When you receive a magazine in the mail, or purchase one at the newsstand, it’s easy not to notice the many elements in common that most magazines share. There is a bit of science behind the art of building a good cover. Check some recent covers we have published to see our notes on the science of a cover — the standard elements that most covers share in common:

  • Banner (sometimes called “nameplate”)
  • Tagline
  • Image
  • Cover blurbs
  • UPC code
  • Price
  • Date/Volume number

But the art of a cover remains more elusive, more difficult to nail down. The same elements go into a mundane magazine cover and into an award-winning one. What’s the difference between blah and wow?
I asked Jamie Roberts, our editorial director, and Kerri Davis, our art director, to give me some insight into the thoughts and planning that go into an award-winning magazine cover.

Key info from Kerri:

When a person is on the cover, their expression has to be engaging. You just know when you see a cover expression. Something about the eyes making a connection or the tilt of the head or the body posture.

See more of Kerri’s thoughts on designing a great magazine cover, including how to combine the standard elements with great images and fonts to wow the reader.
Jamie shares the editorial perspective:

We question, listen to and study our audiences to learn what topics they want to read about most–and then give the people what they want. What excites our readers? Do they enjoy stories about genealogy? We’ll use related words on the cover to signal, “Hey, we heard you! Take a look at this story about finding your family photos online.”

See more of Jamie’s thoughts on writing for a great magazine cover, including the secrets to great cover blurbs.