great magazine covers successful

You know it when you see it.

It might catch your eye and prompt you to flip the pages. It might capture a famous person or an iconic moment and ask all the right questions. And sometimes … it might even make your jaw drop.

Could it be the typography, the image, the colors, the composition? Or is it the brilliant combination of all of these things, with a sprinkle of genius on top?

Though it’s probably more art than it is science, get your magazine covers up to par with these five best practices for their creation.

1. Tell a story, sell benefits

A strong cover takes three ingredients — a powerful story, a compelling image and a benefit spelled out for the reader. Make sure every cover you produce has all three elements.

2. Get inspired by the past

Buy the last five years of magazine design annuals. One of the best annuals to reference is from the Society of Publications Designers. Look at other winning covers such as the American Society of Magazine Editor’s Top 40 Magazine Covers of the Last 40 Years. Use them as inspiration for fonts, cover lines, images and use of white space.

3. Spark curiosity

Write a snappy main story cover line, with powerful typography, that sparks curiosity. If you limit the total number of cover lines to three or less, you can use more descriptive words to grab the reader. Don’t let the cover get so crowded with text that nothing stands out.

4. Keep it simple

Most important: use one strong image with a plain or simple background. If you take a photo, make sure the background is simple so that the type will pop. Or use a simple photo illustration or a photo of an object that is manipulated to surprise and wow readers. It alone will tell the story. Do not put busy backgrounds, lots of people, or complicated images on the cover.

5. Be your own worst critic

Look at the cover comps. Make sure YOU would want to open the magazine.

What do you think makes a magazine cover successful?

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