Page one Newspaper front pages are not to be studied. They are to be reacted to. Magazine covers should not contain complex “concept photos” that readers have to struggle over to understand. The amount of time readers give to Page One before deciding their reaction has become shorter and shorter. To pass the “kiosk” or “coffee table” test, therefore, a publication's front page must have strong visual impact, which 99 percent of the time depends on a good photograph.
The number one problem with most front pages is lethargic, passive photographs. At the same time, Page One is not a gallery for artsy photography. It is a venue for the best photo of the day, one that conveys a story or two, creates an emotion, pulls readers in, and makes them read. Page One photos should be active, surprising and, whenever possible, show people. This is not the place for a still view of the beautiful Alhambra, unless world leaders are seen meeting there. Especially in magazines, cover photos should be iconic, graphic, not overly complicated. With few exceptions, Page One also is not the place for gigantic info-graphics, which require that the reader study their contents. Info-graphics are one of the great storytelling techniques a newspaper editor can use, but they are best on inside pages.
Impacting through photography: The front page of the San Jose Mercury News excels in its use of large, dominant photos to attract readers. By contrast, the headlines surrounding the photo tend to be 165 smaller as not to compete with the visual impact of the photograph.
Icons: Covers, whether on a book, magazine, or newspaper, need to be simple and iconic. For the Vanity Fair and Legends covers, John Miller chose images that were simple and stark, then cropped tightly to give a feeling of immediacy. Garcia Media employed the same iconic look for Momentum, the empolyee magazine for MAN Roland in Hamburg, Germany.
Published on Sep 21, 2009