Covered in glory
Every so often, we at beetroot towers like to get together to discuss the things that excite, enthuse and enrich us as communications professionals. This time the subject was what makes a great magazine front cover?

Rules? There are no rules!

So began our afternoon of discussion, debate and Hobnobs dedicated to the subject of magazine covers, and what distinguishes a live one from a lemon.

We looked over a selection of historical and modern covers, including some favourites from the beetroot archives, and mulled over the myriad ways that a cover can succeed or fail.

A cover is an opportunity for a publication to immediately establish its identity. A good one will win your attention and entice you to look further into the publication.

Vogue, with its rich heritage of trend-setting covers, loomed large, as did the New Yorker, with its signature use of strong illustrations, and New York magazine, which has made use of controversial images over the years.

National Geographic, whose brand identity comes from its yellow border rather than the image itself, was another example of a universally recognised format.

We compared the strong, influential Esquire covers from 1960s with the covers of today, which we felt don’t carry the same gravitas.

From modern magazines, we had a long look at a range of unique and challenging Bloomberg Business Week covers.

One which split opinion was global affairs and lifestyle mag Monocle. Its covers do not use a big image, but are very busy with lots of images and words, almost like a contents page. It trusts that its readers know what they are getting and focuses on its breadth of content.

We then looked at some of our own publications and the variety of great things we have done over the years. Our client base is so diverse that we have to be flexible enough to see when different approaches are appropriate.

A good example was the most recent cover of PI, a quarterly magazine for Howden, the professional indemnity insurance brokers, the ‘trust issue’ for RBS’ Outside In global employee magazine and the final issue of Flavour for food travel experts SSP.  Also shared, some of the funky VTN covers for Virgin Trains employees and the futuristic cover of Your Magazine, the bi-monthly magazine we produce for Gatwick Airport staff. As a body of work, it really showed how beetroot works with the clients to push boundaries.

But we also reminded ourselves that boundary pushing is not always needed. There are a range of factors – everything from political to personal – that can stop a preferred cover going ahead. It is important to be able to show alternatives to a client, and to demonstrate that we are versatile enough to provide different ideas and concepts as required.

Richard Lomax

Richard is deputy managing director at beetroot.