Tuesday, 31 January 2012

"Why I bought Marie Claire" (a view from the trenches)

The February issue of Marie Claire is easy to spot on the shelf. It's caught my eye every time I've passed a newsstand.

A combination of white background paired with red and black type and a cut-out of a gorgeous (fashion-free) Jessica Ennis grabs your attention.

Yu Tsai's photo of Ennis is just right - she looks relaxed, fit, strong and beautiful. Her skin looks super-smooth and glowing with health (even in January). The Union Jack placed over Ennis's shoulder softens the harder lines of the overall look and ties in with the main cover shout, '2012: Britian's most exciting year'.

Styling the type with red helps the cover pop out against brasher alternatives, it also implies more depth and authoritative content.

I like the cover as a piece of design but how does it work for the buying public? I asked a few women why they bought this month's Marie Claire. Their responses were quite revealing:

"Jessica Ennis looks stunning and gorgeous and it's not about what she's wearing."

"It wasn't an informed choice, there wasn't much of a selection, other magazines were full of made-up shite."

"All the other magazines had Katy Perry on the cover."

"The bodyguard story seemed more interesting than the usual 'lose weight now!' stories." This refers to: Smart sexy and ready to kill. Life as a female bodyguard.

"I thought Jessica Ennis might be more interesting than some stupid celebrity."

"I nearly bought a Easy Living but the stories were too predicatable."

"I thought, 'Ooh, yeah I'd like to read that'." This refers to: Sex and Betrayal. I fell in love with my best friend's husband.

"The jeans story caught my eye." This refers to: The jeans to wear now (sexy & flattering).

Like all good covers, February's Marie Claire works on a number of different levels. The cover lines are brief, direct and compliment each other. They're also designed in a way that allows the reader to chose which is the big sell.

The real life stories were very appealing to my small 'focus group' of women in their 30s. Fashion was not popular but the practical and easy fulfilment offered by the jeans story was.

The two cover lines not mentioned by the readers was the unspecific 'Hot new trends you'll love' and the slow reading 'Health: How to stop stress sabotaging your diet'.

The 'hot new trends...' taster grabs the cover's hotspot but the flimsy typeface, set in all-caps and coloured black doesn't grab your eye. The line is soft too; all the other cover lines are sharp and punchy.

My group of enthusiastic Marie Claire readers highlighted a key ingredient in a magazine: Trust.

Trust is a big issue both in the real world and 'magazine land'. Now that we don't believe in our politicians and public figures, it's imperative that magazines are credible if they want to close a sale.

Readers must believe what they read. If there is any doubt, they won't part with their hard-earned cash.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Spring issue of Boots & Spurs

The latest edition of Boots & Spurs will soon be in the saddle bags of all National Clarion Cycling club members.

The Spring edition features all the latest stories and action from Britain's biggest cycling club.

The cover illustration is by Garry Marshall

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Bauer Publishing archives

Last week while at Bauer publishing (formerly emap) I got the opportunity to browse their back catalogue library. All their Peterborough based tiles are archived, hard bound, right back to 1955 when Motor Cycle News was launched.

My Mum and Dad owned a newsagents in the 1970s and 80s so I was generally aware of any new magazines. At the time I 'took' IPC's Shoot - the weekly kid's football magazine but when emap's new and exciting competitor launched in 1979 I quickly swapped to Match, as did my friends.

I can't ever remember reading Match, the joy was more in owning the magazine, even as a pre-teen magazines were about expressing who you wanted to be.

I was quite sentimental flicking through the Match back issues. I think I even recognised the layouts from 30 or so years ago. It just shows how much of an emotional attachment readers have with their magazines.

The tasters are excellent and are snap shot of football before the Premier League- "Garry Birtles' Manchester misery by Frank Stapleton". What a cover line! I can't see Rio Ferdinand writing a similar story about David de Gea.

Prime position is "In colour Walsall Milk Cup souvenir poster" In 1984 the Saddlers had got through to the Milk cup semi finals.

My memory can't be all that good. I remember Match being a glossy, full colour product more like today's version, not the newspaper inspired edition I found.

Over the last few years I've had the chance to work with editor James Bandy and his team on the contemporary Match. I reckon my 11 year old self would be pretty pleased about that!

Casting off: February's Fly Fishing and Fly Tying

I work with Mark Bowler and Stuart Letford on the covers of their excellent magazine.  They're based in Aberfeldy in Perthshire. With the Tay on their doorstep it's a superb location for a fishing magazine. 

The National Library of Scotland magazine gets a refresh

The new issue of Discover NLS the award winning National Library of Scotland magazine (published by Think) has a smart new design.

Equipped: breaking records

The latest issue of Equipped, the second since I have been involved, has been published by the team at the Armed Forces and Veterans group.

I spent a week coaching designer Blair Carrick and working with MD David Riddell and Editor Jenny Hjul.

The new issue broke the previous record for ad sales, on the back of last issue's new look design.

David Riddell said "I am happy to say that after the redesign work carried out by Matthew Ball the magazine now receives more enquires and editorial participation from our readers than ever before and is a magazine that our staff are all rightfully proud.