The function of the Vanity Fair cover, like most other magazine covers, is to inform the reader about what they’re about to get themselves into. It uses the cover photo to suggest the subject of the cover story, snappy captions for smaller articles, and a main headline to give a sense of the issue’s content. The cover photos naturally relate to the cover story, usually featuring notable celebrities and influential figures, like Angelina Jolie and Benedict Cumberbatch, who VF’s intellectual and culturally conscious readers would be interested in, and who fit VF’s sophisticated profile. Those you won’t see on the front page of a Vanity Fair issue might include whoever is currently gracing the cover of Us Weekly. Cover photos most often features a single person, or a few people central to the cover story, styled to match the Old Hollywood glamour aesthetic upheld by VF’s brand through tuxedos, velvet and minimal color.
The nameplate is set in VF Didot at the top of the page in bold, capital letters. It is typically set in VF’s trademark color, red, although sometimes it appears in different colors to compliment the cover design. There tends to be a line of story captions above the wordmark and the main headline on the cover is found at the bottom third of the page. The coverlines employ two to three different typefaces, allowing greater flexibility for design. There doesn’t seem to be a standard number of coverlines or elements, as some issue covers are over-designed and others left quite bare. Some more typical examples of VF covers yield an average of nine to eleven coverlines.
In terms of hierarchy, the Vanity Fair nameplate is the first thing to capture your eye, set in big, red text at the top of the page. Next in order falls the main headline, which is usually about the same font size. Aside from the text, the cover photo consisting of a famous face and great photography make for an attention-grabbing element. The hierarchy of coverlines is denoted by the boldness of the text and is usually found in the middle of the page’s sides, tucked between the huge nameplate and main headline.
Vanity Fair covers have a lot of moving pieces from month to month, but they maintain a consistent look using its standard color palette (red, black and white), typefaces (VF Didot and Futura), and nameplate/headline placement. The minimal color, glamorous photos and Didot/serif typeface lends a sophisticated tone to the magazine, while the san serif typeface Futura allows the brand to take on a more modern/casual tone.
Table of Contents
The Vanity Fair ToC comes around 20 pages deep after a series of ads. It is formatted as half spreads so it may consume a few pages. They are usually on the left side of the spread with the nameplate partially exposed at the top. A collage of three images take up the left third of the page relating to the articles mentioned beside it. On the right side of the page is the actual index, section headings in bold copy with their corresponding stories in smaller copy and page numbers listed below. Aside from the images, the ToC has a standard red, white and black palette. The facing page on the right side of the spread hosts an advertisement for one luxury brand or another.
Past the typical letter-to-the-editor, contributors page, masthead and table of contents, Vanity Fair is broken down into three different sections with the meat of the magazine beginning nearly 100 pages in. First, VF’s Front of the Book section, “Vanities.” The section is comprised of quick snippets of fashion trends to follow, products for purchase, and short Q&As with Vanity Fair-esque personalities.
Next comes “Fanfair,” a regular fixture of Vanity Fair that discusses a range of cultural topics from politics and travel to music and book reviews. Fanfair is very playfully designed with many graphics and a much younger air.
At the heart of the magazine is its feature well, defined by around 40 pages of award-winning journalism and photography. Lastly, at the end of the magazine is “Fairgrounds,” another fixture of the magazine that covers exclusive, high-society sorts of events mainly through photographs. The section is typically brief and image-heavy with a focus on celebrities.