We’ve collaborated on Elite Agent magazine with a bit of this publishing since it’s inception in 2014. Only two years old and against some very stiff competition, Elite Agent has been awarded the 2016 Australian Publish Awards Business Magazine of the Year.

Recently, Adobe conducted a study revealing new insights into the beliefs of consumers and professional marketers in regards to online advertising and discovered that traditional marketing is still more effective than online marketing. Attitudes toward online advertising were overwhelmingly negative. This is great news for magazine publishers and their advertisers. The online survey had 1250 respondents who were 18 or over and was composed of 1000 general population and 250 marketing decision makers. The summary of key finding is as follows:

Print magazines and while watching a favourite TV show are the two most preferred places to look at an ad. 45% of consumers preferred magazine advertising, 23% preferred TV, 11% preferred website advertising and a very low 3% preferred social media advertising

Interestingly, while 45% of consumers preferred printed magazine advertising, only 2% preferred to receive advertising messages via their favourite digital magazines. This shows that people like to “unplug” and pick up a printed magazine

Majority of respondents use social media; over half have liked on behalf of their favourite brands, but also wish there was a dislike button for social media

68% of consumers find online ads “annoying” and “distracting” and 54% say online banner ads don’t work. Two-thirds of consumers believe that traditional media including television and magazine advertising and are more effective than online advertising

“Likes” get attention encourage consumers to “check out” a product, but doesn’t translate to sales

44% of consumers feel advertising works better on women than men

Consumers and marketing professionals agree that marketing is valued, strategic to business and paramount to driving sales

Professional advertising is the most effective form of advertising, 27% of marketers believe that user-generated content is the most popular form of online advertising

73% of respondents believe advertising should tell a unique story, not just try to sell, 67% believe in-store experiences trump online experiences and 53% agree most marketing is a bunch of B.S.

The way we consume magazines has changed slightly, but the purpose of the magazine cover design hasn’t. It still remains the front door for repeat sales and subscriptions. A great magazine cover helps drive sales on the newsstand and in app purchasing by being intriguing and creating desire and interest at a glance.

On the newsstand, magazines are generally stacked on cascading shelving systems, one in front of the other from top to bottom. This way of displaying magazines has led to a standard format for the use of mastheads as differentiators. The masthead appears at the very to so as not to be obscured by other titles. Each magazine jostling to be seen amongst the mountain of choices, the current issue of favour needs to be easily found before another piques the interest of the consumer.

Masthead position isn’t so important when selling through a magazine app store. Here they’re displayed in a different way but if your magazine is to be sold in print, it’s a good idea to stick to the norm – even though you’d like to be different to create a point of difference to the competition. Don’t step too far from convention unless your title is highly unconventional and your readership will dig for you to find the magazine before another title catches their interest.


A great magazine cover design needs to have an arresting combination of imagery, art direction and interesting cover lines. This combination shouldn’t scream at the consumer (well, not always) but should be refined and considered with the image, cover lines and masthead all working together.

The magazine cover design process usually starts with the art director or graphic designer seeking out a captivating image, whether it be photography or illustration. It has to have impact! It needs to stop you in your tracks. The calibre of imagery is hugely important. You should never use a sub standard image just because it represents the main feature in the issue. If you must have the feature story as the cover story, ensure the image is captivating and creates interest. If it’s not, get it shot or use something else.

When featuring people on the magazine’s cover, there are several things to take into consideration. Firstly, what feeling are you after? A full body shot is descriptive and allows for plenty of cover lines. As you zoom in, the image becomes more and more intimate as the subjects head starts to fill the page. The reader subconsciously becomes more emotionally connected to that individual.


Another thing that creates connection and intrigue on a magazine cover is eye contact. If you look at magazines on the newsstand, you’ll notice that almost all human subjects are looking bang on into the camera. They connect. When I was doing my thesis for my illustration major, I interviewed a wildlife illustrator. He taught me about eyes. They’re so important. When you look at an animal, you look straight into it’s eyes to judge if it’s going to be kind or if it’s going to attack you. That’s human/animal instinct. And that’s what we do. We look for eyes to connect with.

Another important thing when art directing the cover is ensuring you have copy space, or rather, areas where the graphic designer will lay cover lines and the masthead. When having the cover image shot by a photographer, ask them to pull out and give background space, especially if there’s a scene in the image. You don’t want to go to the time and expense of having the cover extensively retouched when all the photographer needed to do was zoom out.

If there is a background, how will it work with cover lines? If there are areas of brightness next to darkness, it’s very hard for the designer to lay cover lines over that area. A white cover line will sit on black just fine but when the word hits an area of lightness, it disappears or becomes difficult to read. And if you try to use colour to have the cover line sit on both, it tend to recede. So when shooting the image the background is a major consideration. For best results use an even tone throughout the background if you can or give thought to the composition to create areas for text to sit on.

Cover lines help sell the benefit of purchasing the magazine, showing what stories await the reader. At a glance, the consumer can see what they’re in for and see if there’s something in particular in that issue they’d like to read more about. Editors tend to write cover lines to be impactful and grab attention. Some editors even go so far as creating cover lines which allude to something that may not be true without actually stating that mistruth as fact (yes, that’s you New Idea, Who, OK, etc. How many times have Brad and Angelina been getting married in your pages?).

Cover lines add interest to the cover through typography, creating a feel and aesthetic relevant to the subject matter. Typography is a subject for another time but font selection, scale, colour and composition all sit in the graphic designers bag of tricks to create a stunning cover.

So don’t treat the cover as an afterthought following a long and arduous month putting the content and internal design together. Give it the love it deserves and make it memorable. And surprise the reader with something different every now and then. That’s how you keep them interested.


Audrey Kawasaki

Another artist post. This time, Audrey Kawasaki, a California-based American painter known for her beautiful and moody paintings of women.

Audrey uses pencil and oils painted onto wood panels which work together beautifully and give the subject matter an even more natural feel. Her paintings and prints are sensual and erotic and her girls are doe-eyed with an air of innocence. Her style is obviously influenced by her Japanese heritage and a little by art nouveau and place women in very natural or supernatural settings to create what’s often an awkward and ethereal scene.

I was lucky to discover her work in 2006 and have collected many of her prints since then. I’m happy to say that many of them have increased in value 10-15 fold since I bought them too. That said, I’d have a hard time parting with them.


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José Parlá

A few years back I went to see an exhibition of the works of José Parlá. His work is simply stunning. As a New Yorker and a long time graffiti artist, his work is influenced by the walls of the city. Posters go up and are ripped down. Walls are tagged. Dust goes on and is washed off. He creates a similar look but speeds the process up with the use of different mediums and “ages” the canvas. He combines collage, markers, paints, coloured pigment in PVA and other techniques to build the work up in layers. I particularly love his marker and brush calligraphy work. With it he tells stories and he layers it over itself and creates a weave of line work.

Anyhow, it’s great to see how his work has evolved over time and to see the huge projects he’s now being commissioned on.



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Adding colour to PDF form fields

Recently we had to create a PDF certificate for a client who needed a specific CMYK colour breakdown for the text input fields. Acrobat offered colour but not the ability to specify it yourself. You had to choose from their swatches. Now, this took a bit to find a workaround. We tried scripting but no luck. Fortunately the solution, on a Mac anyhow, is a whole lot easier than that. Open up TextEdit, bring up the colour palette, choose your colour with the CMYK sliders and drag the colour into the strip at the bottom to save the colour. Now go back to Acrobat and Bob’s your uncle! There’s your colour ready to go in the swatch palette.