Design: The Making of a Magazine Cover

Magazines, we’ve seen this publication of seasonal information in malls, newsstands or even in airlines. What gets us excited to see it or even make us attracted to purchase it? Magazine covers are a visual expression of its current theme and content with its core of attracting future purchaser’s attention. What is underneath them creates enthusiasm from readers and the appearance it presents itself does count.

In our list down below, we’ll take you on an extensive list of the basics as well as the design process that involves in crafting the front covers. Also, we have gathered examples of magazines that feature different design techniques and unique concepts. You may also go through our heap of essential magazines dedicated to graphic designers and to art & design enthusiasts.

Anatomy of a Magazine Cover.

What are the elements that make up a magazine cover? We may have been familiar with the parts of a magazine, but let us dip our toes a little further to break down each and one of the elements.

Masthead.

Vogue, Vanity Fair, Allure. What do these names have in common? Aside from their inclusion in the international line up of magazines, the given names are called masthead. It serves as a typographical branding of the title and mastheads are presented in the typeface it is designed.

Selling Line.

This segment places a short description of the title’s marketing point or tagline. For example, Allure magazine heavily focuses on the theme regarding beauty. The magazine sets out their selling line as “The Beauty Expert”.

Date Line. 

The date line includes month and year of publication as it also comes along with the price. Take note that monthly magazines usually hits newsstands a month or weeks before the cover date.

If you happen to have a website that places your digital content, then you may place them too on your magazine cover. Usually, the website is placed beside or near the date line.

Main Image.

This segment is represented by the use of images, illustrations, digital art and so on. A classic take on the main image is incorporating images of models to make an impact on newsstands. You may go through our list of design techniques applied by various publications in creating brilliant and creative

To inspire your creative eye, you may go through our list of design techniques applied by various publications in creating brilliant and creative magazine covers that translate their own brand and editorial philosophy.

Cover lines.

These are short statements that describe the articles in the magazine’s content. The core of placing cover lines around the magazine is to entice readers into buying the magazine or at least give them an idea regarding the magazine’s content.

To add some personality and character to your cover lines, we have gathered a couple of fonts to spice up your magazine front cover.

Main cover line.

As the name implies, this cover line takes up a quarter of the front cover. It is usually placed in layers, different color as well as using bigger fonts to add emphasis.

Model Credit.

This segment usually displays the name of the cover model, sometimes placed with descriptive words or comes along in the main cover line.

Left Third.

Left third side of a magazine cover displays information to entice readers of what may be inside. This segment is sort of an advertisement. In western countries, left thirds are vital especially when magazines are not shown in full frontage.

Price.

An important element of the magazine cover is the price. Magazines either place their price near the date line or the barcode, whichever suits the composition and layout of the front cover.

Some magazines that are distributed on an international scale, also add the various prices based on the country’s currency. Reader’s Digest Asia, for example, includes the different prices designated for countries such as Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan and so on.

Barcode.

A staple in every magazine covers; a standard bar code is used by retailers.

The Making of a Magazine Cover.

Similar with coming up with a concept for a design project, magazine covers do involve a lengthy process to have a finalized output. In magazine publications, teams receive deadlines in terms of preparation, production, and post-production. For magazine covers, it takes a couple of concepts upon arriving on a final design for the front cover. The creative process involves a huge understanding of the magazine’s target audience be it the brand’s demographic, psychographics, and geographics.

One must also consider the creative constraints ahead such as budget, printing, deadlines, features, pre-production, advertisements and so on. These creative constraints should not limit one’s creativity but at least have a foundation and direction as to incorporate in the cover design as well as the magazine’s content.

The Design Process of Magazine Covers.

Theme.

Magazines have its monthly issues on topics that are fit for the occasion, trend, and theme. There is an extensive selection of areas and genres that you may incorporate as your theme. Be it fashion, health, fitness, arts, design, visual, technology, world, politics and so on.

Brainstorm.

Turn the green light and come up with many ideas whether they may sound far-fetched or basic. Who knows, in that line up of ideas, is a potential concept for an extensive selection.

If it would be your inaugural glossy, it is best to heavily centralize the theme or concept with the brand’s story, demographic or core. Whether it is focused on a special interest genre, fashion, music and so on. This gives your target audience a visual picture, understanding, and recognition regarding your brand. 

Concept.

As it is in design, concepts are ideas with a structured or at least a plan and purpose. It is established and has become a fully-realized idea. As mentioned above, it takes a lot of drafts to reach a final decision for a magazine cover. In this case, be as flexible with your concept to give an extensive selection.

Rough Drafts.

Visualize your concept through rough drafts. As its name implies, sophistication and details aren’t necessary for this segment.

Studies.

Studies are various design concepts surrounding the centralized theme. This segment of the design process applies the philosophy in the selection of magazine covers, the more designs, most likely there are many artworks to incorporate for the front cover.

Present at least 3-5 studies to the panel, creative director or head files concerned.

Thumbnails.

Thumbnails are a much more polished version of your studies. After presenting your studies, apply those corrections and adjustments now to your thumbnails in which you may proceed to apply as prototypes.

A little fun fact, this part of the designing process is called thumbnail due to the fact that one may see the concept in a much more clearer perspective.

The Technical Process of Magazine Covers.

The following technical processes include not only the magazine cover but the entire magazine’s content.

Prototype.

Publications do prototype their printed materials to see the pages side by side to review the layout, composition, advertisement placement, and the magazine’s overall appearance.

You may apply your magazine design onto these magazine mock-ups perfect for presentation purposes and prototyping.

Test Print.

Having a test print allows publications to visualize the cover’s use of color palette, typographical elements, layout and its design elements. The colors yellow or orange, for example, may appear in a brownish shade on print. Thus, allowing time for adjustments and re-application of different color codes.

This is an essential and practical process to take in for the reasons that this is the first impressions viewers receive as well as to ensure quality and proper usage of the design techniques.

Selection Process.

A recurring mention in the process of designing front covers, there are two or three magazine cover variations to choose from upon arriving on the final decision. In this process, publications compare each magazine cover variation to finally decide which would create a high-impact in terms of concept, design, and theme.

The judgment is based on the composition, imagery (if there is any), layout and overall appearance.

Run Through.

Before handing our your files, keep in mind of missing pages, advertisements, any misuse of elements in your magazine cover as well as your magazine content. For the magazine cover, do ensure its color code (always save it in CMYK), technical elements such as the cover lines and its design elements.

Execution.

Once all the necessary adjustments have been applied, printing comes next.

Magazine Schedules.

Magazine Publications do distribute their glossies on a monthly basis. But in some cases, publications only produce in a quarterly schedule, bi-monthly and annually.

Magazine Distribution.

Magazines are available in various circulations and are distributed through the mail, bookstores, and newsstands. Distribution falls into three main categories namely paid circulation, non-paid circulation and controlled circulation.

Paid circulation.

Through paid circulation, publications many magazines are sold for a price either by per-issue basis or by subscription which involves an annual payment or monthly fee which will be sent to readers. Through paid circulation, publications may grasp on their readership statistics.

Non-paid circulation.

In this model, magazines are given away for free due to not having a mentioned cover price. Magazines, in this case, are given in airlines, street dispensers and so on. Unlike the paid circulation, this model doesn’t ensure readerships statistics only through the number of issues distributed.

Controlled circulation.

Used by many trade magazines which are then distributed to qualifying readers for free or form of a survey. This is due to productions costs such as printing and postage that they operate in distribution. In which they may decide who may receive subscriptions that are based on the qualifications of the trade.

This has its positives as well. Through controlled circulation, there are no wasted printing and distribution expenses. Also, allowing advertisements to be received by the target audience. This model is widely used before the explosion of the internet and despite the digital age, this model is still utilized.

If you are on a hunt for design templates for your magazines, here are some food magazine designs available at your disposal.

What is the fuzz with magazines anyway?

These books of seasonal information infuse opinions, ideas, innovations, and inspirations from unique individuals to create a positive motivating force. Be it in pursuing concepts and conceiving ideas to apply in various platforms. In such a way is a great help for individuals.

The next on this series for your guide on crafting magazine front covers, we have listed a heap of impressive line up of magazine layout you may incorporate in your designs and use as future references. Hope this was of great help for you.

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