Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Designing Newsstand Covers That Make You Think: "We Don't like No-Brainers. We like People to Think a Little."

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Designing Newsstand Covers That Make You Think: "We Don't like No-Brainers. We like People to Think a Little."

Article excerpt

COVER DESIGN HAS ALWAYS, to a degree, followed a basic set of tenets for composition, color and type design. Keep it straightforward, but with enough flash to stand out and attract the busy newsstand browser. And covers tend to latch onto a trend and copy it to such a degree that the newsstand is awash in bright orange asterisks, plus signs and brackets.

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However, there are a few publishers who take particular pride in designing covers that appeal to the more cerebral newsstand browser, creating a composition that challenges the buyer to think a little harder about what they're looking at. It's a case of reverse psychology--when everyone else is following the same set of rules that drive simplicity and flash, a thoughtful cover can have an automatic appeal--and stand out.

The Anti-Cover Line

Esquire began contorting its cover lines in the fall of 2006 and, for the past year and a hall has literally made the covers part of the magazine's overall brand. "If everybody's following the same set of rules, it's easy to break the rules and get noticed," says David Curcurito, the magazine's design director. "It wasn't difficult for me, it was actually refreshing. It's nice to leave your mark, we just went for it."

Curcurito notes that editor David Granger wanted to "overwhelm" the cover with type in a way that merges the two. The image and the coverlines become a single subject, instead of the coverlines playing a supporting role.

In fact, a reader's ability to actually read the coverlines becomes subordinate to the overall effect. "The words become the art, and the interaction between the subject and the type creates a sense of depth," says Curcurito. "What's legible and what's not doesn't matter. It's a weird exercise."

The Benefit of the Doubt

"It's a tricky line to walk, but right now we err on the side of giving our readers the benefit of the doubt," says Zach Frechette, editor of Good magazine. …

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