Kill Art Block with Cover Design

Design goes hand in hand with illustration. One effective strategy that I use to murder art block dead is to tackle cover design. Whether it’s designing the dust jacket for a classic work of literature, or creating a magazine cover, your options are limitless.

Visiting a bookstore is something I do periodically (no pun intended) to get a surge of inspiration when I’m at a creative ebb. As I stroll towards the magazine section, I look for visually arresting covers that catch my eye, and then I analyze them to find out why they stand out among the competition.

The newsstand is filled with a cornucopia of interests: select the subjects you gravitate to the most and create your own mock cover design.

Below is a mock cover design that I made last week based on Guitar Magazine, dubbed *ahem* Guitar Planet magazine. I studied the layout, typography, and logo design of the original cover layout to develop my own take. When pursuing cover design, feel free to tweak as many elements as you see fit. While working through this design, I developed a logo, using type, to roughly match the silhouette of a guitar. In cover design, typography is just as important as the illustration, so study the font choices that are used as well as how text is logically grouped together. Have fun with it!

A mock cover design I created based on Guitar World Magazine

Other types of covers are fair game, too! For example – I love the aesthetic of Bronze Age Marvel and DC comics. It’s an itch that I love to scratch. On occasion, I’ll replicate a cover as exactly as I can, like in the case of a well worn copy of “Werewolf by Night #32”.

I replicated the cover design of Werewolf by Night #32 to better study Gil Kane’s style and the graphic design sensibilities of comics from the 1970s era.

Replicating a cover gives you a clear goal to aim towards. It gives you questions to seek answers to, like “How do I create an outline around a word balloon?” or “What type of font would be a close match for the logo?”. Copying is a great way to learn!

You can also borrow the aesthetic and make your own art to support it. Here’s an example where I paid tribute to the Jimi Hendrix Experience by way of an old sci-fi pulp magazine cover. The sky’s the limit on what you can do with cover design. Cover design gives you constraints, in terms of both topic and layout.

With a cover design, you are forced to consider the actual dimensions of the magazine when positioning both the text and the art. You also have to consider how the text will work with the illustration to amplify its visual appeal. You also have to think about contrast – the cover has to attract attention from a distance. In other words: “Does your cover POP?”

I’m curious to know if you employ this strategy within your own artistic pursuits. Let me know in the comments below!