Nylon Magazine is one of my favourite magazines in terms of how it is designed and its interesting content. When I first discovered this magazine on the shelf of a bookstore, I was immediately drawn to it. What I like about Nylon is that the designers make their target audience want to pick it up and flip through it. But what is it about the design that draws the attention of magazine readers?
For my first blog post, I will be looking at the cover design of Nylon’s November 2013 issue, with Lana Del Rey on the cover. This post will discuss the magazine cover designers’ use of layout, visual hierarchy, typography and colour.
When I look at the cover, I always think about my appreciation of its legible and eye-catching design and layout. Although eye-catching, the covers are always simple: a white background, the cover star, features down the sides and the Nylon logo at the top in different colours. The Designers also utilize visual hierarchy and gives the reader visual cues to better understand what the issue is about. With Lana Del Rey as the cover star, she is the center of interest and her name should appear on the cover. To highlight that Lana Del Rey is the cover story, the designers placed her name on the left side of the cover using a bright orange font and a font size that is larger that the other text. People read from left to right so they would first focus on the feature with her name. By creating a visual hierarchy on the cover page, the designers enable the cover to be scanned and make information easier to understand and find. Also, let’s take a look at the photo of Lana Del Rey herself. The almost symmetrical way her arms are placed behind her head help guide the viewer on where to focus on.
Magazine covers are literally flat but that does not limit the designer to place all the design elements on a single plane. A common approach for Nylon, as well as many other magazine covers, is to place a photograph so it partly covers some text while appearing behind other text. This sets up 3-layered planes as to a single flat plane. On this magazine cover, Lana Dey Rey covers part of the Nylon logo while also appearing behind the feature text down both sides of the cover. This allows the cover to look more dimensional and allow some of the elements to stand out more. Below is a closeup of the magazine that shows all three planes.
Typography is visual but it is primarily utilitarian. One of the main functions of a magazine cover is to sell the inside stories of the particular issue. Much of magazine cover design is finding a suitable spot to place the text. This means a lot of short feature lines float around the cover page. The designer must come up with a method to draw the reader’s eye to each feature text. As a popular fashion magazine, Nylon goes for a loud approach using bold and hyper-legible text. For text to be readable, it must be light and set against a dark background or vice versa. By using a white background, Nylon is able to have bright text on the cover as it is able to stand out and grab the reader’s attention. Visual hierarchy is also important in typography, especially on a magazine cover. In the examples below, we can see the various sizes and colours of text. Some text is larger to let the reader know that those are “must-read” articles while the features with smaller text are less important. The visual hierarchy in typography prioritizes the different articles on the cover and aid in communication.
Nylon utilizes a lot of big and bold elements and injects them with some serious colours. Their colour selection is never random and is used to either match or compliment the cover photo. On this particular cover, the designers use bright colours of the text to compliment the dark shades of Lana Del Rey’s outfit, while also matching the bright colour of her lips and eyeliner, using a bright shade of orange. Visual hierarchy is also used in the choice of colours, for example, the larger text are in brighter colours to make them stand out more.
For magazines, typography is used to reinforce the meaning of the text and if it does not do that, it is a failure. With Nylon’s hyper-legible typography, it immediately prompts the reader on the main highlights of the issue. The designer’s job is to reveal the magazine’s content in a way that makes it jump off the shelf. These design choices work well together to help grab the attention of someone who may come across the magazine and encourage them to flip through it.