In My Opinion: Matthew Ball: Why I bought Marie Claire

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.

The cover works for me as a piece of design. But how does the cover 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.”

“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 different magazine 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.

Matthew Ball is an editorial design consultant based in Scotland. Visit www.matthewball.co.uk