And The Runners Up Are: The Completely Biased, Highly Subjective and Unscientific List of the Top 2012 Magazine Covers

So now we’ve released the list  of the top ten covers, managed the comments,  spoken with the  people who liked the list, or really hated the list. I spoke with one person who was pretty sure I was crazy.

Last year we added a “Runner’s Up” list. Not because everyone deserves a participation trophy or because we’re all winners. But simply because there were a great number of choices and so many magazines grabbed my attention this year.

1) Bloomburg Business Week – Week of February 8: As Mr. Magazine, Samir Husni pointed out earlier this year, just because Newsweek is gone from the print world, doesn’t mean that newsweeklies are dead. Bloomburg Business Week has had so many great covers this year. While newsweeklies don’t have the large newsstand presence that they used to, they are still key category leaders in airports and bookstores. This cover resonated strongly and made me laugh out loud when I picked it up earlier this year.

Let's laugh and sell some copies.
Let’s laugh and sell some copies.

2) HGTV Magazine October/November 2012: This magazine completed a successful test last year and was converted into a regular frequency title this year. To say that sales have been great, is an understatement. The colors in this cover as well as the kitchen call out really jumped out and attracted my attention.

A great looking kitchen and a clean house. I'm in!
A great looking kitchen and a clean house. I’m in!

3) Juxtapoz Magazine January 2012: Honestly, when the January issue of Juxtapoz showed up in the office (Editor’s Note: Juxtapoz Magazine is a client.) I was originally not in love. But the longer it sat in my rack, the Audrey Kawaski cover in all of it’s simplicity just grew on me. As a rule, stay away from browns in cover images. Here’s where you can break that rule. I love it’s color palette and simple lines.


4)  Texas Monthly March 2012: This award winning Emmis owned title and arbiter of all things Texas dropped this wonderful cover in March. Two great airline covers in 30 days? Why not award them both?

Who needs land sharks when there are sharks in the air?
Who needs land sharks when there are sharks in the air?

5) Traverse Magazine July 2012: This small city magazine from Northern Michigan makes it’s second appearance in two years. What are one of Michigan’s greatest appeals? The lakes. Who loves dogs? Almost everyone. What’s one of the newest and most promising technologies for magazines? QR codes. What’s on the cover of this magazine? All of the above.

Traverse Mag July

Oh, and I have one more. Let’s call this an “Honorable Mention”. More than twenty years ago, I spent a year working with the original editor and publishing company of Silent Sports Magazine, a title now published by Journal Communications. Our goal was to expand the the newsstand presence of the magazine and for awhile we were able to do just that. But we couldn’t maintain the distribution efficiently and we shut the project down. The design of the title was, at best, early Page Maker and the covers were whatever was available at the last minute. But the editorial was what you want in a magazine. Focused, passionate, dedicated, involved. For many years, the editorial of this title made it one of my favorites and a subscription that was happily renewed (and no one ever offered me a clock, t-shirt or watch).

I don’t remember how or why, but I noticed that Silent Sports  revamped its look this summer and while it’s clear that this is still a small regional title, it’s also clear that they put a lot of thought and effort into what they were doing. And it looks like they succeeded. And it looks like I need to get reacquainted with some great editorial.

A big leap forward in design!
A big leap forward in design.

What covers do you think were overlooked this year?

The Best Illustrated Covers of 2012 (So Far)

Does a cover illustration carry the same impact that a live action shot does? Like all things involving cover images the answer is, “It depends.”

It will depend on the image, how much it relates to the magazine. Does it enhance and explain the cover story? Or take away from the contents inside the magazine? It may often depend on the magazine’s history. For example, my client, Fur Fish Game Magazine has an 80 year history of producing nothing but illustrated covers.

This is something that the readers depend on. It cements the brand and informs both the casual passerby and the avid reader exactly what to expect inside the magazine.

While I’m not a hunter or trapper and my fishing skills are less than capable, I have to admit to looking forward to the image I see each month with the magazine arrives.

What makes a good illustrated magazine cover? How do the editorial and art departments find the right piece for the cover?

I’ll have more on that from some editors and publishers in a later posting.

Below, for your acceptance (or snorts of derision), are the best illustrated covers (so far) that have caught my eye while visiting newsstands in 2012:

1)   Business Week’s  “Let’s Get it On”. The moment I saw this cover, I immediately heard the Marvin Gaye song in my head, and then cracked a smile. My next thought:  “Best.Coverline. Ever!” The image is immediately recognizable, highly sellable (important in the single copy world), and remarkably colorful.

If you didn’t hear Marvin Gaye in your head when you saw this cover, then…well…

2)   Smithsonian: March 2012 Titanic: What’s that line about being the first to market? The March issue was out one month before the 100th anniversary. Smart. The image itself has a sort of 3-D look to it and, like the Business Week cover in 1st place, is immediately recognizeable.

No icebergs in this cover!

3)   New Yorker 03/12/12: You don’t need to be a political junkie to chuckle when you see this cover. Mitt Romney’s “Seamus on the Roof” story has gotten a remarkable amount of play (Thank you Gail Collins) and even generated a “Dogs Against Romney” web movement. So it made sense that back in March when his campaign was in danger of going completely off the rails, that The New Yorker would show the erstwhile ex-Governor and CEO with his number one competitor, Rick Santorum, on the roof. What a great image!

This is where Santorum wound up.

4)   Juxtapoz Magazine  Jan 2012: (Editor’s note: High Speed Productions, the publisher of Juxtapoz, is a client). Artist Audrey Kawasaki is well known for her feminine illustrations. Her cover feature for the January 2012 issue her work was immediately recognizable and stood out from the other magazines in the Art category. Note that this was also the number 1 selling issue in every class of trade to date for the year.

Best seller this year.

5)   Blue Canvas Issue 12: This artistic competitor to Juxtapoz went colorful with issue 12.

6)   Texas Monthly, March 2012: Does anyone out there think air travel is a pleasurable and relaxing activity? No? Is this a great year for airplane covers? Yes! The March Texas Monthly took it to the bank with a great cover story and illustration about the Dallas hometown favorite, Southwest Airlines.

Just make sure you’re dressed appropriately when you board.

7)   Fur Fish Game Magazine February 2012: Every year, FFG produces a few covers that take my breath away and make me want to go outside. The February issue did just that.

8) New York Magazine March 12, 2012: Most city magazines go with something a little too cute or clever for their “Best of” cover. Not New York. The illustration is bold, colorful, straightforward, and very attractive.

A great take on how to do a “Best of” regional cover.

What illustrated covers have caught your attention this year?

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