You! Be Inspired! – Design Evolution of National Geographic Magazine Covers

by . October 9th, 2012

Magazine printing is one of the great sources of information tracing back to the history of printing. Just like newspapers, magazines have been an excellent medium in terms of showcasing the best of print elements, including typography, photography, and print design as a whole.

One of the most popular magazines in circulation today is National Geographic (formerly known as National Geographic Magazine). It is the official journal of the National Geographic Society, which covers different geography topics, science, research, political issues, history and cultures, photography, and more. The magazine has been around for many years and is considered to be one of the few resources that have evolved enormously in content, look, and design without losing a strong brand identity starting from their logo. Who would not recognize the iconic yellow border in their logo?

National Geographic Logo via YouTheDesigner

The very first issue of the National Geographic magazine was on October 1888, just nine months after the Society was founded. If you do the Math, this month is actually the 124th Anniversary of the popular magazine. There are 12 monthly issues of the magazine per year with additional map supplements. Today, the magazine is not only printed traditionally on paper but with digital interactive editions. On some occasions, the magazine releases special editions.

Being around for more than a century, the overall look and design of the magazine, especially on the cover, have undergone many changes and evolution until it became the yellow magazine we love today.

National Geographic Magazine | October 1888 Issue  via YouTheDesigner

National Geographic Magazine | October 1888 Issue  | (Source)

National Geographic Magazine Cover Evolution via YouTheDesigner

Other cover designs of the National Geographic magazine from 1896 – 1910 | Covers via CoverBrowser

The most remarkable design element of the NatGeo magazine covers today is the amazing use of photography. An iconic photo like the portrait of the Afghan girl named Sharbat Gula from the June 1985 cover is one of the magazine’s most recognizable cover designs. The July 1959 issue of the journal, in increasing popularity, was the first ever use of the photograph on the cover, which features the new American Flag, a 49-star banner.

And to pay tribute and celebrate the magazine’s 124th year of exploring, discovering, and bringing a wide range of knowledge about the world and its existence, we have collected some of the most remarkable and well-designed covers of the magazine showcasing the best of photography –  from the very first issue with a photo on the cover to the amazing covers of recent issues. Enjoy!

National Geographic Magazine July 1959 Issue via YouTheDesigner

July 1959 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic Magazine June 1962 Issue via YouTheDesigner

June 1962 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic October 1963 Issue via YouTheDesigner

October 1963 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic July 1964 Issue via YouTheDesigner

July 1964 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic August 1965 Issue via YouTheDesigner

August 1965 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic December 1968 Issue via YoutheDesigner

December 1968 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic December 1969 Issue via YouTheDesigner

December 1969 Issue | (Source)

National Geograohic May 1971 Issue via YouTheDesigner

May 1971 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic July 1972 Issue via YouTheDesigner

July 1972 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic March 1975 Issue via YouTheDesigner

March 1975 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic January 1977 Issue via YouTheDesigner

January 1977 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic April 1978 Issue via YouTheDesigner

April 1978 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic October 1978 Issue via YouTheDesigner

October 1978 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic September 1980 Issue via YouTheDesigner

September 1980 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic May 1981 Issue via YouTheDesigner

May 1981 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic November 1983 Issue via YouTheDesigner

November 1983 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic July 1984 Issue via YouTheDesigner

July 1984 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic June1985 Issue via YouTheDesigner

June 1985 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic July 1987 Issue via YouTheDesigner

July 1987 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic August 1991 Issue via YouTheDesigner

August 1991 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic October 1991 Issue via YouTheDesigner

October 1991 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic November 1992 Issue via YouTheDesigner

November 1992 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic March 1993 Issue via YouTheDesigner

March 1993 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic July 1994 Issue via YouTheDesigner

July 1994 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic September 1994 Issue via YouTheDesigner

September 1994 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic November 1996 Issue via YouTheDesigner

November 1996 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic May 1998 Issue via YouTheDesigner

May 1998 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic August 1999 Issue via YouTheDesigner

August 1999 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic January 2000 Issue via YouTheDesigner

January 2000 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic April 2000 Issue via YouTheDesigner

April 2000 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic May 2001 Issue via YouTheDesigner

May 2001 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic July 2003 Issue via YouTheDesigner

July 2003 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic June 2005 Issue via YouTheDesigner

June 2005 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic July 2006 Issue via YouTheDesigner

July 2006 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic October 2008 Issue via YouTheDesigner

October 2008 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic October 2009 Issue via YouTheDesigner

October 2009 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic April 2010 Issue via YouTheDesigner

April 2010 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic March 2011 Issue via YouTheDesigner

March 2011 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic April 2012 Issue via YouTheDesigner

April 2012 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic May 2012 Issue via YouTheDesigner

May 2012 Issue | (Source)

National Geographic October 2012 Issue via YouTheDesigner

 October 2012 Issue

In late 2011, the magazine had a global circulation of 8.2 million in 34 language editions, according to a Press Release. The circulation is around 5 million every month in the United States alone.

The National Geographic magazine also won numerous awards in May 2007, 2008, and 2010. They won the American Society of Magazine Editors’ General Excellence Award in the over two million circulation category. The magazine received the top ASME awards for photojournalism and essay in 2010 and the ASME – Magazine of the Year Award in 2011.

The evolution of the National Geographic cover design is a great inspiration and an example of making a huge mark on the global audience by making the stretch of changes as simple and smooth as possible. Design, as much as any other thing on the planet, changes through time. The only challenge is to keep up the design with the changing environment without losing the identity of the brand that people are familiar with from the very beginning.

Which National Geographic magazine issue is your favorite in terms of cover design? Share your thoughts and suggestions by commenting below. Find us on  Facebook for more updates, design news, and features, or better yet, subscribe to our blog for the freshest design inspirations and stories. Stay awesome, everyone!