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Magazine Front Covers. Conventions. Purpose of a Front Cover.

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purpose of a front cover
Purpose of a Front Cover
  • Essentially, the front cover functions to entice readers to buy a magazine. Although the reader will spend a fraction of the time they read the magazine focusing on the front, they may not pick it up in the first place unless the front cover is well designed.
The front cover is made up of a number of important features. These are common conventions of magazines. For you to create your own magazine, you must understand how these conventions function and what their purpose is.

This is the name of the magazine and is almost always displayed at the top. Why do you think that is?

The font style and colour will have been chosen extremely carefully to help sell the magazine, as well as give some indication about the content and audience

Similarly, the name of the magazine will be carefully chosen. Why is the name important?

  • This goes near the masthead, and is sometimes attached to it. It shows what the magazine is about or who it might be aimed at.
central image
Central Image
  • This is one of the most important parts of the front cover as it catches a reader’s eye before they look at the printed text. The central image will be relevant to the magazine’s purpose and audience, and will often be strongly related to the feature article.
  • In front-cover analysis, much can be said about the central image. So much can be denoted and connoted from this image.
the cover model
The Cover Model
  • For many magazines, a cover model will be used. This may be a celebrity, or well-known individual connected with the magazine’s genre (e.g. a rock star posing for a music magazine); or it may be a photographic model.
  • Consider the implications of this. What difference might it make to the magazine’s selling power?
  • Think about the mise-en-scene. Why is the model dressed in a certain way, or lit in a certain way? How are they posed? What is the connotation of this? Is the model’s pose seductive? Intimidating? Why are they wearing those specific clothes?
  • This is a term that refers to how images are referred to. In magazines, images will be anchored by captions (directly explaining what the pictures depict), by coverlines, or by articles and headlines. Anchoring an image helps give it meaning, as it helps the reader understand the significance.
secondary images
Secondary Images
  • They may be used on the front cover to help promote other features in the magazine, usually anchored by a coverline.
  • They are often used in magazines where reader’s need to be enticed by the picture rather than the coverline text (e.g. celebrity magazines).
  • These are located at various points on the front cover, telling readers about the magazine’s contents – and specifically, the articles they’ll find.
  • The front cover often features 6-12 coverlines in an attempt to lure different readers to different things.
  • Coverlines will often use language and presentational devices to be most effective
mode of address
Mode of Address
  • Mode of Address refers to the way that magazines communicate with their readers. Some magazines will use a direct mode of address, communicating with individual readers. This might be through use of the cover model (e.g. pointing directly at the camera), or through the use of 2nd person pronouns (“you”).
  • What kinds of magazines do you think would favour a direct mode, and which would favour an indirect mode?
  • As in “puff of air”, this is a device which helps to draw attention to and promote certain elements in the magazine. They are often set against colourful backgrounds and are shaped – e.g. rounded. Quite often they advertise a “freebie” or a special feature in the magazine
  • Pugs are the “ears” of a magazine and are placed at the top left or right-hand corners of a front cover. They usually display a promotion from that magazine’s edition, or possibly the price.
barcode price edition
Barcode, Price, Edition
  • Straightforward features, but they need to be strategically placed. The barcode shouldn’t distort any of the cover’s principal features, and the price will usually be displayed nearby.
  • How the edition is phrased will depend on the frequency of publication. Most magazines are monthly editions, and so the month and year will be displayed.
use of colour
Use of Colour
  • Colour: this is used to great effect. Some magazines will alter all the colour schemes from edition to edition (masthead, coverline fonts, etc), while others will alter some colours to coordinate with the central image.
  • Think about signifier/signified where colour is in question. Ask yourselves whether the magazine is using colour to send a message, or whether colour has been manipulated to help accentuate a certain feature of the cover image.
  • Front covers will display a variety of font choices, usually adapted to infer meaning to the text they’re displaying.
  • Think about how font choices are manipulated for both mastheads and coverlines.