Compelling Covers Begin Here

Portland-OutsiderThe common denominator in the better covers happening today? The message is crystal clear.

Your magazine cover: It’s the first glance, the compelling come-on from the newsstand that begs readers to pick it up and engage. It’s the look, feel and mission of your brand rolled up into one particular image. And it’s imperative to get it right.

Getting this right is worth the work. Not only does a big cover concept drive sales, but an original cover also has viral punch on digital platforms and can extend a brand’s reach tremendously.

Greg Dool in Folio: interviewed two top cover designers to help break down the key elements that appear in today’s best cover ideas.

“Every element of the cover should be considered part of your brand, whether it’s the picture, the headline writing, the typeface, the color, the logo,” says Robert Newman, creative director at This Old House. “Don’t forget that all of these things together are what creates a visual brand and visual identity for your cover.”

That visual identity means designers must strive for continuity from one issue to the next regarding design elements, what Dool calls “an important element of sustaining an audience’s long-term trust in the brand.”

Getting that right comes from knowing your audience and what they want.

“The November/December 2015 cover of This Old House was designed to make the reader feel as though they could step right into the scene and start cooking, Newman says,” writes Dool. “No people are visible anywhere in the scene; it’s not someone else’s kitchen, it’s the reader’s.”

The best covers send a clear and compelling message for the reader, another major factor to success.

“The better covers that are happening today, the message is extremely clear,” says Matt Strelecki, creative director at Meredith Agrimedia. “There’s no doubt about what they’re talking about. They’re not hiding that issue’s intent.”

Focus on intent. It may be easier to hit that sweet emotional reaction so important to sales, even if, as Dool notes, sales channels are altering for publishers.

“Even if newsstand sales are no longer the priority they once were for many publishers, the main principles of cover design remain unchanged. In the end, designers are still trying to attract attention.”

And while brand consistency is important, complacency is deadly, Dool warns. “Learn from past successes and failures, but avoid falling into the trap of constantly repeating successful cover concepts to the point that readers lose interest,” he recommends.

“Complacency has no place in publishing, whether on the editorial or art side,” Strelecki says. “Consumers are inundated with images and content and today’s covers must rise above that noise by appealing, provoking and firmly connecting to their readers’ interests.”