In the mid-1700s, the earliest magazines did not always have what we think of as covers. Many dedicated the opening page to a title and table of contents, as in this cover of The Town and Country Magazine; or Universal Repository; of Knowledge, Instruction, and Entertainment for April, 1788. Magazine cover design
Magazine cover design When early magazines used covers, they tended to model them after the covers of books providing only a title and publication data. There were no descriptive words indicating what would be found inside the magazine. The cover of the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge from 1835 shows a centered, formal balance and book-like layout, with a small illustration that appears to have a decorative purpose, rather than to illustrate the contents. The table-of-contents cover and the book-like cover co-existed through the 1700s and 1800s.
Magazine cover design Mother's Magazine from1844 is an example of a third kind of cover that was common in the first two centuries of magazines -- the symbolic cover. It uses a generic illustration in a symbolic manner to evoke the spirit of the publication, without revealing any of this issue's specific contents. The magazine picture might be seen as telling the readers of Mother's Magazine that they are the foundation, the pillars, the unifying arch, the source and fountain, the life, and the instructor of their families. All of those implications can be reasonably found in its stylized picture, if you remember that earlier generations customarily read the Bible, and pictures, as messages requiring active interpretation .
Magazine cover design Many magazines actually had no covers. Like newspapers, they began an article on the front page, as in this Penny Magazine from 1838.
Magazine cover design It was not till the late 1800 that the magazine layout we know of today started to appear. The popular magazine Peterson’s woman's magazine used a completely generic cover that was richly decorated but include one new major change for the face of magazines. This change was the inclusion of a cover line. This cover line in the line of text that help the reader know what the articles in the magazine are about. This was the first magazine cover to incorporate this in 1872
Magazine cover design Cosmopolitan of 1893 illustrates a common way magazines of that period which used the cover to convey the table of contents, a cover line or two (here, at the top), and the magazine's identity (the characteristic large "C" and red band).
Magazine cover design In 1896 magazines started to incorporate more information on their cover. This example of chaperone magazine shows how they used a generic illustration surrounded by coin like circles labeled with the names of the departments inside the magazine such as art, music, literature, science, outing and dress rather than the contents of the actual article. It was after this new discovery in magazine design that designers started to question how much information should be put on the cover as to indicates what was included in the articles.
Magazine cover design In the 1900’s magazine design took a new route and started to become more artistic and they started to concentrate on the image being used and its placement on the page. Images was becoming the main focal point.
Magazines have changed a lot now from the all-visual art-poster approach so many magazines took toward their covers in the early part of the 20th century. Now magazine covers concentrate on advertising what the article inside the magazine are about. They give you a small taster about what's going to be written inside. The images have become more dominate and represent the theme of the magazine.