12 Rules for Designing Remarkable Covers

how to design a magazine cover


Designing Covers

Figuring out how to create a brilliantly designed cover can be heart wrenching or hilarious, or fall anywhere in between. Without question, remarkable magazine covers have made history…and sales.

Here are 12 rules for designing remarkable covers.

Rule 1: Content beats design.

Without a good story…your effed.

Rule 2: People buy emotionally, then justify their decisions logically.

Provoke any of these 6 emotions. Love, joy, surprise, anger, fear or interest.

Rule 3: Pick colors for your cover on purpose.

Your color palette is in your photo.  Zoom in, pull it out with your Doppler tool, use the color wheel to find complementary and analogous colors. (Not that Doppler tool…the one on your computer.)

Rule 4:  Take some risks when designing covers.

If people talk about it, bad or good…it’s good.

Rule 5: Use a generous dose of  W  H  I  T E  S P A C E.

Negative space is very positive.

Rule 6: Use only two typeface families.

Dos (that means two).

Rule 7: Photography sells better than illustrations.

Great cover photograpy…easier said than done my friend.

Rule 8:  Jaw-dropping relevant benefits.

Remember you are competing with hundreds of other publications.  Your cover should visually communicate clearly and effectively what the reader can expect from the magazine.  Sell the sizzle, baby…

Rule 9:  Use numbers.

“10 Richest People in the World ” better than, “Some Rich People.”

Rule 10: Ask (yourself):

What are we selling?

Rule 11:  Answer (the reader):

“What’s in it for me?” (WII-FM)

Rule 12: Break the rules.

Here are some great covers that follow… and break the rules.

Bloomberg Businessweek (May 2011)

Esquire (December 2002)

Entertainment Weekly (May 2003)

GQ (December 2008)

ESPN (October 2010 Gatefold)

Fortune (Novermber 1998)

Rolling Stone (January 1981)

Vogue (September 2011)

V Magazine (Summer 2004)

The Economist (September 1994)

National Geographic (June 1985)

The New Yorker (September 2001)

People (September 1997)

Texas Monthly ( January 2007)

Time Magazine (June 1994)

VIBE (1994)

New Yorker (2009)

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