Great covers burn themselves into your brain and sell magazines by the truckload. Here, some of the industry’s best people reveal what makes a magazine fly.

Great covers come from great content,” says Gill Hudson, editor of Radio Times, which shifts 1.1million copies a month. “Stop obsessing about covers right now. Covers are scary. Rules make everyone feel safe – but playing it safe is the most dangerous thing you can do.”

At a talk given to the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) in May 2004, Hudson argued that cover design ‘rules’ have led to a “tidal wave of homogenous covers.” She added: “We are being market researched to death – define yourself by your difference”.

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So what makes a great cover? How do you make sure you’re different, and get it right? 
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Andy Cowles, creative director at IPC should know. “It’s a sense of event,” he says. “That something has happened that you have to pay attention to. Some measure of revelation.”
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Back in the 1800s magazine covers were covered in type and perhaps accompanied by a symbolic illustration. The 1844 copy of Mother Magazine, for example had an engraving of a fountain on it – the source of life.
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By the early 20th century, magazines had started to experiment with illustrations, and this led to a classic of magazine design. The poster cover was so called because it could stand on its own as a poster. At its simplest, the poster cover was a beautiful illustration framed by the masthead at the top and a tiny cover-line at the bottom. 
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“From the 1890s to the 1960s, the poster cover dominated the magazine field,” says Gerald Grow, professor of magazine journalism at Florida A&M University. “It is sometimes seen as the standard against which all other covers must be measured.”
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We weren’t responsible for dyeing her hair red but we did style her in a way that we think the Glamour reader would like to look. It was all about very feminine dresses, and soft, sophisticated make-up. Christina loved the dress so much she wore it home from the shoot and straight out to a party that night.

“I also like how, while there’s a lot of type on this cover, there are still plenty of points of ‘breathing space’ so while it looks very commercial, I think it retains some sophistication.

The coverlines represent some of the major subjects that prompt our readers to buy – they’re fascinated with plastic surgery these days.

Lastly, this was a commemorative issue, celebrating our first Women of the Year Awards. It was fantastically successful. So I feel a special sense of achievement whenever I look at this cover.”

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1911 is a good example of an illustrated, framed poster cover. Tiny cover lines promise: “Shirt Blouse Pattern and Envelope with every copy. See that you get it,” and exhorts, “The Paper for every Woman”.
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