For the past six years, my uncle’s Christmas present to me has always been a subscription to Rolling Stone. I cannot complain, for the magazine is exceptionally written and intentionally designed. Rolling Stone is a magazine worth analyzing.
Rolling Stone’s audience consists of an eclectic group of people. When skimming the feedback section of the magazine, I have noted that people of all ages and from all different areas of the U.S. submit their opinions on the articles they have read. As readers of Rolling Stone, what these people have in common is that they are interested in culture, be it entertainment, politics, or environmental issues. They are well-informed and usually liberal minded, as most of the magazine’s content swings left.
Like most liberal people, Rolling Stone’s readers value art and creativity. So, it is only natural for each Rolling Stone cover to be thoughtfully designed. All of the magazine’s covers follow similar design templates, so I have chosen to analyze an October 2016 issue featuring a headlining article on Bruce Springsteen.
The design of the October 2016 cover appeals to its audience because it is artistic yet neat. Its white background and black and white text create a modern feel which attracts progressive, open-minded thinkers. The cover grabs attention because of its simplistic design. The thin magazine does not look overwhelming, so people feel comfortable reading it. In a magazine stand full of fat publications with tacky, busy covers, readers longing for refreshment and knowledge are drawn to this clean work of art.
Centered around a cut-out image of Springsteen, the cover’s layout is easy to read and understand. The eye is naturally drawn to Springsteen first, then his respective headline, which is typed in the largest font on the cover aside from the magazine’s title. While still readable, the title itself is in the background so as not to interfere with the arrangement of the image and text, which are packaged together. Underneath the headline and sub-headline, the various cover lines are wrapped around the image, leading the eye from top to bottom. The content presented on the cover is rather subdued; because the text communicates enticing information, it is not necessary for the typeface to scream for attention. The text is typed in Rolling Stone’s usual bold, serifed font, but the contrast in the size and shade of the headline, sub-headlines, and cover lines is unique to this issue. This design technique adds variety to the cover while maintaining a degree of consistency that is aesthetically appealing.
All of the information on the cover is deemed important by the magazine; it would not be on the cover if it were not important. However, the more relevant or popular cover lines are slightly larger and bolder than those that are more specific. Aside from the Springsteen article, the article considered most pertinent to readers is “The Age of Fear,” as it stands out from the other cover lines because of its placement inside a black box on the right side of the cover. Readers understand this article contains information they need to know.
On top of the white background, the glossy image of Springsteen pops off the cover, appearing life-like to readers and establishing a personable feeling. The image depicts Springsteen as a normal person, so it validates the correlating headline: “True Bruce.” Springsteen’s presence on the cover also benefits the rest of the magazine’s content. Since he is an American icon, Springsteen will, in the least, attract attention and, therefore, provide exposure to the other information on the cover.
Because the cover is neat and features a smiling rock star, the design evokes a positive, relaxed mood. However, because Rolling Stone tackles both entertaining and serious topics, there is a dark undertone to the cover in the form of the black box featuring “The Age of Fear.” This slight clashing of emotions is comparable to the inner anxiety the magazine’s readership feels over the nation’s political situation, one which often clashes with their personal beliefs.
Since this Rolling Stone cover is artful and and intentional while also managing to illustrate its readers’ current feelings, it is a design success. Despite its reminder of unpleasant realities, this cover offers an escape into popular culture led by a very inviting Bruce Springsteen.