The entertaining history of magazine covers

The magazine cover design has always been a unique and quite a fascinating kind of art. Nowadays, everyone in the publishing industry is involved in a creative process of covers development: publishers, illustrators, editors, and designers themselves. A good cover reflects an atmosphere of an issue and provides strong visual communication between the creator and a reader. Moreover, it is not only about the magazine covers: books and even newspapers (like all print media generally) need a good cover, which represents them.

Who was one of the first artists – the cover creators?

There is quite a number of them, such as R.K, Ryland, Dean Cornwell, Harvey Dunn, James Montgomery Flagg,Charles Dana Gibson, Maxfield Parrish, Howard Pyle, John Cecil Clay, Porter Woodruff, Frank Xavier Leyendecker, John Rawlings, N.C. Wyeth, and many more.

The Bridge. Harpers Bazaar illustration by Dean Cornwell

Howard Pyle, for instance, became famous as the father of American visual communication and invented a collective image of the pirate character that still services as the movies inspiration over a century later. Other painters, such as John Sloan and William Glackens, also created cover-art in this era. James Montgomery Flagg’s self-portrait ‘Uncle Sam’ exclaiming ‘I Want You!’ became a national icon.

A book illustration by Howard Pyle

“Uncle Sam” by James Montgomery Flagg 1917


In 1741, the idea of magazines was introduced by Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Bradford into America.  The Christian History magazine was published in 1743 and was the very first successful magazine in America, which unlike its short-lived predecessors lasted a few short years. Non of these magazines had a familiar cover page.

Christian History Magazine

The Royal American Magazine was established by Isaiah Thomas in January, 1774, and continued by him through the issue of June, 1774. Joseph Greenleaf immediately followed him and published the magazine from July, 1774 to its final issue in March, 1775. The text was largely taken from London magazines, and the plates were nearly all based on English originals.

The Royal American Magazine established by Isaiah Thomas

… And now

June 1911, by Harrison Fisher

August, 2013 Cover girl: Rachel Bilson


The end of the books era… Or not?


I definitely think that books are more important than movies or TV-shows. In the era of new technologies, we usually forget that reading means not just turning pages and starring at words, but also a deep thinking process, which can be only caused by reading.

Amount of people who buy paper publications in book stores decreases from year to year.

Publishing business developed so much since the printing machine was invented, but people stubbornly move to Internet web-sites and read black lines on white screens. Now, when everything is digital and computerized, think a bit: is there anything you would like to keep? Didn’t we step over that “digital” line, where we watch YouTube bloggers, follow political news, and read Remark of Kafka at the same time?

Online publishing is also experiencing a revolution. Newspapers look like real newspapers. Magazines are interactive. If you read “Cosmopolitan” on iPad, it is 99% out of 100 that you will participate in what is happening in the magazine. Personally, I like that kind of interaction. But what about paper publications?

Are paper books outcasts? Relics? Or both?

It seems ridiculous, but when I came in a book store back at home, I was shocked and surprised by the number of people there. Honestly, I saw pretty much NOBODY except a cashier and a consultant, who was reshelving books. “Are you closing soon?”, I asked him carefully. He turned and answered with a forced smile: “No”. Ok, so whats happened? Apparently, people escaped from that book store and preferred to bury themselves in e-readers and laptops. But why?

In my humble opinion, I just became a witness of how paper books history dies…