Real Simple Field Notes: Covers


Real Simple Covers from 2014



The left, right, and bottom margins are 1/4th of an inch. The top margin is 1/2 inch. The columns and grid use is difficult to evaluate because there isn’t much text on the magazine covers. Most of the text usually sits on either the left or right side of the page.

By analyzing the covers of the last 12 months, I would guess that they use a very complex grid system for the cover of the magazine. Each month has a different size column width from the month before. And text never seems to be placed in the same area. What keeps the magazine cover presentation consistent is the same thick, sans-serif typeface used each month, the limited use of color in typefaces, and the expected bright photography.

Specific design elements

The typefaces used on the page are always simple. In the last year, only sans serif typefaces were used on the cover. In recent years, Real Simple has not used script or decorative typefaces, and there is rare use of serif typefaces.  The masthead and logo are always at the top center of the cover.

Colorful photography is always used and cover image are rarely dark. Bright images with large areas of white are most often used. This presents contrast and makes the cover easily readable.

From the cover photo, colors are pulled and two are chosen for the masthead. These two colors are also used in cover lines. Photographs encompass a rainbow of colors, but in terms of typefaces, 3 colors are used in maximum on the cover. Black and the two colors in the masthead, or white and two colors in the masthead.

Occasionally, a circle element is used in the upper left or right corner of the magazine with special descriptions of features in the magazine. In some issues, the magazine also uses a plus sign + symbol in between text.

Hierarchy and organization

Heirachy is created firstly by text size, and then by color. Real Simple always has one large coverline that stands out amongst the rest. This larger coverline is always at the top.


The cover image plays the most important role in making the cover pop against competition on the newsstand. Real Simple stands out by using bright, colorful, and airy photography. The content of the images are never very exciting, but the use of color gives the magazine some punch. The images usually contain ordinary, everyday objects like household items, flowers, furniture, food, or holiday items. The cover image coordinates with the main feature the magazine is trying to promote.

The tone

All of the Real Simple covers give the feeling of happiness through bright colors and photographs, and simplicity from the simple design and lack of clutter on the cover. Viewers also know this is a magazine that focuses on the home and lifestyles because of the cover images used. The magazine does not focus on people, fashion, sports, or celebrities, because none of these topics are on the cover.


Overall, the cover design is consistent from issue to issue. Readers know by the strong visuals, bright colors, simple text and typefaces, and lack of clutter that this is the same publication. If the masthead was taken off of the covers and several were presented, readers would know it’s the same publication.