Journal of Magazine and New Media Research, 2002
through the Decades
Florida A&M University
Sidebar to “Magazine Covers and Cover Lines: An Illustrated History,”
Journal of Magazine and New Media Research, 2002.
As a way of summarizing the main trend in magazine covers that this article has traced, we will look at sample covers from Mademoiselle through the decades. These covers document how one magazine began with artistic poster covers, then moved gradually to cover lines, and how the cover lines grew to become an integral part of the magazine’s cover design. (Mademoiselle suspended publication in November 2001.)
No one sample cover from a decade can capture the constant creative experimentation that was going on at a magazine like this, but, taken together, they suggest a path of development.
Mademoiselle was chosen because images were available of its history, and because they reflect the overall trend. Many magazines followed this trajectory during the same period.
1937 — An artistic poster cover, with a red vertical stripe of cover lines. The cover is charming, evocative artwork — even the logo. She is not looking at you; she is there to be seen
1942 — A model in a daring, slanted pose. One modest cover line, one short, boxed label (“war wives”).
1952 — The model looks off the page in an unusual orientation. A few quiet cover lines behind her harmonize with the background. Her head covers part of the logo. There is an abstract, modular feel to many of the covers of the 1950s.
1967 — The logo covers part of her head. Prominent cover lines, but in a well-behaved list on the left. The model looks right at you — as most cover models will do for at least the next 35 years.
1978 — Cover lines have more colored type and colored lines between them. Now the cover lines intrude onto the model. Enter the barcode. The logo is set in a more forceful font.
1982 — Type is bolder, larger. They experiment with a “sub-logo” cover line (“Shine up…”). The large, bold “subtitle” line appears, center, in the bottom third. This subtitle will remain a recurring feature of magazine covers for more than 20 years. Now the face is boxed in by the logo and cover lines on four sides and by the pink swoosh.
1998 — The “subtitle” line has grown and multipled (“Makeover Mania,” “fashion news for fall”). A cover line appears above the logo. Cover line typography has taken on a life of its own. It whispers and shouts, sings, admonishes — through creative typography. Some cover lines use “headline/subhead” format (a large “head” followed by a more detailed “subhead”).
1999 – Type and model wrap, as if shaping one another in a dynamic interaction. Freer use of type size, font, and color. The “subtitle” line still sings out (“the erotic astrologer”). Some type appears on her body.
2000 – The thin model stands sideways to make room for a second column of cover lines. Type is on her hair (three times), upper arm, forearm. Cover type is bigger, bolder, more insistent (“Go shopping!”). Large-type numbers take on a life of their own, as they do on some other magazines’ covers (“294”). The starburst boasts, “99% Guilt Free!” The sense of layering is well developed, creating the illusion that image and units of type exist at different distances from the reader. This issue passes up the clear opportunity to place a large cover line across her midriff.
November 2001, the final issue. You can clearly see that cover lines occupy as much real estate as the model’s picture. The “subtitle” line across her midriff is set in larger type than the logo (“Yes!”)
Cover lines appear here in many sizes and colors, and some of them now overlap, The type, which adds to the sense of layered depth in the composition, helping the “Yes!” leap out at us in front of the running model.
Type surrounds her, covering her at the top, bottom, middle, and both sides. To see how much has changed, compare this picture with the covers from the 1940s and 1950s above.
If cover lines could sell magazines, Mademoiselle would be with us still.
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