How to improve your magazine cover design. Learn from the professionals

When it comes to tips on how to improve your magazine cover design, few publishers get it right. And you surely know who I’m talking about. All these big publishers like Vogue, National Geographic or The New Yorker who are pioneers when we think of magazine design and made history with their iconic covers.

Sure, we talk more and more how print is dead or will soon die (Will it?) and how fewer people actually buy physical magazines these days, but there is just something so special about flipping through the pages of a new glossy magazine. So, I think that print will never die! Especially in print. And as long as print won’t die (hopefully!), the importance of a creative magazine cover design is crucial. A striking magazine cover will not only grab the attention but it also has the power of making it jump off the shelves. Truth be told, that is one hard job publishers have these days.

creative magazine covers through the years


In this article, we’ll talk more about how the big publishers do it. More tips on how to improve your magazine cover design. Learn from the professionals.

1. World class photography

  1. All these big publishers, like Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, The New Yorker or National Geographic have a very solid brand. Sure, all these magazines have been around since forever with an experience of over 30 years of print. Therefore, had a lot of time to consolidate their branding and style of designing magazine covers. Let’s analyze some of their most creative magazine covers. You’ll see that these publishers are taking more and more risks when it comes to cover photography.

How to improve your magazine cover design
Do we see a pattern here? Clearly, having a celebrity on your magazine cover in 2018 isn’t enough anymore. Making her climb rocky mountains and pose for the camera will probably get you more sales.
Also, is it me, or we see less text and more world-class photography on these fashion magazine covers like never before?

magaqzine cover design tips

But when you have Beyonce in your September issue, you really don’t need to add too much text on your cover since you know for sure it will fly off the shelves. Especially when she didn’t give an interview in years. 

Another useful tip to improve your magazine cover design is to use complementary colors. Like this Marie Claire featuring Amy Adams on the cover.

When it comes to selecting colors, never choose randomly. For example, on this Marie Claire issue, they used orange toned text contrasting the multiple shades of blue in the photography and background. And with the help of Amy Adams’ copper hair, the contrast works even better.

The above September issue of Vogue, for instance, samples the vibrant red tone from Beyonce’s colorful floral crown and is also using it in the headline.

magazine cover design complementary colors

Magazine cover design tips:

  • If you are using photography, eye contact is crucial. Have the cover model (or Beyonce for that matter) look straight into the camera.
  • Use complementary colors to make it stand out. Like the Beyonce Vogue cover above – it used an earth-toned color for the Vogue logo and red text to emphasize the main subjects of the issue.
  • Be consistent! You ain’t no Vogue or National Geographic yet but you can become and when you reach that point you may want to be recognizable.
  • Focus point! Each cover should have a main focus point that will attract the readers. And a headline that will pop out!

Learning how to improve your magazine cover design is a hard task. You can exaggerate, play around as much as you can, but keep in mind that everything you do should remain within your style and concept. In other words, it should reflect your magazine’s branding.

2. Get creative

Like a foodie that I am, I surely can’t ignore food magazine covers. So, let’s analyze a bit the most creative magazine covers in the food market and see what we can learn.
Food magazine cover design

Talking and writing about food can be quite fun. Why not play around with fonts and photography then? After all, creativity is the limit here.

This Washingtonian magazine is just the perfect example that illustrates the fun aspect of food magazines. A mix of delicious good photography and fun font choice that compliments the food. Instead of looking for common ways and fonts to write the headline: 100 very best restaurants, they had fun creatively surrounding the main star, the apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top, with hand-written text. And I think it works perfectly!

Food magazine cover design examples

Talking about ways on how to improve your magazine cover design, Crumbs magazine cover is a visual feast for the eyes! Gorgeous, inspirational and practical, its design cover is highly recognizable. Starting from the logo to the choice of text color and photography, Crumbs magazine is unlike anything else on the market.

As a conclusion, we may say that when it comes to food magazine cover design tips, the combination of photography and illustration (design elements) is a great way to make a magzine  cover stand out.

magazine cover design. Food magazines

But the food magazine industry is not the only sector where we can find endless amounts of creativity. Just take a look at these 2 WIRED magazine covers.

technology magazine cover design examples

They had fun with the photography and played around with colors and typography. And this is exactly what I am talking about when I say that you can go around and get as creative as you can within the limitations of your own branding. If your creative direction allows you to change the colors of your logo to match the overall design cover, go for it!

3. Your magazine cover design should reflect its content

Magazine cover design. cover should reflect content

One of the most important functions of a good magazine cover design is to sell the stories inside, right? So, just take a look at how Time magazine and The New Yorker do just that.

magazine cover design. Cover should best reflect the content inside.

Both Time and The New Yorker are important publishers who are known for their impactful magazine covers. And so, the 3 issues above are the perfect example of how important magazine cover design is when reflecting on the main subjects. It only takes one powerful image and a small impactful headline to spark curiosity.

4. Consistency is key

Did you know that Oprah owns a magazine on which she’s the star of every issue? I mean she appears on every cover! Just take a look at this:
magazine cover design. consistency is key

Well, if this isn’t brand consistency, I don’t know what is!

By looking at these Oprah magazine covers, we can’t say it looks like a template, although all of them have strong similarities. It’s just that the overall creative direction (photography, font choice, and headlines) is the same. Oprah magazine is primarily marketed at women. And the magazine cover shows just that.

When we talk about consistency, National Geographic is the epitome of consistency! With the yellow layout and stunning photography that speaks louder than words. We all remember the world famous cover – Afghan girl.

national-geographic through the years


When assigned the role of designing a magazine cover, your main job is to make it fly off the shelves. And the way you do that has a lot to do with creativity. If allowed, get as creative as you can to reflect the magazine’s content. Get inspired on how to improve your magazine cover design from other professionals in this field. Think outside the box. There isn’t another success recipe, really!

*Magazine covers are copyright by their respective publications.