Posts Tagged ‘magazine cover design’

This month in magazines: The Strand’s albatross cover

February 7, 2017
The Strand magazine cover from February 1930 - note the mini cover at the bottom right

February 1930: The Strand magazine with a mini cover at the bottom right and the Oxo advertising sign

The Strand magazine was first published by George Newnes in 1891 and was an immediate hit – establishing both itself and Sherlock Holmes in the world’s imagination. Even today, it is the world’s most collectable magazine. A set of all 75 issues with Sherlock Holmes stories is likely to set you back £50,000.

Raphael Sabitini's Captain Blood on the cover of Pearsons, January 1930

Competition fromRaphael Sabitini’s Captain Blood on the cover of Pearsons, January 1930

Its initial cover design by George Haité became an icon and, like Punch and The Wide World, was used for a long time. However, the iconic cover became an albatross around the magazine’s neck. The reason for this is that the magazine industry thrives on change, but readers hate change! Managing this dilemma is one of the great skills of an editor, but usually involves some painful decisions that will upset the most loyal readers.

As an earlier post explained, The Strand cover evolved. First, an advertising panel was introduced on the top left, then images were inset over the traffic on the right side. In the 1920s, colour was introduced and the street scene moved around the Covent Garden area that The Strand thoroughfare bounds. But by 1930, there was a lot of monthly competition with arresting, colour covers, such as Pearson’s. And the last of the Holmes stories had been published in 1927.

The Strand magazine of May 1922 with a colour cover and a Covent Garden flower seller

The Strand of May 1922

So the February 1930 tradition was an attempt to break with the past – it depicts a scene inside a restaurant, presumably on The Strand, with the Oxo hoarding seen in its familiar place through the window.

However, there must have been angst in the office, and it was Herbert Greenhough Smith’s last year in the editorial chair – after 40 years! At any rate, they felt they still had to show the usual cover, which was an updated colour version of Haité’s original work, in a panel. And they then reverted to that version – which dated back to 1921 – for the next two years, with a Covent Garden flower seller in the foreground and cars rather than carriages in the road.

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


Magazine covers that used the same artwork

December 14, 2016

Britannia and Eve, February 1949

Britannia and Eve, February 1949

Woman and Home, November 1953

Woman and Home, November 1953

This is a rare occurrence: the same artwork used on two magazine covers. On the left is Britannia and Eve from February 1949; alongside it is Woman and Home four years later. The illustration has been reversed and cropped, and the different printing processes and scanning have introduced colour variation, but it is the same image.

The Britannia and Eve cover breaks a rule of cover design in that the subject is looking out of the page. The tendency is for the reader to follow the gaze of the person, which would encourage the reader to look away from the cover and perhaps to a rival magazine or another distraction. It is common practice for the cover subject to look at the reader. The Woman and Home cover is clever in this respect because the woman’s gaze is at another element on the page – and is ‘returned’ by the smaller photograph, keeping the eyes ‘within the page’.

I don’t know who did the illustration but Britannia and Eve used gifted artists such as Fortunino Matania and was very well printed. Covers in the 1940s and 1950s are often credited to ‘Moss’ or ‘Critchlow’.

Britannia and Eve was one of thetitles that had come together under the same publisher in the late 1920s to form ‘The Great Eight’, the others being: Illustrated London News, The Sketch, Graphic, Bystander, The Sphere, The Tatler, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Illustrated War News.

In contrast, Woman and Home was published by the Amalgamated group, which concentrated on keeping its prices low. In 1949, a copy cost 9d, compared with 2s for Britannia and Eve.

The results of this cost-conscious approach at Woman and Home included poorer-quality paper and minimal use of colour. Its fiction was frequently illustrated by US artists, and some of those images, too, will have been published before.

However, Woman and Home is still published today, by Time Inc UK, formerly IPC, while Britannia and Eve closed in about 1956. The FictionMags website has a listing of contents for Britannia and Eve and a few issues of Woman and Home.

The latest – and last – Gym Class is out. And it Rocks!

October 9, 2016
The 15th issue of Gym Class is the last, by Steven Gregor September 2016

The 15th issue of Gym Class is the last

The 15th issue of Gym Class, the magazine about magazines, is out and it will be the last. As the issue says:

Magazines have their moments.
Gym Class has had its.
And it was great!

However, founder Steven Gregor is working on a new project for 2017, and is determined that it won’t be a one-man show.

Gregor tells It’s Nice That that North America has been the biggest single market for Gym Class, mostly as online sales, with the latest issue getting into Barnes & Noble bookshops.

The rules of cover design in Gym Class

The rules of cover design in Gym Class

The cover feature, The Rules of Cover Design, was by yours truly, taking in the unwritten habits that dictate the way magazines look (though independent magazines like Gym Class are forever looking to subvert them!).

Other features include:

  • dealing with self-doubt;
  • the ten commandments of independent publishing
  • Japanese magazine publishing
  • photographer Christopher Anderson
  • Andrew Diprose of Wired Magazine

As Gregor himself says, ‘You Rock!’

If you see an issue buy it – they’re running out wherever I look.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Magazine mantra: ‘No heads above the masthead’

May 9, 2016
Front cover title from Woman's Own from 19 May 1955

Front cover title from this 1955 Woman’s Own magazine overlays actress Dawn Addams

The typographer Dave Farey reminded me of the magazine designer’s mantra ‘No heads above the masthead’ at the recent launch of A History of British Magazine Design. So he immediately came to mind when I saw this front cover design from Woman’s Own dating back to 19 May 1955.

The full magazine front cover from Woman's Own ahowing the Dawn Addams knitted jacket

The full magazine front cover from Woman’s Own showing the Dawn Addams knitted playtime jacket

The actress Dawn Addams is photographed modelling a knitted jacket, but quite what the designer was up to is a mystery.

Were the film star’s eyes deliberately positioned to peer round the letters? Was the photograph cropped to show the most of the jacket? Whatever the intention, the end result is a mess.

Addams was a ‘delightfully vivacious’ British-born actress who had recently married an Italian prince, the ‘darkly handsome’ Vittorio Massimo, and had her first baby.

 

 

Magazine cover design: the 3D nose effect

December 5, 2015
José Ferrer as Cyrano de Bergerac on this Everybody's magazine cover from 10 October 1951. The design has a 3D effect, with the nose appearing to stand proud of the page

This Everybody’s magazine cover design from 10 October 1951 has a 3D effect, with the nose appearing to stand proud of the page

There was a push into 3D photography and films in the 1950s, and this found its way into magazines. Picturegoer used clever cover designs  to achieve a three-dimensional effect and this Everybody’s magazine creates a smile with its trick layout.

Everybody’s was a popular large format weekly magazine that was published by Everybody’s Publications at 114 Fleet Street and printed by Sun in Watford, but later taken over by Amalgamated Press and merged into John Bull. One of the articles in the above issue was ‘Football in French!’ by a 20-year-old Brian Glanville.

José Ferrer is the cover star who had won worldwide praise for his portrayal of the eponymous swordsman-poet in Cyrano de Bergerac, a 1950 black-and-white movie based on the 1897 French play by Edmond Rostand. Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess also translated Rostand’s original play into English. A 1990 French film put Gérard Depardieu in the lead role.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

Magazine cover design – in search of the 3D effect

November 7, 2015
Picturegoer magazine cover design with 3D effect from 23 April 1953. Arlene Dahl is the film star model

Picturegoer magazine cover design with 3D effect from 25 April 1953. Arlene Dahl is the film star model

Nowadays, there are many technical strategies that can be used to give a three-dimensional effect to a magazine cover design, including holograms and lenticular stick-ons.

The first magazine hologram I’m aware of was one stuck on a Venture cover from Redwood Publishing in about 1985. Lenticular imagery has been around at least since publicity postcards for the 1968 film of Alistair Maclean’s Ice Station Zebra, and became popular on magazines in about 2001.

But before these, clever graphical tricks were the only viable approach – I’ve never seen a publisher try the red/green printing with plastic glasses on a cover, though it has been used freqently on inside pages since the 1950s from magazines such as Picture Post.

This cover design on movie weekly Picturegoer from 25 April 1953 is a good example. It’s a complex photomontage and is also self-referential with parts of 10 other covers shown as the background. The main photograph is of the hands holding a black and white publicity photograph of Arlene Dahl, described by IMDB as ‘one of the most beautiful actresses to have graced the screen during the postwar period’. The site lists no less than five of her films in 1953.

Note that the hands appear to be in colour. This is because the cover uses the second special colour for the title box as a tint to give a wash over the hands and a paler tint still over the background. The technique was common on gravure-printed weeklies in the 1950s.

All in all, an ambitious piece of work, though to my mind the title sitting over the photograph is a commercial compromise that destroys the overall visual logic – but then no publisher wants the title to be a subsiduary element when the magazine has to sell on a very competitive news-stand each week. However, as the Picturegoer magazine cover design below from 11 April 1953 shows, many issues did carry a much less prominent masthead.

Picturegoer from 11 April 1953 with a less prominent masthead

Picturegoer from 11 April 1953 with a less prominent masthead for a Kirk Douglas cover

Inside the Arlene Dahl issue of ‘The national film weekly’ from Odhams Press, the 3D theme continues with a review of Bwana Devil, described as Hollywood’s first full-length three-dimensional feature. The critic’s reaction will be familiar to many people who’ve seen any of the recent spate of 3D films (Gravity being the exception for me): ‘Picturegoers are bitterly disappointed in their introduction to Hollywood’s third dimension. They see a real danger in Hollywood’s giving them eye-straining technical tasters in place of sound, satisfying entertainment.’

>Film magazines

>>See my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design