8 Iconic Magazine Print Covers for your Printspiration

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8 Iconic magazine print covers

As a leading South African printing company, from magazine and book printing, to vehicle branding and billboard printing, we take a look at some of the most iconic magazine covers of all time.

Time to be printspired!

National Geographic (June 1985)

Steve McCurry was the photographer behind this breath-taking photograph. The photograph, known as “Afghan Girl,” has since become one of the most iconic portraits of all time. The powerful image of a young woman with piercing green eyes and a ref headscarf, gazing intensely at the camera, made this issue of National Geographic unforgettable. The subject of this photograph was identified as Sharbat Gula, an Afghan woman who was living in a refugee camp in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Once it hit the magazine racks, the photograph soon got compared to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and is also referred to as “The First World’s Third World Mona Lisa.”

The photograph was the perfect image for a magazine cover, intensely drawing the eye of the reader. What is this young lady’s story? What lies behind her eyes? What has she seen? Needless to say, the magazine flew off the shelves.

Vanity Fair (August 1991)

A truly powerful magazine cover is an unexpected magazine cover. And this Vanity Fair cover was unexpected. Although this kind of aesthetic is something we have seen countless times in the 00s, this was a ground-breaking image for the 90s.

Demi Moore was at the height of her fame in 1991. Vanity Fair released this iconic image of a pregnant, nude Demi, cradling her unborn baby “Scout.” This photograph, taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, shifted perception on the pregnant women’s body, embracing it as magnificent, powerful, and graceful – so much so, famous art director, George Louis, called the image an “instant culture buster.”

People couldn’t resist picking up this Vanity Fair issue!

Life (October 1969)

Naomi Sims is often considered the first black supermodel – and she broke incredible boundaries, paving the way for models of colour throughout the globe. Sims was the first black model to feature on the cover of LIFE magazine. The image of a fresh face Sims, draped in her hair, has become so iconic that it was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009 for the exhibition “The Model as a Muse.”

This powerful image was a consummate moment for the “Black is Beautiful” movement – a truly inspiring moment in print.

Life (Special Edition 1969)

For our generation, it is hard to fathom that we never used to have a 24/7 news cycle. The world actually had to wait for news on the great Space Race and mans mission to the moon. The moon landing changed the world, it was a massive moment in human history and LIFE magazine only published this iconic image 2 weeks after the landing! The entire edition was dedicated to the moon landing, with breath-taking images and insight into mans trip to outer space.

The simple tag-line, “To the moon and back,” along with the almost haunting image, was more than enough to get the magazines flying off the shelves. One look at the cover and you know what the content is about!

The New Yorker (September 2001)

The silhouette of the Twin Towers was designed by Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman. The haunting image, in remembrance of the September 11 attack on New York, received widespread acclaim and was voted as one of the top 10 magazine covers of the last 40 years.

When you first look at the cover, it appears to be completely blacked out, but as your eyes adjust, you see the silhouettes of the World Trade Center in a darker shade of black.

The image is subtle, perfectly capturing one of the most tragic events in history. The dark colours, and lack of text, express absolute sadness and sheer loss.

Rolling Stone (January 1981)

Annie Leibovitz is the photographer of this iconic image. She said that the original idea for the now legendary Yoko Ono and John Lennon photograph came together to promote the couple’s album “Double Fantasy.”

The image of a nude Lennon, wrapped around his lover in the fetal position, expresses a sense of vulnerability and innocence. The image was made even more poetic, as that same evening, December 8 1980, Lennon was shot and killed by a fan in front of his Manhattan apartment.

The vulnerability, innocence, and pure love was the perfect way to remember Lennon and his legacy.

People (September 1997)

People Magazines tribute to the late Princess Diana sold over 3.1 million copies on the news stand.

It is the second bestselling issue of People magazine. The number one selling issue featured the World Trade Center on the cover. Diana has appeared on the magazine cover more than 57 times since the issue was released.

Managing editor of People Magazine, Larry Hackett is quoted as saying, “The interest in the Royal family remains extremely strong with People’s 43 million readers – perhaps as strong as it was in 1982 when Prince William was born, if not more.”

Time Magazine (June 1968)

This illustrated Time Magazine cover was designed by world-renowned artist Roy Lichtenstein. It was intended to jar readers, as they looked at the cover staring down the barrel of a gun. This pop-art inspired image perfectly sums up the current state of gun culture in America, and was released after the assassination of Senator Robert F Kennedy as he walked through the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel, 2 weeks before the magazine was released.

The artwork takes literal aim at gun control laws and sadly, this issue of Time Magazine is still an important read today.

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