Magazines, Notebook, Photography

NYT mag masthead mash-up

Notebook: 12 January 2018 | MAGAZINES | PHOTOGRAPHY

Some of the best looking and most effective magazine covers are a bit like the best of the old print adverts with a ‘less is more’ approach that uses just a couple of simple ingredients: a strong image and a well written cover line. The designer and editor work as a closely knit team in much the same way that a designer and copywriter might do in an ad’ agency. Think back to the well known George Lois Esquire covers from the 1960s and compare them with the famous Volkswagen adverts from the same period, or a Nova cover with the Saatchi pregnant man a decade later, and you’ll see what I mean.


In the 1960s and 70s I enjoyed the advert-like covers of Drive, The Sunday Times and Nova magazines and in the 1980s it was Time Out mag that hooked me in with its simple but striking covers.


These days it’s the covers that pop up each week on Twitter from The New York Times Magazine that enthuse me. They are often simple but beautiful arrangements of type and picture that rarely ‘shout’ at you but always draw you in (below right or below bottom on phone).


The creative team behind The New York Times Magazine are Design Director Gail Bichler and Art Director Matt Willey together with Director of Photography Kathy Ryan and Editor Jack Silverstein (plus their designers, picture editors and journalists) and their collaboration is key to the magazine’s success. It needs Ryan and the picture desk to source and commission all the exceptional imagery, Silverstein and the sub-editors to write the powerful copy and headlines and then Bichler, Willey and the other designers to pull it all together and work their design magic. Pictures are often left to ‘do the talking’, with simple, pared back typography and smaller headlines (see above) helping to give the words almost more presence. (See my post The NYT mag – less is more from January last year).

The NYT Magazine is the supplement to the weekend newspaper and as such, it has the freedom for its covers to be more adventurous than a consumer magazine or newsstand title. They are able to use just one coverline to promote the cover story rather than having to flood the cover with numerous headlines to vie for a shopper’s attention. And they are free to run unconventional cover pictures and obliterate parts of the masthead. Of course many consumer magazines run for instance, cut-outs of a celebrity that mask a portion of their magazine’s title – and these mags can get away with this because the masthead is so well known and is still recognisable.

However, The NYT Magazine take this one step further and recent issues (as well as some older issues) have featured the headlines actually running over or across parts of the magazine’s title. This overlaying of headline over masthead is never done as a gimmick but is done to make full use of that rectangular area of paper allowing type to be pushed out to the edges of the page to open up delicious voids of space. In the careful hands of Bichler and Willey it all adds to the potency of the cover. Take a look at the examples below.


Week after week The NYT Magazine dazzles us with its covers which never look tired or repetitive. I look forward to seeing more pop up each week on Twitter throughout 2018.

You can enjoy looking at two archives of back issues. The first is from the NYT themselves and links through to their digital editions and goes back to 2013. The other is from coverjunkie and goes back even further.