Design Thinking

Creating Award-winning Magazine Covers

At the 2015 CASE Editor’s Forum Magazine Exchange, two publications we art direct and design, Tufts Magazine, and Nobles, were quickly snatched up—a sign that points to their arresting covers. Both schools have intelligent, successful alumni and both need to compete to get their reader’s attention. But the visual direction for the covers was very different: one is an illustration we created, the other a photograph of an alumni (supplied by the subject—the beauty of having successful alumni, sometimes there is already an existing cover-worthy portrait). Along with catching people’s eye at the magazine exchange, the Tufts Magazine cover recently received an American Advertising Federation Gold Award while Nobles received a Silver award for magazine design (and a Circle of Excellence Silver award).

What is the answer to creating arresting covers: Photography? Illustration? Type only? The answer is yes to all of these questions—if it is what your audience will engage with. It starts with an understanding of the magazine’s readers and the mission of the publication. And then a review of the issue’s content and a thoughtful collaboration between editor and art director. The end result is a cover that speaks to your audience.