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Shelf Presence

How come most design magazine covers are so poorly designed? I will start with the one I think has the worst problem.

-HOW: every now and then they come up with an interesting cover. But most of the time they use design cliches and the main subject of the issue is translated literally into an image, for example December 2000’s theme is “Unlock the secrets of business success” and in the cover is a really big vault slowly opening. Doesn’t leave much to the imagination, does it?

-Communication Arts: pretty bad too. I sort of like the white space and the masthead treatment. The bad part is that enormous square they have smack in the middle, which they just fill in with the “prettiest” picture available for that issue. They will put a picture of a tortilla if we turn our backs just for a second.

-Eye: ok. Time for a good one. Their covers are very compelling, the size of the magazine probably helps and makes it more interesting. And that new logo is just sooooo pretty (courtesy of Magnus Rakeng)

-I.D.: yes. Another magazine with good covers. The masthead treatment is excellent, I love how the I wraps around on the spine. They always have a great photograph, invariably looking clean and classy. And who can forget the May 2000 issue which featured nothing but PMS 147? pretty bold. And daring.

-Step: newly reinvented Step Inside Design is surely stepping in the right direction, the first cover of the new format is really good, it invites you to open the magazine. Unfortunately they have a past that is hard to forget, Step-by-Step Graphics. Reeeeeally bad covers abounded back then, with a few exceptions of course. Mainly the thing that bothered me the most was their ugly logo, diamond shaped and stuff. Ugh! it gives me the shivers.

There you have it, my personal breakdown of a few Design magazine covers. I still buy most of them, because the content is always good. And that’s what matters in the end. But we are designers and we should get better covers from some of them.

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PUBLISHED ON Aug.29.2002 BY Armin
Carol Layton’s comment is:

We should get better covers but it doesn't always happen because of newsstand sales and economics involved. Having been a magazine art director, I have experienced this challenge. Covers are often thought of like cereal boxes on a shelf. Stiff competition causes many magazines to take a hard line on making the cover sell. Intelligence and subtlety are often reflected on the inside but the cover can be a different animal. Unfortunately, the audience should be given more credit for their sophistication level. ID and Eye stand out because they relate design to how it fits in our culture. They have a unique spin. I applaud a magazine that takes a risk and knows its audience well enough to get the right response.

On Sep.06.2002 at 07:14 PM
todd’s comment is:

Well at least there is ONE magazine that will let you rate everything they see fit o print. A scale of 1 to 7 (boring to interesting).


On Sep.06.2002 at 10:18 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>Todd (and everyone else interested)

Whenever you wanna do links you can use html tags, I will use these { } instead of these > for the example, otherwise they won't show:

{a href="http://www.yourlinkhere.com" target="_blank"} link {/a} and you can preview to see if they are working.

Same goes for bolds {b}bold letters{/b} and italics {i}italics{/i}.

On Sep.07.2002 at 11:28 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Covers are often thought of like cereal boxes on a shelf

I think this is an excellent comparison. Cocoa Puffs' box is not that good but the cereal is actually quite good. I think it's a shame that covers have to be so dumbed down to appeal to consumers and entice them to pick it up off the shelf.

On Sep.07.2002 at 11:31 AM
Hrant’s comment is:


What about Baseline? (Too niche for this thread?)

BTW, long live Critique.


On Sep.09.2002 at 10:17 PM
Armin’s comment is:


I think it is more of a niche magazine, serving the typographic community, but what the hell, let's take a look at it.

I'm not crazy about their logo by itself, I like the way they use it in the masthead. As far as the covers, I think they are pretty damn good. They fit the market and represent that sort of "independent" magazine look. It seems to me like they are pretty confident in their customers and they don't have to use the "cereal box" approach.

On Sep.10.2002 at 09:00 AM
magnus’s comment is:


thanks for the warming words about the eye logo.


On Jan.04.2003 at 04:16 PM