Having your cover design appear simply neat and acceptable isn’t going to get your digital magazine to your audience development goals. Every digital publisher today competes in a very crowded marketplace of information. By choosing the right type of cover page design, you can ensure that your digital magazine works toward building a cohesive brand where your audience feels just as enthusiastic with a magazine in hand, looking at an iPad, or browsing it on a smartphone. A well-thought of cover design retains your reader base, and recruits new ones, and ultimately, positively affecting your bottomline.
Below is Nikola Mileta‘s classification of cover page designs to help you plan and create a digital magazine that grabs attention and gives your readers a good first impression in a very short amount of time.
Image based magazine covers
This is the most common approach to magazine cover design and it usually consists of one or few persons on the cover, looking at the camera, preferably smiling. You can see this approach in almost all celebrity magazines, almost all fashion magazines and men’s magazines. In many cases the person featured on the cover sells that issue. This is why some celebrity sells more covers than the other.
Some magazines go for a different approach and that is to present cover person in an unusual way. Not looking at the camera, maybe shot sideways, not smiling and so on. It all depends on the nature of the publication. For example, some magazines can have a person on the cover with a grumpy look on its face.
With a travel magazine obvious choice can be some beautiful landscape photography, or in a food related magazine some delicious meal is obvious choice for the main cover image.
The main thing to point out here is that the nature of the photography has to correspond with the style of the publication. Of course you can see the examples that deviate from this norm, but this will rarely happen.
Illustration based magazine covers
From the beginnings of the magazine publishing till the mid 30’s of the 20th century drawn illustrations were the only way of creating the cover pages. Most notable magazine with illustrated cover today is The New Yorker. Their cover design did not change from its inception in 1925.
Today illustrations are used to present something funny or out of ordinary and there are not so many magazines that opt for illustrated covers. The majority of magazines that do use, illustrated covers are independently published magazines that do not rely on newsstand sales. Also, there is a number of magazines that opt for computer generated illustrations.
Type based magazine covers
This approach is also rare, but still you can see them more often than illustrated covers. Type based cover pages tend to be striking and even shocking. There is something powerful in the way how the type looks and presents words. There is a beauty in type and sometimes it can present the message much better than photography. Probably the most famous typography based cover is Esquire’s “Oh My God, We Hit a Little Girl!” by George Lois.
Concept based magazine covers
This approach can be a mix of all three approaches listed above. Again, it is the best when it is used to present strong message, in a shocking or just the opposite, funny way.
The main trick to the concept based magazine covers is that they have to be instantly understandable to the audience and this is something that is not easy to achieve. The idea that you have may be funny to you and your editor, but will it be funny to the readers?! Will they understand it?
This type of cover is also rare, but usually seen in business magazines, news weekly magazines, independent magazines, magazines that are supplements to a newspapers and subscription only publications.
Below is the cover by Henry Wolf for Esquire and it is one of my favorites. Great idea that uses photography and type to present the message to the reader in a funny way.
Today some of the best magazines with this kind of cover design are a British magazine Stylist, Spanish Metropoli and Bloomberg Businessweek and New York Times Magazine from USA. From issue to issue their covers are funny, witty and visually beautiful.
Digital magazines are completely different from print media, giving readers an enhanced online content experience. This shake-up has already reached publishers’ doors