Choose your own magazine cover

In Content production by Rob Johnson1 Comment

Ever wondered about how magazines produce their covers? After we sent our wonderful photographer Lauren on a trip to just outside Tamworth to get some photos for the most recent cover of Vet Practice magazine, we thought we’d show you the process from contact sheet to final cover—and you can see if you’d choose the same.

The subject of the story is Dr Elizabeth Arnott. It talks about how she is involved with the Farm Dog Project (here’s the story, if you’re interested in reading it), and we wanted to get a sense of this on the cover.

The photographs we got back were wonderful, and we had too many good ones to choose from. This isn’t always the case—quite often we only get one or two that are cover choices from a shoot.

magazine cover

Step 1: Narrowing the choice

The pictures are placed on a page with the masthead and main coverlines (see above covers). This time I cut down the selection to ONLY 15.

Which cover do you like? Keep in mind what the story is about and how this translates visually overall. Sometimes its just your gut instinct. What is your gut telling you? Keep a note of the number of the cover you like the best.



Step 2: Making the pictures talk to the text

The images that don’t tell the story as well as the others have been cut out. Cover lines have been added, the colour of the masthead has been changed to contrast against the image and allow the cover lines to be seen against the photo. Some images have been cropped into to create a new dynamic.

Which of these do you like? Has it changed from the one you liked above? Keep a note of the number again.



Step 3: Selecting for composition

Time to cut them down more. Consider composition of the subject and how the coverlines work with the image. Has one image got a better expression than another? Is the light better in one?

Which one do you like? Have you changed your mind from before? Mark the number down again..



Step 4: Consulting the editor

So I’m happy with these three covers. My decision-making skills have been tested to the max. I now ask the Editor’s opinion. She likes the standing one. I’m glad. I love that one too.

Which do you like? Mark it down.



Step 5. Test your own bias

I have found, over years of doing this, that when you give people a group of cover options to choose between, they tend to gravitate towards the last one in a line, or the option on the right hand side.

I’m not sure if there’s any science backing that observation up, but it does seem to happen a lot. So to test any natural bias, I re-order the cover options and pass them by people again to choose their favourites (note: this doesn’t work if they know what you’re doing).

Which do you like? Mark it down.



Step 6. Settle on the final one.

As you can see, we go through quite a process to get to that final version of the cover, which is one we’re all happy with.

Why don’t you add your choices to the comments section below—we’d like to know which covers you like!


Our final choice.

Our final choice.


Want to see some examples of custom content we’ve produced for a variety of clients? Just click here. 
Want to talk more about how Engage Content can help you with content marketing? Click here or call us on +61-2-9660 6995.


  1. Looks so good with your cover designs added. Loved shooting Lizzy and the dogs and the road trip to Quirindri near Tamworth was fun with my friend and Assistant Rocky! Thanks Lucy xx

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