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Front cover design: make your business publications more appealing

‘Creative’ and ‘private equity’ are not two words you’d expect to see in the same sentence. But this combo is exactly what makes every front cover design of Real Deals – a market leader in European private equity news and analysis – so successful. And what can your company learn from this? Well, if you have to design a front cover for a business brochure, newsletter or any other publication, you can still make it visually appealing.

Real Deals editor Nicholas Neveling and art director Keval Joshi have a business-creative partnership that really works. So, we asked them for their advice on how to bring a serious topic to life through design, without losing your brand identity.

1. Ensure the story always comes first

Front cover design: the less glamorous the sector, the more impact the front cover design should have.

Real Deals issue 395 (click to enlarge)

One of the most crucial aspects of planning a magazine cover is a strong cover story. Get that right and then design the cover based on that. Don’t let the image lead the narrative. Visuals are important, but it’s the quality of your content that will engage readers.

Example: Real Deals issue 395, 27 July 2017. The cover story features managed services – an extremely lucrative, yet dull, sector to invest in. This rather technical subject needed some balance, so the team chose a strong, vibrant image. From the editor’s perspective, the less glamorous the sector, the more impact the front cover design should have.

2. Make decisions as a team

Coming up with a great visual concept is no easy task – you need your team to brainstorm together. In fact, our Real Deals editor’s advice is to have a separate meeting to come up with each front cover design. Nick holds an open discussion, encourages everyone to give their ideas, and tries to get broad agreement on the concept. If you have an in-house designer, you should include them too, as they’ll have a good idea of what will and what won’t work.

Front cover design: for its milestone issue, Real Deals wanted to add a touch of glamour as well as history to the cover.

Real Deals issue 400 (click to enlarge)

3. Be distinctive

Think about the format. Printing in A3 is unusual for the private equity trade press, but sometimes being different is exactly what makes you stand out. Know who your target audience is, see how your competitors are trying to attract them, and then do the opposite if you can. Be different, but trusted.

Example: Real Deals issue 400, 19 October 2017. When Real Deals announced its 400th issue, it wanted to add a touch of glamour as well as history to the cover. The result was a mock monument stone carving symbolising its time in the industry and drawing on Hollywood-style typography.

4. Keep your front cover designs simple

Front cover design: use an image that ties in with a commonly known association to help get your message across

Real Deals issue 390 (click to enlarge)

This may go against design advice you’ve received in the past, but don’t overcomplicate the cover image. Businessprofessionals are short on time, so make the article’s topic clear straight away. Real Deals designer Keval favours quirky covers that get readers interested and get them to think. But, they should never have to think too hard.

Example: Real Deals issue 390, May 18 2017. This cover was about a bankrupt turkey business that ended up creating a huge political issue. Thinking about the idiom ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’, the team conceived the idea of a blindfolded turkey facing a firing squad. The cover was a huge hit. Using an image that ties in with a commonly known association could really help you to get your message across.

5. Stick to your brand guidelines

While a cover is a key tool for drawing attention to the subject of your publication, you need to be faithful to your brand. So, your cover still has to fit within your visual identity and represent who you are as a company.

6. Know your audience

You might think private equity professionals are totally conservative, but they actually appreciate classic front cover design with a twist. Keval knows how effective it is to have an authoritative feel with a modern, fresh approach because the industry is more forward-thinking now.

7. Hire an experienced designer

This might seem obvious but if you want to impress with front cover design, hire an experienced designer. Someone who has good general knowledge of your industry, or who is willing to learn, will be a huge asset. He or she needs to fully grasp the essence of the article, get into the head of the editor, and have the flair to “marry the image with the copy” as Keval says.

8. Don’t forget to sketch your ideas

Experiment with a few ideas and draw them out by hand before turning to the internet for inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with following digital trends, but try to combine them with your own ideas to make your designs more unique.

If you’d like to talk to Caspian Media about designing your front cover or producing your publication, please contact us.

Real Deals: more than just a magazine cover

Caspian Media’s Real Deals has established itself as an industry leader in news, opinion and analysis for European private equity professionals. It also hosts some of the most respected and well-attended events in the industry, including The Mid-market Conference, The Mid-market Debt Conference and The Private Equity Awards.

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By Estelle Schnyder, Digital Marketing and Social Media Executive