6 Tips for Creating an Impossible-to-Ignore Cover

Cover design is more of a sales tool than an artistic endeavor.

Covers act as miniature billboards, so they need to portray your business image and be bold enough to invite people to pick it up and take a closer look. Your cover has a job to do and needs to do it well. Here are some tips to get you started.


1. Mind the Viewing Distance

When designing the cover, keep in mind the distance at which it will be viewed.

If it’s on a shelf next to other magazines, it needs to have a draw that other covers don’t have. However, if it’s being mailed to people, you have more free reign regarding where you put the logo and additional information. Figure out what makes your product unique and play that up. You need to be deliberate as to what is truly important and use it appropriately.

2. Create an Experience

You are creating an experience for your readers through your cover.

Although there are always costs to consider, you want to make the best decision for your magazine. You must establish your brand, and each issue must stand out as an individual.  

3. Preview in Print

When designing a cover, you will want to print it out when it’s in its final stages.

You cannot gauge how good a cover is unless it’s printed. The colors on your computer screen are different than what it will look like when it’s printed on paper. Colors are a little more muted on paper. And it’s easier to catch mistakes when it’s printed out.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Judge Yourself

Judge your cover in the context of other covers.

Get copies of what your target market is reading, and place them on a table or a shelf with your cover. What do you see? Does your cover jump out at you and make you want to pick it up? Or does it need to be tweaked?


5. Cohesion Matters

Make sure your covers are unified with each issue.

Use the same logo so that people will easily recognize it with each issue. As a whole, the cover needs to be standardized, and quick recognition is a vital factor in competitive success—and easier to produce. However, you must also give yourself the option to deviate from this if it is necessary and makes sense. When someone mentions your magazine, you want the image to pop into their minds immediately. 

6. Think Simple Color 

Use a single color instead of what the competition usually does, which is to douse it in flashy colors.

The more colorful and exciting your cover looks on your conference table, the more it disappears among the others. Avoid process yellow if you can because the competition uses it constantly. Instead, try black or white to make it stand out more. The perfect cover color is monochromatic because it makes the cover more elegant and it makes the product look larger.

Whatever your magazine, catalog, or booklet is about, these tips should help you consider all the factors to ensure it pops off the shelves or stands out in a pile of mail. 

Editing by Design: The Classic Guide to Word-and-Picture Communication for Art Directors, Editors, Designers, and Students

by Jan V. White and Alex W. White

This classic guide to winning readers for designers, art directors, and editors, has been completely updated to be applicable to both online and print publication design. Because it has truths about effective visual communication that transcend ever-changing technology, this book has been in continuous publication since 1974. Revised with the careful attention of widely respected author and professor of graphic design Alex W. White, Editing by Design, Fourth Edition, describes how both word people and design people have the same task: to reveal the true core of each message as plainly and compellingly as possible. It is a book vital to creators of today’s online and print media.

Readers will find ways to marry content and form, helping story and design to reinforce each other, and create pages that are irresistible. Brimming with three hundred illustrations, chapters cover a wealth of design and editing matters, including:

  • How to think about “editing” and “design” as a word person and a design person
  • Teamwork and collaboration for story clarity
  • Originality and inducement for the reader
  • Columns and grids for organization and consistency
  • Covers and content listings as tools for deeper reader involvement
  • How to use type hierarchy to catch and lure readers
  • Representational and non-representational imagery
  • Using color as a branding device

Readers will learn how editor-designer collaboration can achieve maximum creative impact through the effective use of words, images, and space. Full of practical examples, this book is equally for designers looking for a deeper understanding of how to design better and for writers and editors wanting to communicate more vividly with the utmost impact, as well as for editorial directors and publishers seeking a competitive advantage.