15 Top Magazine Covers Then and Now: From Marilyn Monroe to Caitlyn Jenner

15 Top Magazine Covers Then and Now: From Marilyn Monroe to Caitlyn Jenner

From Vogue to People, including Playboy and National Geographic, all these popular magazines are familiar to us and instantly recognizable, but just a few of us know what their first editions looked like decades ago. As time passed by, bringing forth new faces, new fashion, and a whole new way of thinking, magazines needed to evolve with their time and adapt. Some have stayed faithful to their initial visual identity, having only undergone minor changes because they knew what worked for them. On the other hand, other magazines covers have changed drastically, their covers being a far cry from the original design.

Back in time, each magazine used to have its own unique identity: the cover always followed the conservative societal norms and the design was mostly about a photo and very little text. Today, all those magazines still strive to be distinct from each other but compared to the good old times, now there is always a flurry of magazines on the stands with loud texts. It's an eyesore really. The magazine covers need to sell and for that, the majority seems to follow one particular formula: a photo of an attractive model or famous face, with a tendency of showing something shocking or of putting a big controversial quote to grab your attention. Let’s not forget how showing more skin or just baring it all has become trendy and easy. It is an interesting aspect of the evolution of magazine covers especially when linked with the ever-changing societal norms. What was acceptable yesterday is just not enough today. Just how far can magazines go to sell copies?

Vanity Fair / 1914 - 2015

© Condé Nast

L’OFFICIEL / 1935 - 2016

© Editions Jalou

VOGUE / 1892 - 2014

© Condé Nast

TIME / 1923 - 2016 

© Time Inc.

FORBES / 1917 - 2016

© Forbes Inc.

Esquire / 1933 - 2016

© Hearst Magazines

ELLE / 1949 - 2016

© Hachette Filipacchi Media

© Hachette Filipacchi Media

GLAMOUR / 1939 - 2016

© Condé Nast

SEVENTEEN / 1944 - 2016

© Hearst Magazines

HARPER'S BAZAAR / 1867 - 2016

© Hearst Magazines

People / 1974 - 2016

© Time Inc.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC / 1888 - 2016

© National Geographic Society

Rolling Stone / 1967 - 2016

© Wenner Media LLC

PLAYBOY / 1953 - 2016

© Playboy Enterprises

Out of all these in the listing, my favorites are the TIME and L’OFFICIEL covers. Which one is your choice?

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9 Comments

Martin Van Londen's picture

I have been looking at a lot of erte's work for inspiration. The covers he did are so iconic. Very conceptual.

Emma Grigoryan's picture

his work is a true inspiration - memorable and striking

Khatleen Minerve's picture

Time definitely nailed it over the years, keeping that red frame. National Geographic today is pretty awesome I believe

Felix Wu's picture

Its interesting to see some covers artistic taste have gotten worse.

Emma Grigoryan's picture

a lot of them feel like copy-paste , as mentioned above following one recipe to have more readers , but does it really work?

Pretty plain cover for Nat Geo in "1988." Typo?

Zach Werner's picture

I think it should be 1888.

Emma Grigoryan's picture

thanks for the attention, I have mistyped it

david squire's picture

I love looking at old and new(er). There's a bookstore in Burbank, Ca. that's a treasure trove of some amazing old and vintage magazines, prints, and posters if anybody ever gets out that way and is interested in that sort of thing.

My favorite old is the Rolling Stone cover, the 3 column layout and only telling music news- haha! And what a way to come out for Rolling Stone, a John Lennon photograph on your cover; awesome, thank you. Even Tom Rounds quitting AM Radio; although, according to my Dad and a couple of other folks not scientifically polled, nobody really cared...

Favorite new, the Time cover is well done, good stuff for sure.