You need to clearly evidence engagement with the KEY CONCEPTS of Media Language and Audience. That means knowing the technical terms, understanding design conventions, and how each media language decision can impact on the likely target audience. This is a task about branding, and the media language choices that enables an institution a specific target audience that can be sold to advertisers! In a declining market suffering from digital disruption, with plenty of titles closing or going web-only, the 'migration' of ad revenue to online (especially Google and Facebook) is a massive blow for the magazine industry.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY THE COMPONENTS OF A MAGAZINE COVER
There are many terms to learn, from straplines to masthead to hyperbole ... you need to be able to apply the correct, accurate industry label to each of these common elements of cover design.
STEP 2: BEGIN TO EXAMINE HOW EXISTING MAGAZINES VARY THESE COMPONENTS FOR DIFFERENT AUDIENCES
Throughout your Media Studies journey you'll be asked to research existing examples to learn industry conventions before constructing your own. You need to learn how media language choices are made to target different audiences.
STEP 3: RESEARCH A MAGAZINE SECTOR
Gather details of what magazines are available (we will focus on the UK market) in print of a magazine sector you think you would like to focus on for your own production. That might be music (if so, any specific genre?), fashion (men's, women's, girls?), technology (gaming - which console/platform?; futurism; general computing - or Windows, Mac, Linux...), consumer/lifestyle (homes, holidays, boats...), celebrity (usually considered women's magazines), film/TV (genre, time period...), sports/hobbies ... there are magazines covering most things you can think of.
See what ideas these examples give you - you might decide it does not seem such a good choice after all!
STEP 4: WRITE UP ANALYSES OF TWO MAGAZINE COVERS
You should by now have an idea of what type of magazine you will work on, so should pick two from your sector. You need to carefully and accurately apply a wide range of relevant terms. You also need to use the full range of audience terms, and engage with any theories that help to explain how audiences make their choices.
STEP 5: DEVELOP + PITCH YOUR MAGAZINE IDEA
Begin to detail YOUR idea. What's the title, target audience; how will the masthead look; what cover story do you have in mind and is a strong main image achieveable? Do a layout sketch, and start to list possible coverlines/sell lines. List the common features of a magazine cover + describe your intended media language.
STEP 6: DRAFTING YOUR COVER
You have lots of key decisions to make. Clarify your primary and secondary target audience (at least age range and gender/s). The masthead is the key representation of the brand, so get that right before the rest, together with an effective, convincing slogan. Experiment with fonts, perhaps downloading a font. After the masthead, its the cover story that's key: keep taking photos and working on costume, make-up, props, pose/framing until you've got the right image - your text position, size and colour will all be heavily influenced by this choice. Its usually best to frame an image to leave clear space down the left third - does yours?
Draft and re-draft the stories, offers and other details; work on the small details that create verisimilitude: barcode, date, website ... Think carefully about possible puns and intertextuality - word play in headlines and explanatory text below these.
Keep looking back at existing magazines - if your effort still looks like a student production, and not like an actual magazine, you can improve it!!! Careless work with words is often the major downfall - failing to vary case (UPPER, Sentence, lower case); control line spacing; font colour and range of colours used ...
STEP 7: AUDIENCE FEEDBACK + EVALUATION
As well as teacher feedback, seek out feedback from teens, your likely core target audience, and ask them who they think it would be aimed at. If their view doesn't match up with your plan, ask why and try to fix your design!
You have a short evaluation ('explanation') which should make some clear points about decisions you made (denotation of your own media language) and WHY (the connotations, especially which audience this might signify or appeal to).
This is the type of production you should end up with (by Euan, Y10 2017):