Vocab Lesson 14: Cover Lines

Vocab Lesson 14: Cover Lines If you've been reading any of the media blogs lately, you've probably come across news about the coverlines on Men's Health magazine. The definition of cover lines is probably pretty obvious, but just to make it official...

Cover lines are short statements found on the cover of the magazine that allude to or describe the articles inside. Their purpose is to entice the reader into picking up and/or buying the magazine. Generally there's one main larger cover line and then a few (or lots of) smaller ones.

As shown in the images of Mademoiselle covers above*, magazines first started using cover lines in the late 1800s, and for the most part, they remained as relatively quiet type. In the '60s, however, that began to change as the cover lines got bigger, more colorful, and became a larger part of the overall cover image, a trend continued on through today (and bemoaned by many).

Today for most consumer magazines, cover lines are essential to newsstand sales. And as the article regarding Men's Health reveals, cover lines are very studied ... magazines often keep track of which cover lines sold more issues and then they try to replicate that success ... in this case, by actually repeating cover lines, but also by slightly changing them to fit new content.

As a designer, there is a often a battle between having to use elements that are found to appeal to newsstand buyers and what makes for good design. In the case of Men's Health, it's interesting to see the difference between what makes for successful newsstand cover design and what is good for their subscribers.

CoverLines2.jpgCheck out Gerald Grow's article Magazine Covers and Cover Lines: An Illustrated History for an awesome history and analysis of cover design and how it's changed over the years. And be sure to check out the sidebar links, such as the one showing the evolution of cover lines on Mademoiselle magazine (which closed in 2001).

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Want more? Check out our previous Vocab Lessons here.

"Vocab Lesson" is a recurring feature on our SPD Student Blog. Tune in every Wednesday for a new word of the week. And if you come across a term you can't quite figure out, email it to us at 
spdstudentoutreach@gmail.com and we'll define it in a future post.

*Mademoiselle images from Gerald Grow's sidebar. Men's Health images from Mediaite.


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