Back in time…

Learn how to travel back to 1066 with issue 141 of Your Family Tree magazine.


When designing magazine covers flexibility is the key. You might have a fixed template but you need to bear in mind current trends and be able to follow these – whilst retaining your identity.

One of the current trends is to have fewer cover lines on your digital editions. When readers view your magazine on web-based newsstands – such as GooglePlay or Apple – most words are too small to view. Removing words enables you to promote the most important messages and enlarge images and logos. As you’ll see from the image above I have removed the top word-mechanics of the magazine and this has allowed the movement images and give an illusion of space on the smaller digital cover.

The single most important message on this issue was ‘going back further in time with your research’. I wanted the ‘time’ aspect to jump out and decided that the best approach was to have a combination older documents and a timepiece. I also wanted to have the illusion of moving in time so we blurred the hands of the clock. The simple blue san serif typography (Sanuk LF) also jumps out to the reader. Only ‘time’ will tell if my approach has been a success.

Your Family Tree issue 141 is on sale now. If you’re interested you can find more information on the issue and ordering details here.

© Future Publishing Limited.




Empire magazine unleash an Amazing Spiderman 2 double.

73709 73708

Sometimes the best magazine covers take the direct route. The latest issue of Empire magazine does just that. Superheroes are some of the most recognisable characters and Spiderman is one of the most popular of all time. Amazing Spiderman 2 stars Jamie Foxx as villain Electro and the team have put Spidey on an electrifying background and added fluorescent green cover lines for added ‘thwip’. The subscriber edition is as direct a cover as I’ve ever seen. Big Spiderman = happy inner 10-year-old. Wonderful! You can view the Electro teaser trailer here and discover more about Empire here. It’s on sale from Thursday 25 July.

Catching up…

Get two Your Family Tree magazine covers for the price of one!



I can’t believe that two whole issues have passed since I last posted a cover on this blog – we have just been stacked out workwise and it has been hard to find the time to think.

Still, what we’ve managed to publish is one traditional style genealogy cover and one slightly different, modern approach.

YFT128 is definitely a modernist, graphical approach and is quite a departure for us. Adam (my editor) and I thought that the DNA subject matter warranted this. We then chose to use joined up DNA strands with vintage photography inserts. The striking dark blue background contrasts with the bright red elements that leaps from the page (especially in our digital editions).

YFT129 is a much more traditional cover that uses typography to ram the ‘FREE’ message home. I backed this up with an empty, distressed wallet and ornate picture frame. The simple, bullet point elements stand out with the handwritten font use.

Both jumped out from crowded shelves but for entirely different reasons and they both worked exceptionally well on digital devices.

Now is the perfect time to view these covers digitally – as we are giving away an issue free when you take out a digital subscription.* Digital subscriptions to Your Family Tree are available in the following formats and prices start from just £3.99:

*Free issue not available on Zinio

© Future Publishing Limited 2013

Baby Love…

Encouraging people to start their family tree.

YFT124coverwebWell Christmas is almost upon us and it’s at this time of year most people start researching their family line. This could be to do with seeing so many relatives, seeing nostalgic repeats on the TV or hearing those christmas tunes of years gone by on the radio – who knows? All we know is that there is an upswing in ‘newbies’.

As a monthly magazine we try and cater for those starting out with the last and first issues of the year – but the question is always how to do it? Well we obviously cater the words towards certain phrases but we always try to pick the right topic. With Your Family Tree 124 we focused on the records we all have. These are births, deaths and marriage records (BMDs for short). I wanted to avoid making the issue ‘christmassy’ and I knew I also wanted to avoid showing the records themselves. I decided that I’d create a ‘living room’ feel with wallpaper, a mantlepiece and have nostalgic photos on and around it.

I found the ‘mother and child’ photograph on the iStock photo library and instantly fell in love with the babies face and I hope the readers of YFT124 will as well. YFT124 is on sale from 4 December 2012.


© Future Publishing Limited

Grow your family tree…

The evolution of a genealogy magazine cover.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve posted a few covers on this blog but they’ve always been the finished article. This time I’ve decided to highlight the various stages in my design process.

Generally speaking, my covers start with a team meeting where we discuss the theme for the issue. This sows the ‘seed’ of an idea and then I move on to a very rough, thumbnail sketch. My features also start this way and it often surprises me how close they are to the finished article.

From this stage I mock up a full cover and add design elements – picture boxes and the like – before choosing photography and working on concrete cover lines with the editor. Once this is complete we add lo-res imagery and the cover is circulated to our publishers for approval. Sometimes words and pictures are changed but generally we are given the go-ahead.

Now we finesse the design and place the hi-res imagery, making sure that they still fit the spaces required and that they retain the right brightness and contrast. We also make changes to the typography, carefully looking at the leading/kerning and add the correct barcodes.

This particular cover is partially covered by an A5 supplement and obviously needed to work despite this. We decided that it would be good to have the vines creeping up from behind the supplement and over the photography (flattering Ancestry a little). I wanted a big ‘reveal’ once the package is open and so we ‘hid’ a nice vintage, torn photograph behind. I particularly like the way it looks when framed within an iPad on our digital edition.

If you’re interested in genealogy you can see more on issue 123 of Your Family Tree magazine here. It’s officially on sale from 6 November, although you may find it in selected stores this weekend.

© Future Publishing Limited

Words and Pictures…

Be inspired by these stunning infographics.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Infographics have always been a good way to visualise facts and figures and this is especially true in our interactive, consumption driven age. As these stunning examples show, the days of the simple labelled pie chart are long gone. In fact, today’s infographics are inspirational works of art in their own right and jump from the pages of their respective newspapers, magazines and websites. Clever typography and bright illustration combine harmoniously and will you to absorb the information contained within. You don’t often see good examples together and the clever people at have collected their favourites in one handy place. Check them out!

New vintage…

Ever wondered how you’d explain todays technology to your ancestors?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This set of posters does just that and they are spectacular. Simple ideas are always the best and it just goes to show that vintage advertising isn’t outdated – it’s the products that are. These posters could be used on any website or in any print campaign right now – in fact they stand out more than many newer looking counterparts. The beautiful illustration and traditional typography perfectly complement each other. You can view more of these clever adverts over at inspirefirst. I particularly love the Nintendo Wii version…

Mine’s a pint…

Social history features are a chance to have fun and often leap out from the magazine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Your Family Tree is a magazine with a slightly older readership. Therefore it is predominantly designed around a white page style with a grid layout and limited colour palette.

Our social history features are designed to break this up. They are deliberately placed in the second half of the magazine (just before a run of review pages and after a step-by-step help section) and we want people to stop and have to read them. Feature 2s (as we call them) are generally not based on a ‘how to find’ your ancestry but more of a ‘how they used to live’ or ‘what was it like?’ feel. This means we get to use more emotive photography and an opportunity to change colours and the like.

This is one of my favourites from last year. A lot of people from working class backgrounds have parents and grandparents who would have relaxed at a social club after work or in the evening – maybe it was a club put on by the employer, or it could be a political membership or a services one just like the ‘Royal British Legion‘. The club I visited had a fun pub-like atmosphere and I tried to emulate this with the pub sign and chalky font with black and white colouring. The remaining pages resumed the paler colouring as YFT readers have expressed difficulty in reading white text out of black for long runs.

All this talk of clubs and pubs had made me thirsty. I could murder for a pint of the black stuff – now where’s my coat?

© Future publishing Limited…

How many Ian’s can you view in 60 seconds?

At least 500 is the answer – but to be honest I’m not going to count them all. Ian is obsessed with finding and photographing typography featuring the name Ian and he takes copious amounts of photographic evidence. I love this concept and I’m looking forward to the website launching very soon. You can follow on Twitter at

Brand extension…

Making a spin-off stand out but remain ‘on-brand’ is often harder than it looks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Actually that’s not quite true. What is hard is trying to reign your creative ideas in, so that you remain on-brand (god I hate corporate speak, but sometimes there are no better words – go figure). As a magazine designer, you see images and text and whirl them around in your creative juices. You picture big openers, flashy pullquotes and cool colours. Maybe you draw sketches in a pad or on paper of your layouts – I know I do. Then you look at who you’re designing for and alter your designs to fit.

This project was a case in point. Total Anime was a spin-off from the massively successful SFX magazine and so had to be treated respectfully. I was art editor on this project (with full creative control), but had to use SFX fonts and grids for the magazine. It had to look new but still resemble the parent magazine.

The decision was made to use a new ‘Ghost in the Shell movie on the cover and main feature because we had an exclusive first-look and review. The lead character is a funky looking lady (Major Motoko Kusanagi) who really jumps from the page. Motoko was also used on the branding for the DVD release and this added extra impact for free because ‘fans’ would spot her a mile away from the shelves. I elected to mimic the circles from the main image throughout the feature and took the purple colouring from the DVD release. I am a great fan of repetition in magazine page design. I think it helps to move content along smoothly as your eyes naturally follow the same lines.

Total Anime was a successful first edition and it’s since spawned more issues.

© Future Publishing Limited