2018 may well be the year that Trump stole the magazine cover, but mag land hasn’t been short of other acts of political discourse and defiance over the last 12 months, including Teen Vogue’s cover on gun violence reform, and ESPN magazine standing against racism in solidarity with black athletes.
Politics aside, the magazine industry – both mainstream and indie – has this year continued to prove that print is by no means dead. Covers that surprise and delight readers remain a big part of ensuring that our favourite print publications are able to defend their positions in a digital world.
Since 2010, art director and self-confessed magazine addict Jaap Biemans has curated and critiqued the covers of mags from all over the world via his Coverjunkie pseudonym. Here are his ten favourite covers of 2018.
The year started out well, with a surprisingly political cover in February from a magazine better known for relying on good-looking sports stars to sell on newsstands. The stark black and white cover was accompanied by a piece on the State of the Black Athlete, which featured artistic impressions of the subject by a number of artists of colour. “This is a revolution for a sporting mag. I love the movement that has seen mags taking a stand with their covers,” says Biemans.
California Sunday Magazine
This issue of Pop-Up Magazine’s weekend print title came out of the worst mass shooting in modern American history, when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire onto a crowd of 22,000 country music festivalgoers in Las Vegas earlier this year. Photographed by Joshua Dudley Greer, the cover features an image of the smashed windows of the Mandalay Bay Hotel where Paddock positioned himself to carry out the shooting. It manages to find the delicate balance between being “stylish and dramatic at the same time”, says Biemans.
“PM Forum is not a particularly well-known magazine, but it has produced some exciting covers over the last few years,” says Biemans. Indeed, clever editorial design might not be what you’d automatically expect from a mag aimed at marketers working in professional services such as law and accounting, but it’s proof that content is not a barrier to creating engaging covers. This particular one is a witty interpretation of an advice piece about the common mistakes to avoid when shooting video content, complete with a giant, blurry finger blocking out most of the cover.
New York Times Magazine
Headed up by Design Director Gail Bichler, the New York Times Magazine has become well-known for its brilliantly thought out covers, especially when it comes to its special themed issues. In June, it decided to dedicate one of its issues to love in New York City. Instead of just opting for showing one loved up couple on the front though, Bichler commissioned Ryan McGinley to shoot 24 covers in just 24 hours. “Taking that extra step is what they do each week, and exactly why they make a difference in magazine land. I love them for it,” says Biemans.
“Not every cover has to be designed smoothly, and that seems to work for The Economist,” says Biemans. “For years I hated them for this approach, but lately I’ve found myself looking out for their covers with much excitement.” The magazine’s unpolished approach worked particularly well for its issue on Facebook’s fallout in light of the recent Cambridge Analytica data scandal, with the cover illustrating the social media giant’s instantly recognisable ‘F’ logo quite literally taking a tumble off the page.
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Our March cover stars want Washington to know: You're Killing Us. Meet the activists leading the #MarchForOurLives — the new voices of gun reform, from Parkland to Wyoming. Tap the link in bio. #NeverAgain ????: @tylersphotos Makeup: @gracegraceahn Styling: @cocostyle1 Hair: @rubi_jones
Despite the sad news that Teen Vogue would cease its print edition last year, this hasn’t stopped the magazine from tapping into the heightened political consciousness of Gen-Z. This year has seen it release a series of digital covers, including a particularly powerful one about the new voices of US gun reform spearheaded by activist Emma González, who survived the Parkland, Florida school shooting in February. “Kids telling you to your face ‘You’re Killing Us’, now that’s impact,” says Biemans.
Time has an ongoing love affair with Trump. The mag previously named the US President its Person of the Year in 2016, using a chilling portrait of him taken by Nadav Kander on its cover. Its latest interpretation of The Donald shows him in the Oval Office but completely submerged in water, and is the third in a series of covers created by artist Tim O’Brien. “This concept is amazing, with the pictured cover acting as a visual response to the two Time covers published a few months before,” says Biemans.
This year’s design-focused issue of Dutch newspaper Volkskrant’s magazine featured ten special covers, all based on the theme of creativity. The design world came out in full force to bring the covers to life, with contributions from the likes of Anthony Burrill, Richard Turley, Erik Kessels and Anna Kiosse. “It came out spectacular,” says Biemans.
Quarterly fine art mag Ordinary is an ode to the everyday object, with previous issues focusing on everything from socks to straws. “For issue six the team decided to look at a very special object: air. How lovely is that?” says Biemans. More than 20 artists were then asked to create works based on their interpretations of this particular ‘object’, images of which filled the pages of the magazine.
A new magazine from the Einstein Foundation Berlin, the publication’s raison d’être is that along with supporting cutting-edge scientific research, it also wants to talk to people about it. Designed by Berlin-based studio Fons Hickmann m23, the third issue focuses on ancient history and features an intriguing image of a bust that has been broken in half. “The typographic logo by itself is classy, but the cover turns the magazine into a stunner,” says Biemans.