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What's in a magazine cover? The ultimate cover junkie explains

Written by
November 17, 2022
Jaap Biemans - photography by Martin Dijkstra

Jaap Biemans - photography by Martin DijkstraA good magazine cover gives life to a publication and can be crucial to its success. If done right, mag covers can become icons, acts of protest or sources of wonder. But what makes a great cover? This week we sought out Jaap Biemans, founder of Coverjunkie, to help us answer this question. Jaap is an award-winning art director based in The Netherlands. He has worked for several magazines, including Hollands Diep, Intermediair and, most recently, the Volkskrant Magazine. Jaap launched Coverjunkie in 2010 to celebrate creativity and outstanding magazine design. Since then, the site has become a hot spot for magazine lovers worldwide.Jaap, what are the basic principles behind a great cover?

A great cover is the one you can’t resist picking up because you like the vibe, the creativity or the news. An epic cover generally contains these three elements. I always like to think of it like this: great covers smack you in the face or make you want to lick them! That’s why I chose that as the Coverjunkie motto ;-)

What should a magazine cover accomplish?

First and foremost, the cover should reflect the vibe of the mag, that’s the most important thing! Magazines are about the feeling, the atmosphere - they’re a lot more than just content.
I also think it's impossible to tell the whole story on the cover, your cover should act as a teaser. The way the cover is perceived in the end will depend on the rest of the magazine - covers can be discreet and beautiful visual events or something more akin to a riot.

What should you definitely avoid on your magazine cover?

Haha...this is a difficult question. I would say, try to make it tasteful, aesthetic and striking at the same time. The inspiration won’t always come to you, of course. If you only knew...I’ve designed some terrible stuff, but hey, you definitely need to experience what it’s like to create bad stuff in order to produce good stuff!

Do you have any favorites?

My all-time favorite is a Bloomberg cover. It made me laugh really hard, and it's about economics...I mean would you even think it’s possible to make a funny cover about economics?
See it on

See it on

The Boston cover below is also epic. It was published right after the bombings and made with a photograph of the shoes used by marathon runners.
See it on

See it on

And a recent cover from The New Yorker about gay rights, which recently circulated a lot online - that one is fantastic!
See it on

See it on Coverjunkie.comBrowse through Coverjunkie’s collection for more timeless covers or like the site on Facebook for daily picks. Got favorite covers of your own? Share them with us in the comments!

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