First Impressions

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"An investigation into how the editorial design of a magazine cover affects the Brand Identity" 5000 word Personal Study written in my final year of my degree.

Transcript of First Impressions

  • F I R S TI M P R E S S I O N S

    written and designed by elizabeth harrison

    personal study // JANUARY 2013

  • An Investigation into how the Editorial Design of a Magazine Cover affects the Brand Identity

    FIRST IMPRESSIONS // contents

    2 // JANUARY 2013

  • C O N T E N T Sintroduction

    the important role

    a brief history

    mainstream womens fashion magazines

    the cover star


    multiple covers

    celebrity culture magazines

    newspaper pull-out magazines

    a different kind of newsstand















    JANUARY 2013 \\ 3

    contents \\ FIRST IMPRESSIONS

  • FIRST IMPRESSIONS // introduction

    4 // JANUARY 2013

  • I N T R O D U C T I O NThe generic characteristics of a magazine are generally always the same; title, cover, images, editorial content. So how is it that different magazines of the same genre or topic can be separated and sub-categorized into their own established brand? Fashion magazines in particular tend to cover very similar content and topics, as they need to follow the latest trends, yet they often represent very different identities, looks and attitudes. These differing identites are portrayed through the use of design choices, editorial style, and fundamentally the key page that we first set our eyes upon, the front cover.

    During this study I aim to investigate the methods and results of the design choices various magazine brands make, comparing and contrasting the different aspects of editorial design for what is arguably the most important part of a magazine; the cover. I intend to look further into a selection of different magazine brands from various archetypes, which are all fashion-related so that I can evaluate the differences between magazines stemming from the same genre.

    contents \\ FIRST IMPRESSIONS

    JANUARY 2013 \\ 5

  • 6 // JANUARY 2013

    FIRST IMPRESSIONS // the importance of the cover

    The cover of any magazine not only bears the burden of selling the issue, but it also carries a much bigger responsibility of creating the personality or identity of the magazine brand. It determines the impression the consumer gets when looking at a first glance. When it comes to a magazine, first impressions are everything.

    Standing in a shop faced with shelves and shelves of magazines staring back at you, what is it that leads you to pick up that chosen magazine off the shelf? As the consumer, you will no doubt already know what type of magazine you want to buy, but with such a large amount of magazine brands stemming under each individual genre, the cover needs to stand out from these competitors. Yolanda Zappaterra sums up the purpose of the magazine cover perfectly:

    Zappaterra makes the vital point that a magazine cover continues to promote and sell the publication brand after the magazine has been taken off the shelf and consumed. This might be when it is carried under an arm in street, on a coffee table in somebodys home, in a waiting room, or in a supermarket line. Essentially, the cover of a magazine is the part that reinforces and sells the brand it has an enormous array of tasks and responsibilities.

    The cover needs to reinforce and deliver sales for the brand. It needs to stand out from the crowd in order to be the magazine that the consumer picks off the shelf, amongst the sea of other magazines, and takes to the till to purchase. The cover needs to be familiar to regular and repeat readers, but still has to look sufficiently distinct from its forerunner; varying in colour, mood and content from the last issue, with a fresh new (usually perfectly airbrushed) model taking centre stage. Repeat buyers instantly recognise it as a new issue and are impelled to buy it. Andy Cowles reinforces this point during an interview by stating the key to making a magazine brand is consistency. It has to always be the same, yet also changing. The reader has to know what to expect, yet when the page turns they must be surprised. 2 Cowles picks up on the importance of consistency, but also the

    T H E R O L EO F T H E C O V E R

    The first and most important part of any publication on which to stamp the brand and its values, is on the cover.This is the part of the magazine that will work tirelessly for the publisher, both on the news-stand, where it must get its feel across and stand out from the competition, and after purchase, where it will continue to sell the brand values on a more intimate scale to both the owner and other readers. 1

  • JANUARY 2013 \\ 7

    the importance of the cover \\ FIRST IMPRESSIONS

    importance of change. As well as appealing to its loyal customers, it has to appeal to potential new readers without distancing devoted readers. Balancing all these juxtaposing factors is a tricky task for a designer.

    Amongst all these roles, it is also vital that the cover of any kind of publication, not only a magazine, truly expresses the character of that particular publication. As clichd as it is, the saying dont judge a book by its cover is somewhat invalid when it comes to magazines, as the cover is what most people go off when choosing which to buy. It also needs to articulate the publications content in order to entice potential readers to take a look inside, and hopefully buy it.

    With all of these duties and roles, it is no wonder that many publications and designers spend almost as much time, money and energy on this one page as the rest of the publication. 3 After all, if the cover is not attractive and enticing enough when sat on the newsstand, it will simply not sell. So it is evident that the cover (or the designer of the cover) has a heavy burden on its/their shoulders!

    1 Zappaterra, Y. Editorial Design. London: Laurence King Publishng Ltd, 2007, p.29.2 Leslie, J. Mag Culture: New Magazine Design. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2003, p.8.3 Zappaterra, ref. 1, p.30

  • 8 // JANUARY 2013

    FIRST IMPRESSIONS // history

    Centuries ago, when a magazine was referred to as a periodical, the publications were worlds apart from the rows upon rows of glossy mags we see on our newsstands today. One of the first publications to be referred to as a magazine was The Gentlemens Magazine [Figure 1], founded by Edward Cave in 1731. It is said that this periodical in fact gave the name magazine to its genre. The Gentlemens Magazine was a monthly magazine published in London during the 18th, 19th and early 20th Century.4 Throughout its longevity the cover almost always featured an image of St. Johns Gate [Figure. 1], the home of Edward Cave, and the location at which it was printed. The magazine developed into various subtitles such as monthly intelligencer and historical review, but its publishing came to an end in 1907.

    As the printing industry grew bigger over the late 19th and 20th centuries, the magazine industry grew in correlation. Technical improvements and inventions such as the rotary

    press, the halftone block and the making of cheaper paper, meant that magazines could start to print pictures rather than illustrations. Magazines also started to catch on to the idea of using advertisements to boost their financial revenue, which stimulated the growth of the industry considerably. More and more magazines aimed at women were introduced, mainly in the US, such as Ladies Home Journal in 1883 (Cyrus

    H.K. Curtis), Cosmopolitan in 1886, and not forgetting Vogue being founded in 1892 by Arthur Turnure and Harry Mcvickar. 5

    Ladies Home Journal was originally set up as Ladies Journal, but when the magazines engraver made the decision to add the word home beneath his cover sketch, the magazine became known to readers as Ladies Home Journal. The magazine was a huge success, becoming the first magazine to achieve a circulation of 1 million by 1903.

    H O W H A S T H EG E N E R I C C O V E R

    E V O L V E D

    Figure 1: The Gentlemans Magazine cover - July 1771

  • JANUARY 2013 \\ 9

    history \\ FIRST IMPRESSIONS

    Shortly after Ladies Home Journal took off, Arthur Baldwin Turnure and Harry McVickar founded what has now come to be one of the biggest fashion publications in the world. Cue Vogue.6 Dodie Kazanjian discussed the very first cover, published in December 1892:

    A young lady in a floor-length evening dress with a corseted waist and gigot sleeves holds a bouquet of just-cut tea roses and looks out at us with a slightly mischievous, sidelong glance. Above her, two barefoot sylphs recline on either side of the word Vogue; one regards herself in a hand-held mirror, the other leafs through the pages of a magazine. Style, refinement, leisure, decorum, and affluence are all on display, along with just a hint of seduction. Its the upper-class American ideal of beauty at the fin de sicle. 7

    Figure 2: Ladies Home Journal cover - 1883

    4 The Gentlemans Magazine Library, 1731 1868 [online] searchdbaspx?dbid=31424 [accessed on 24 January 2013]5 Kazanjian, D. Vogue: The Covers. New York: Abrams, 2011, p.66 Vogue Britannica Encyclopedia [online] [accessed on 24 January 2013]7 Kazanjian, D. Vogue: The Covers. New York: Abrams, 2011, p.6



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  • 10 // JANUARY 2013

    FIRST IMPRESSIONS // history

    This innocent and charming style of delicately designed cover did not last long, Cond Montrose Nast bought Vogue magazine in 1909, and he did not plan on keeping things the same. 8 Nast hire