Field Notes: Wired covers

Bold design is part of Wired’s identity, and its covers reflect that. Looking at several past issues, the magazine is able to seamlessly go back and forth between photography-based and typography-based covers, depending on the story they choose to feature.

Feb. 2013 issue

Nov. 2012 issue

The trim size for print is 8 x 10 7/8 in., with no grid structure discernable from the cover alone. Though non-modular in construction, the covers typically maintain some semblance of structure. The flag always runs the width of the page and is either all the way at the top or only has a couple lines of text above it. The color of the flag varies in accordance with the color scheme of each cover design. The binding of each issue (visible in the second of the above covers) features the name of the magazine, volume and issue number, and stripes matching the color scheme of the cover. While the cover mainly revolves around one feature story, it also usually has text teasing two or three other stories. These cover lines usually run above the flag (as seen in the February cover) but can occasionally go elsewhere (like on the November cover).

Wired’s cover designs tend to have one big in-your-face visual element, whether that be a photo, photo illustration, or typography, but they also have smaller details that make you take a closer look. For instance, the February cover illustrates a feature on seven big ideas that could change the world. Though “think big” is the main idea being communicated, closer examination reveals teases for all seven of the featured ideas. The December 2012 cover offers a similar payoff for those who take a closer look:

Dec. 2012 cover

The seemingly plain gray background is actually comprised of hacked Gmail passwords, including that of staff writer, Mat Honan, who wrote the cover story as a follow-up on his own experience being hacked.

The December 2012 cover is a good example of another interesting thing Wired sometimes does. I also subscribe to Wired on my Nook tablet; though this isn’t always the case, Wired occasionally animates its e-edition covers. For the December 2012 issue, the e-edition cover animates “P@55W0rD” being typed in; at first the characters are replaced by bullet points like an actual password that is hidden on-screen. Once the whole thing is entered, the headline shows up as it does on the print edition. Little extra touches like this show a platform awareness that suits the publication and its tech-savvy audience.

Overall, Wired’s boldly designed covers have an edge to them that is appropriate for an innovative technology magazine that is about more than just technology.

~Nicole Vas

Nicole Vas