This post kicks off a series of blog posts on magazine cover design strategy.

Bates Creative was chosen as the agency to design the covers of Association Media & Publishing’s Signature magazine this year. To unveil our process behind the design of each cover, we have written subsequent articles in Signature to take readers “Under the Covers” of each issue. We’ll be repurposing those articles here on our blog to share our cover design strategy with all of you.

This is post #1 in a series of blog posts on magazine cover design strategy. Follow the link to visit the rest of our posts in the series.

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We’re kicking off this blog series by sharing our thoughts behind designing a cover that gets noticed. How do you get your organization’s cover to stand out and make an impact with readers?

To tackle this question, here is a behind the scenes look into Bates Creative’s design process for the January/February 2013 cover of Signature magazine.

Content Review

At Bates Creative, designing a noticeable cover starts with reviewing the feature article’s content. The January/February feature was about association employees who spearhead change and trailblaze new paths for their organizations. The article led our Creative Director, Erik Hansen, to be inspired by the idea of a “change agent” and the visuals that this concept brings to mind.

This inspiration led us to the next stage of our cover design process – concepting, sketching and presenting rough comps of the cover to the editorial team.

Bring Initial Concepts to Life

To begin this next stage, we held a concepting session with the editorial team. The concepting session could be thought of like a brainstorming session. The team came up with numerous ideas but there was agreement that Erik’s initial “change agent” concept had potential to fully capture the reader while also illustrating the feature article.

Magazine Cover Design Strategy

After the team agreed on moving forward with this concept, Erik began sketching in more detail. His vision of a custom badge being used to represent the association change agent came to life in the sketches. This concept was driven by the idea of designing a badge that the reader would be proud to receive. The team knew that the badge would have to be powerful, eye-catching and inspirational to readers to standout on the cover.

Erik’s sketches sparked the idea of designing a 3D badge that would pop off the cover. After some research, the team decided that 3D printing wouldn’t be a viable option for this issue, so we did the next best thing…

Our interactive design team took on the challenge of designing a custom badge using 3D renderings and wireframes. This gave the design team the freedom to position the badge on the cover any way they wanted. The design of the badge brought together typography, texture, light and shading. The grittiness and distressed look of the badge – similar to war-markings – gave the impression that whoever is wearing the badge has undergone trials and tribulations while spearheading change in their association.

Badge Wireframes

3D Badge

Concept Review

The initial cover design was ready to present and be reviewed by the editorial team. All feedback is welcomed at this stage; it just so happened that this time around all feedback was positive. During the presentation, Editorial Director Carla Kalogeridis commented, “I love the lighting and the grittiness of it, it represents trying to be the first one out there going for the change. It has a sense of attitude that I love.” The feedback was undisputed – everyone was in love with the design.


Final Execution

To complete a standout cover design, the final execution stage is critical. At Bates Creative this requires strong typography and color selection. For this cover, the designers chose to use the Agency FB font for the cover line. The rest of the type seen on the cover is in Trade Gothic, the standard font for Signature’s cover. The orange color used for the masthead was chosen to balance out the color in the badge and lighting effects were used to highlight the badge.

Final Magazine Cover Design

Bates Creative President Debbie Bates-Schrott commented, “The strategy behind this cover concept is great because it has legs to be carried on throughout the year. The badge could be printed for association members to earn and wear. They could be passed out at events throughout the year. The badge could also be used as an icon to showcase association change agents in future Signature issues.”

Creating a standout cover for your organization requires collaboration, unique concepts, and teamwork to get the desired end result.

What steps does your organization take to create a noticeable cover?