The Best and Historic Magazine Cover Designs


A Magazine Cover is the most complete form of graphics. It has idea, design, punch-line, typography, art and expressions.

Magazine covers provide you more inspiration compared to any other kind of articles.

Today, I have collected some of the very best and trend setting magazine covers and titles for you to inspire, aspire and admire.

Please comment and tell us what do you think about this post.

The New Yorker: September 24, 2001: Twin Towers

After the horrific incident of 9/11, The New Yorker paid tribute to the victims through this artistic cover.   Ad Reinhardt’s Black on Black art provided inspiration to Franoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman who drew this sketch.

twin towers magazine cover

Esquire: December 2000: Clint

It was said that this photo was inspired by Lincoln Memorial, but everybody interpreted it with reference to Monica Lewinsky.

bill clinton esquire magazine

Mad: January 1984: Holiday Season

Maddy Christmas! Nukes are being launched and Santa is in the way, get ready for a nuclear holocaust. “Happy Holidays”

xmas title mad magazine

National Geographic: June 1985: Afghan Girl

The ever famous photo by Steve McCurry. He shot a 12 year old Afghan girl near a refugee camp around Pakistan border, in 1985. And then after so many years in an expedition by Nat Geo, the girl is once again found, and this became a classical tale, for more details, kindly click here.

national geographic magazine

TIME: June 21, 1968:

A figure by Roy Lichtenstein, representing a hand with a pistol. This cover was released after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. It demanded a legislation about restricting the arms sales.

historic magazine cover

National Lampoon: January 1973: Funny One

This cover was to some extent considered violent, but generally, the reaction was just laughter. Ronald G. Harris designed this and remember, Photoshop wasn’t invented till then.

funny magazine cover

People: September 15, 1997: Diana’s Death

After Princess Diana’s accidental death in August 1997, Diana’s image appeared a record breaking 52 times on magazine covers.

diana death magazine title

Mad: April, 1969: Uncle Sam

This is a drawing by Norman Mingo. A Typical MAD design, and it was just as controversial as any other MAD title.

uncle sam mad magazine cover

Newsweek: July 30, 1973: Nixon

The famous scandal of “The Nixon Tapes”. The cover indicates about the revelation of that scandal and this scandal created so much hype that President Richard Nixon had to resign from the seat. This is the only case of its kind in US history.

nixon tapes magazine title

Fortune: October 1, 2001: 9/11

The famous photo of people covered with ashes, released after the world changing 9/11 incident.

9/11 magazine cover

Time: April 8, 1966: Is God Dead?

One of the most controversial magazine covers ever made. The cover story was “Death of God Movement” that was gaining popularity in the 1960’s. Without a doubt, this title was disliked by many.

time magazine cover is god dead

Mad: June, 1972

No magazine has ever beaten MAD in craziness, this title is another prove for that remark. MAD deliberately made it look like it was mis-printed, but no, this was just a gag MAD played with its readers. Some liked the idea, some not, but the title became very popular.

hilarious funny magazine cover

The New Yorker, March 29, 1976: Steinberg Map

How the world is seen from 9th avenue. A drawing by Saul Steinberg, and the artist sued Columbia Pictures for their movie posters for “Moscow on the Hudson”, which in his thought was derived from this cover. Steinberg won this case.

famous magazine title

The New Yorker: December 10, 2001: Map of New York

A New York map but in old Middle East style. Quite a controversial cover, and in a way, it corresponds to the previous image.

controversial magazine covers

The New Yorker, July 21, 2008

A dreadfully controversial design by cartoonist Barry Blitt. Even the McCain camp criticized the idea. According to TNY, it was just satire and meant to make people laugh,  but that did not happen.

the new yorker cartoon

Texas Monthly: January 2007: The Dick Cheney Cover

After the famous lampoon cover (the sixth from the top in this list) the same idea was remade here, with a few modifications, of course. This cover also became a huge success and won the Best Cover Line of the Year award from Magazine Publishers of America in 2007.

dick cheney funny cover

National Geographic: October 1978:

This photo in the cover shows the gorilla Koko, who took a photograph of her own reflection image in a mirror. Psychologist Francine Patterson has taught this gorilla sign language in a span of 6 years and this is considered to be a breakthrough success.

funny national geographic magazine cover

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Further Related Readings

  1. Jack January 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    You sure seem to like the New Yorker. Your entire list could be eliminated by the SI Swimsuit issue for the past 10 or 12 years. You fail. Cheers.

  2. Tayyab February 8, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I’m not in love with the New Yorker, the three new yorker titles are a sequel to one another. So they had be come together.
    as far as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is concerned…… No comments

  3. David March 24, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Why weren’t the Rolling Stone covers with Elvis or John Lennon from shortly after there deaths on here? Actually why no Rolling Stone at all? They have had some brilliant covers over the last 40+ years.

    1. Tayyab March 25, 2011 at 2:30 am


      That is a good question and you also named two of my all time favorite singers, but actually there are a few reasons why Rolling Stone wasn’t featured here.
      1. sometimes, Rolling Stone’s title is a little bit adult rated (to see some examples, just google with “rolling stone title”)
      2. usually Rolling Stone titles consists of news only relevant to United States, I mean the youth of Italy (or other European countries) might not be able to understand the phenomena Elvis had created and what his figure on the title meant to the public of US.
      3. I only included titles which were made for a historic news, or they were a controversy in their selves.

      I didn’t find any Rolling Stone title which fits on these criteria. If I missed any, I hope you pardon my mistake.

  4. Sim March 29, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    You forget to mention Mouly wasn’t the only person to have worked on the the September 24th edition of the New Yorker, Art Spiegelman co-created it and even used it as a cover to his book “In the Shadows of No Towers”.

  5. Tayyab March 31, 2011 at 12:53 am


    Thanks for notifying, its been edited.

  6. Tony April 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    You listed your criteria for what makes a magazine cover right for this list.. can you explain to me how the youth of Italy would understand the first New Yorker cover “The World as seen from 9th Avenue” (I’m a 32 year old American and I barely get it) but wouldn’t understand the significance of a Rolling Stone cover with John Lennon after his murder? I understand that your list is subjective, but there are some glaring oversights

    1. Tayyab April 10, 2011 at 12:53 am


      hmm… “The World as seen from 9th Avenue” is International Politics, being a son of a journalist, I can safely say that this topic relates to the whole world, not just USA.
      And after John’s death, he appeared on many many magazine covers, and this was undoubtedly a BIG NEWS. But in the end of the day, John’s death did not affect the stage of international affairs, and this is the only reason why I did not that included that cover in this post. Hope you get my point.

  7. Tony April 10, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Maybe I just fail to see how “The World as Seen from 9th Avenue” is International politics or how it relates to the whole world. It seems more that it relates to the world perspective as seen from New York City which would be an American bias. I also don’t see how it affected the stage of International Affairs except from a purely American point of view. And as far as International Effect is involved, MAD magazine has no place on this list, especially something like the “misprinted” cover. I enjoy your list, it has a lot of interesting magazine covers but that is as far as all the magazine covers seem related. They are all interesting. Not the best, not the most historic and definitely not the most world altering. That is my only point. It is merely a list of your favorite magazine covers… which is completely fine, but I can’t see justifying it as anything more than that.

  8. Tony April 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    When I think of “Best and Most Historic” the first image that comes to my mind is the LIFE Magazine cover from 1969 “To The Moon and Back” and feel that if not at the TOP of any list, it should at least be included

  9. Walker April 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I don’t care what anyone says, that Terrorist Obama cover makes perfect sense as a satire. It’s maddening what goes over people’s heads sometimes.

  10. Susan April 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Koko iss a FEMALE gorilla, not an “IT”. Why did you write that she is an it??

    1. Tayyab April 11, 2011 at 3:00 am

      Susan! dont get angry, I made the edit.

      You know, when I made this post, I thought people will be on to me saying that I was impartial, or maybe wrongfully political. That I portrayed Bill Clinton or Barack Obama in negative sense, or something like that. But the requests I received in comments is strange.

  11. Tayyab April 11, 2011 at 1:06 am

    @ Tony

    I Completely agree, “To the Moon and Back” is something I missed.

    MAD of 1972, 1983 and National Lampoon 1973 I only included to give some inspiration of designing, but you are absolutely right that LIFE Magazine from 69 should have been here.

  12. BC April 11, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Apparently in your language “Best and Historic” really means “Best American and nothing else exists.”

    1. Tayyab April 11, 2011 at 5:44 am


      I really wanted to collect covers from all over the world. Like what did magazines from Moscow said at the Chernobyl incident, but I figured that collecting them is a very very long process, so I only picked the ones which were available in English. BUT I tried to pick only the ones which had a story of international recognition. In fact some other commentators did not encourage my decision put only the international type covers, they wanted something from local music and showbiz industry as well.

  13. Patrick April 11, 2011 at 6:35 am

    I think you should have included some of the covers George Lois designed for Esquire in the 1960s. They were different, eye catching, and are still talked about and copied today. Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian, Nixon getting made up, Warhol drowning in a can of Campbell’s soup… These images are just as indelible now as they were nearly a half century ago. There’s a book that collects all the covers; here are twelve of them…

  14. Susan April 11, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for making Koko a female! 🙂 Thanks!!

    1. Tayyab April 12, 2011 at 3:00 am


      No problem 🙂
      In fact, now I’m thinking some old British English lover fellow might come and say, hey that’s an animal, and we should call “it” not “she”. But since I love animals, the sentence will now stay the way it is.

  15. BC April 11, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    So then, nothing prior to 1966, and nothing from outside the US. That’s fine and dandy, but why do you call it “The Best and (Most?) Historic Magazine Covers of All Time” — that’s just plain silly.

    1. Tayyab April 12, 2011 at 3:03 am


      Kindly read my two previous comments, which were responses to other commentators.

  16. Tayyab April 12, 2011 at 2:53 am


    Thanks for the link, and yes indeed, there are some covers which deserved to be included in posts such as this one. But you know, there are many other covers as well, like at the time when World War 2 ended, and when Pakistan and India tested their nukes. Many others could also be named, and if I carry on including all of them, that would just take toooo much time.

    Thanks everybody to like the collection, and if you guys feel that some were missed, we can make another post on the same topic.

  17. Yourmomlovesme April 12, 2011 at 8:07 am

    What about the time magazine where hitler was on the cover from the 1930’s…

  18. Michelle April 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I can’t believe how big former President Clinton’s hands appear on the cover. Was this done on purpose or are they really that big?

    1. Tayyab April 15, 2011 at 2:39 am


      They certainly do look big, but I gave it a hard deep look, It doesn’t seem to me that it’s photoshopped. Might be a little tilt shift photography technique. But most chances are that it is just a naughty move by the photographer and he set the angle and distance of the camera in such a way that the photo looks like this.

      Thank God you didn’t ask why did his hands get so big? 🙂

  19. Wilmie April 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I enjoyed this post very much. However, being from South Africa, I didn’t get the 9th Avenue one at all. Can someone please clarify?

    1. Tayyab April 15, 2011 at 2:52 am

      @ Patrick

      Thanks a lot for reducing my work by replying yourself so brilliantly that you got Designzzz another valued reader (Wilmie) 🙂

  20. Patrick April 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Wilmie, that cover (“View of the World from 9th Avenue” by Saul Steinberg) is meant to depict the limited way people in Manhattan look at the world, with New York City fully detailed and the rest of the planet vaguely sketched out.

  21. Wilmie April 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks! It makes a lot more sense now.

    I’m 21, South African, yet I understand all of these references, having been exposed to American and European culture my entire life. Few Americans or Europeans however, know anything about South Africa- except for AIDS and Nelson Mandela. The internet especially has a sort of northern chauvinism when it comes to articles like these. The 9th Avenue thing rings very true in that sense.

    However, this post was still highly enjoyable and informative. Thank you

    1. Tayyab April 15, 2011 at 2:54 am

      Hey Wilmie!

      Thanks for liking the post, and showing interest in the topic as well. Your comment has provoked me to make one or two posts about South Africa. If you would like to do that yourself, kindly visit Write for Us page. Hopefully We’ll be publishing the first post related to South Africa next week.

  22. Sam April 13, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    It’s obviously a subjective list, just as your feelings are that the list is incomplete/flawed. I agree that it’s lacking, but some of these are pretty good. Cheers.

    1. Tayyab April 15, 2011 at 2:58 am

      @ Sam

      So nice of you to encourage me, well obviously, I couldn’t have put every major title published till date, that way this post would have become a 100 MB post.
      Thanks for liking the post and your sensible comment.

  23. "Charlotte" April 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Holy Crap! I’m very pleased to see one of my friends’ work up here (Dick Cheney with the rifle, by Darren Braun). He’s an amazing photographer.

  24. Hailey April 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I’m very sad that not one of you a******* have anything good to say. I enjoyed this very much and actually saved a couple. I’m so sorry that these people are so scorned that what they consider better picks aren’t up there. Maybe they should stop b********* and make their own god damn list if its such a personal subject.

  25. Tayyab April 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm


    My goodness, I’m flattered to see the love you have for Designzzz. I truly respect your encouragement but all the readers are important to us and we would never mind the negative comments. I guess it helps us improve.

    As much I loved your comment, it was strait from the heart, yet I had to censor it. Can’t wait for your next comment 🙂

  26. Jalal Hameed Bhatti April 27, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Yes, some are. Reminds of the good days when I read MAD like mad – good old days

  27. VIP Magazine Distributor May 4, 2011 at 11:47 am

    MAD has definitely had some controversial covers over the years, and lumping them together in a list with the New Yorker seems to solidify their legitimacy.

    1. Tayyab May 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      VIP Magazine Distributor, that is a very good point. I’m smiling big, I hope somebody from MAD replies your comment.

  28. afoxca July 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    I was surprised not to see Tina Brown’s recent exercise in poor taste that was the Newsweek cover imagining Diana walking next to Kate Middleton today, had she lived to turn 50.

    1. Tayyab July 21, 2011 at 1:07 am

      This post was made before that cover was published.

  29. Scott July 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I thought the New York magazine cover of Spitzer with an arrow pointing to his crotch saying “Brain” was genius.

    1. Tayyab July 23, 2011 at 1:09 am


      Yup, that was a good one but we can’t put in all of them. I mean I wonder why didn’t I put a magazine covers of the time of first Nuclear blast, or when Russia broke or the Protocols controversy.

  30. rico July 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Know I’m late on this, but one of the most controversial recent covers was the Time cover of OJ Simpson which they intentionally darkened his face. Started a firestorm of protest over objectivity and photoshopped images which were implied to have been untouched…just saying!

    1. Tayyab July 23, 2011 at 1:00 am

      Rico, you are right, I myself am against photoshopped images on such covers.

  31. HAMID BALOCH July 24, 2011 at 2:19 am

    NICE,,,,, COLLECTION..:p

  32. Eric August 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I thought I might see the Rolling Stone cover with John and Yoko.

  33. Peter Bono August 10, 2011 at 5:07 am

    Steinberg’s piece, “NewYorkersView of the World”
    is the all time greatest

    1. Tayyab August 11, 2011 at 5:01 am

      Peter Bono!

      Great taste, that certainly comprise all the elements of good journalism.

  34. Evan August 16, 2011 at 5:45 am

    What about Mad Magazine April 1974? The one with a single hand flashing the middle finger.

    1. Tayyab August 16, 2011 at 10:46 am

      Obviously that is cover Mad is most associated with. In fact let me tell you the story, in 74, Mad had to recall all the magazines from stores because the public opposed drastically, and recently on their jubilee, they sent those “golden copies” to their esteem customers.
      Yes I deliberately left that cover and added the Xmas one, you’ll understand, right 🙂

  35. Jayne October 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    As far as these covers having an international effect goes, if that’s the criteria then I don’t think that MAD should have been up there, along with another half of these images after that. I live outside the US, and have never read or even heard of some of these titles, let alone the “iconic” events that they’re illustrating. I fail to see how the cover of a Texas Monthly magazine would gain international attention. To create a list showcasing the most historic news covers, I would assume that the most historic news events would need to make the list such as the moon landing etc. Not simply a fairly averagely-received copy of MAD magazine that has some standardised type font on the front. This list is highly subjective, and when viewing it as such is a nice collection of graphics. But I wouldn’t say it comes close to the most historic.

    1. Tayyab October 12, 2011 at 3:15 am

      Wooh, that’s a big comment. First of all, we never stated the word “most”. I don’t know why you are trying to call them most historic of all time. As I mentioned above there are many covers which can be missing, like the titles related to WW-II etc. so you cannot call this list “the most historic” they are not and we didn’t say those are!! You should take a look at the comments I wrote above.
      Now let me define the criteria; the story did not have to be ‘big’. This is a design blog and we needed inspiration for design, not the story. There are only two covers which do not fit this criteria and those are NatGeo’s. But still they can be an inspiration of image toning and photoshopping for magazine titles.

  36. James stone October 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    How can I purchase the magazine GANGSTERS. this is by TIME MAGAZINE. THANKYOU

    1. Tayyab October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      To tell you the truth, I have no idea, but if I make a guess that would be to visit and emailing them.

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