Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, April 27, 2021

cover artist
My publishing roots compel me to hit the new MoMA exhibit on George Lois‘ iconic Esquire covers from the 1960s and 70s.

While the heady news topics of those times provided ample raw material for Esquire and Lois to weave their magic, there was a much more fundamental design concept at play:

What was remarkable then — and seems even more so now, when virtually every magazine cover is a thicket of text lines running behind or on top of one celebrity or another — is that the Lois covers were virtually textless. They achieved their effect by communicating a single idea through an image.

Relying upon a single image to sell an issue (and that’s what it comes down to for any magazine, really) is a chancy high-wire act. Either the casual browser bites on the compelling cover, or else s/he ignores it and moves on. That’s probably why so many publishers hedge their bets by loading, and overloading, their covers with so much accompanying bullet and blurb text.

And for me, it’s become a turnoff. In fact, I recently canceled my subscription to Lois’ old periodical stomping grounds, in large part because I was finding that those text-gorged covers were constantly turning me off each month. Far from enticing me to open the cover and dive in, the instant in-your-face design seems a bit too desperate for attention.

In a way, it pains me to make that observation. For years, I considered the standard teaser-cover to be pretty user-friendly, even to the point of being a good template for online publishing adaptation (think of each of those cover blurbs as a hyperlink). But somewhere along the way, the aesthetic became diluted, I think.

Today, Lois’ image-only style would stand out simply because every other mass-market title persists with the textual path. It’d be a refreshing change.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/27/2008 11:06 PM
Category: Creative, History, Pop Culture, Publishing
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  1. ESQUIRE’S BLURB-BLOATED COVERS…

    Last year, I lodged my complaint about Esquire’s tendency to overload the magazine cover with words:
    [I]t’s become a turnoff. In fact, I recently canceled my subscription to [former Esquire cover-art designer George] Lois’ old periodical stompin…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 08/15/2009 @ 2:02 PM

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