Ian Birch

Author's books

Iconic Magazine Covers


Iconic Magazine Covers is an oral history of the stories behind the most innovative and controversial magazine covers as told by the people who created them. Author Ian Birch has worked in the industry since the 1970s in both the USA and the UK and has used a career’s worth of contacts to make this unique social document that a wide variety of readers will find fascinating.

There are more than 65 feature covers and selection criteria was diverse. For example, a cover may introduce groundbreaking graphic design (Twen; Fact), it may cover a seminal event (The Sunday Times Magazine; Esquire), a political movement or societal change (The Black Panther; Nova; The Spare Rib; Blue). It could have a specific readership (The Big Issue; Raygun; Wired; The Gentlewoman; Bloomberg Businessweek). Some are launch or relaunch issues (Interview; People Weekly; Harper’s Bazaar). The covers might feature an influential photographer, illustrator or model (Raw; Radio Times; The Face) and not to be forgotten is ever-welcome satire (Private Eye; National Lampoon).

Iconic Magazine Covers displays the covers on a full page opposite the history of the design as told by the key figures in its making. Editors, photographers, creative directors, illustrators and others describe their roles in bringing the cover to life, such as Iwan Baan. Called in at the last minute, he had to hang out of a helicopter to capture the image of fractured New York City during the massive post-Hurricane Sandy power failure. The New York Magazine cover was so acclaimed that it was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art and large-scale posters were used in fundraising for the hurricane relief effort.

The most recent covers are two-winning and timely covers, both from Time magazine. The first shows Donald Trump in “Meltdown” shortly after the first debate; the second shows him in “Total Meltdown” after one of the worst of many scandals. Illustrator Edel Rodriguez describes the power of what makes these selections iconic: “A good magazine cover is a great poster and vice versa. It should be able to take a complicated matter and communicate it directly to as many people as possible. Like a pop song.”

Every magazine cover featured in Iconic Magazine Covers proves itself worthy of Rodriguez’s water test. Reading about the conceptual and practical processes in their creation is a fascinating bonus