25th Anniversary Countdown to Christmas: Day 23

Throughout December, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Martha Stewart Living magazine, I will examine 25 of the most memorable and influential people, moments and milestones at Martha Stewart's company over the last quarter century: the Martha Moments that fans are especially grateful for. I hope you enjoy these reflections on twenty-five years of excellence!


When it comes to magazines, readers frequently do judge a book by its cover. It is all the publisher has to entice a browsing consumer at the newsstand to pick up a copy: better make sure the cover is alluring, different from its competition, well branded and thoughtfully designed. The covers of Martha Stewart Living magazine have always been among the most beautiful out there. 
Twenty five years of December covers!

From the first issue, Martha broke the rules and forged ahead as a pioneer in the magazine industry. By putting an image of herself on the cover, with her name in bold letters next to the title, she was taking a big risk. Critics immediately jumped up and called the magazine a "vanity project" but Martha understood that it was about branding and identifiability. With her name on countless products at Kmart, and her face in print ads and in television commercials around the United States, Martha understood that she was her greatest asset and biggest selling point. She tapped into the curiosity of tens of millions of people who wanted to see more of Martha's beautiful life in Connecticut - and she gave it to them. 
The cover of Martha Stewart Living has undergone several changes over the last quarter century: some small and some more significant. The four images above demonstrate the evolution of the changes.
1. September/October 1991: Martha's name appears in capital letters next to the title. Martha is featured on the cover.
2. February and March 1994: Martha is still appearing regularly on the cover at this point but her name appears in a colour block next to the title with the first letters of her name capitalized and the rest of her name lowercase. 
3. March 1998: Martha appears on the cover only occasionally at this point. The word Living has been slightly refined and narrowed with an outline. The colour block remains but her name is back in capital letters.
4. October 2010: During Martha's legal troubles, the decision was made to remove the colour block and significantly downsize the name, placing it instead above the title in smaller font but still in capital letters. The word Living was centered on the masthead, the dots over the i's were rounded and the g was redesigned.
In the summer 2013 issue, the original g returned to the title but the rounded dots over the i's remained. The outline on the word Living also disappeared and new, bolder fonts were introduced.
These two covers are two of my favourites: March 1999 and June 2001. I love the simplicity and composition.
The August/September 1993 issue, shown on the left, is the only black and white cover Martha Stewart Living ever produced. The current December/January issue (2015) is the only cover that was fully illustrated. It is a painting of Martha in a sugary wonderland done by Will Cotton.
No one but Martha would put a giant chocolate turkey on the cover of a Thanksgiving issue (November 2000). The turkey was made using an antique chocolate mold given to her by Sharon Patrick, the CEO and President of MSLO at the time. It is this kind of innovative and inspiring approach that makes Living such a wonderfully imaginative magazine. Below are examples of some of the more recent covers:
I so enjoy a good cover that I sometimes take on the challenge of creating my own! The four images above are my own creations: ideas for Martha Stewart Living covers using imagery from the magazine.


Anonymous said...

My favorites have always been the more layered/detailed covers ( many of yesteryear) . While I have commented negatively about the repeated "food" covers.....I must admit many are works of art.

Anonymous said...

How many actual magazines of LIVING have there been, 25 years but not a monthy magazine? Will Cotton painting once again was a work of art in December 2015 issue.


There have been 260 issues. If you look at the spine of the magazine you will see that each issue is numbered.