
    Jul 13, 2012 at 9:22

2 Answers 2


Mundanely enough, it's just an overlay or overlap. The reason for it is twofold, and also somewhat mundane: 1) because we can (Photoshop makes it easy), and 2) it's the fashion.

This is one of those cases where technology drives fashion. Before Photoshop, this kind of effect required some very exacting work with a razor-knife on a big transparency. You'd see it done in high-end advertising work, but generally not on deadline-driven publications like magazines.

When it became possible to extract part of an image from its background easily and quickly, some creative designer realized it would make an arresting visual (to attract attention on magazine racks and newspaper stands) if the head of the featured cover-person overlapped the publication's nameplate. The idea caught on, and within a year or so everyone was doing it. It became a characteristic style that very few magazines (looking at you, National Geographic) haven't adopted.

As an aside, other recent examples of technology-derived fashion in graphic design are drop-shadows, which became ubiquitous because InDesign made them easy (and for which the former product manager of InDesign apologized to the design community at large!), and rounded corners, which came in with InDesign CS4 for print and are made easy on the web by CSS3.

  • Grerat answer, but there was a stage between physical cutting out and sophisticated Photoshop extraction as used on the RT cover - simple vector clipping paths.
    – e100
    Jul 13, 2012 at 9:20
  • Isn't the "sophisticated Photoshop extraction" just a vector clipping path (or a clipping path derived from alpha)?
    – horatio
    Jul 13, 2012 at 15:57
  • You're probably right - I thought it had an alpha channel mask
    – e100
    Jul 13, 2012 at 16:27
  • Alan, I like your answer but not so much the second paragraph. I mean apologizing for making tech easier is like apologizing for making fonts. Surely typefaces were more interesting when they were handcrafted or even better when ornate lithographs were being crafted by monks and artisans but I would never blame the creator of Univers or Helvetica for making a great product. If people overuse something, that isn't the developers fault.
    – Ryan
    Jul 13, 2012 at 23:21

I don't believe there's a specific term given to overlapping elements. Sometimes it's called "breaking a border" or I've seen "3D border breakout", but I think that's about it.

Why is it done? To give the design depth.

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