How To Design A Magazine Cover

I’m here to make your life easy so I’ve created a video to illustrate tips and elements of good magazine cover design. However if you wish to strain your eyeballs then just read the article below. Click here for the YouTube Video.

In this video I am going to show you the basics of designing a cover for your magazine and introduce you to the terminology used in magazine publishing. It’s essential to have an eye catching cover not just for print publications but online too.

The trick with good magazine design is consistency. This is especially important with the ‘Masthead’.

The MASTHEAD is the title of your magazine and runs across the top of your cover. The font or typeface needs to stay the same, as this is your magazine’s logo or BRAND. The colour can change but the typeface size and font used needs to stay consistent.

A strapline can run under the heading – this could be a ’hurray’ callout such as ‘The World’s No. 1 Magazine for Aliens’ or a slogan of what your magazine stands for.

The date or season of the magazine usually goes near the heading so readers can instantly see if the magazine is current. So if you are running a quarterly magazine for instance you would say ‘Winter 2013’. Magazines often have numbers for easy reference, so for example, ‘Issue 12 Vol 3’ for quick reference. These also appear on the cover.

The main cover pic should catch your eye – you’ll notice on a lot of lifestyle magazines the image is usually looking directly forward so that they catch the eye of the reader.

A ribbon running across a corner with a feature mentioned helps to attract your eye.

If an image runs off the sides of a page it is said to BLEED off the page.

A complementary solid background colour helps the cover image lift from the page. Colour co-ordination is very important so use 1–3 colours that are complementary to the Masthead’s colour rather than lots of different colours and tones.
So with the sample magazine cover in the image above, it just uses white and one colour for the text.

The main story is usually listed on the left of the magazine in as few words as possible. So it might just blast the name of the star on the cover with a short snippet of a jaw-dropping topic they discussed in the interview inside.

This magazine cover lists lots of the inside stories and uses font cleverly to make each stand out.

The BARCODE goes on the bottom front of shelf magazines (magazines sold in shops).

If we look at a second magazine sample (on the video) we will see similar traits to the last – a consistent Masthead which is easily identifiable.

The cover image looking directly out at the camera, with a solid background colour and the image bleeds off the page. The date, issue number, price and barcodes in the same place.

One of the tricks this magazine used was to put the image in front of the Masthead. This gives it a more 3D effect.

It uses a button to highlight that it is a ‘Special’ issue. As you can see it uses a combination of blue, black and white for its cover text.

It also uses an old trick – it mentions sex and it uses quantities. Quantities and sex sell!

So this cover screams ‘99 Sex Questions’ and ‘8 ways to get over a bad day.’ Such headlines grab the reader’s attention.

So let’s look at a third example (on video): TIME Magazine.

Again, they have put the front cover image over the masthead – established magazines can do this because we instantly recognise that this is TIME Magazine. It doesn’t have an image bleed off the page, instead it has a red border which along with the typeface of the masthead has stayed consistent throughout the years, establishing the magazine’s brand.

The issue number and the date stay in the same place, too, each issue.

They have used the quantity trick and they have used three font colours – this is unusual for TIME Magazine but they can get away with it because the cover image is black and white. It doesn’t have inside features listed, but instead it has people featured inside so that the reader might spot someone they want to know more about. They have Jay Z’s name to the left and the main heading to the left.

The positioning of the masthead on the top fifth of the magazine and the eye-catching content on the left side of the magazine cover is vital for sales in shops. The title must be easily recognisable in a display of dozens of competitors. The start of the masthead is important here. This is because of the ways magazines are displayed – they are either stacked with the top showing or they are layered with the left third, or less, showing. So both these areas need to be instantly recognisable or eye-catching to get sales.

However, with online magazine publishing these rules can go out the window – you still want an eye-catching cover but you don’t need so much text on the cover as you will be doing the promotion of the content on your blog or social media spaces.

What magazine has the best covers in your opinion?


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