The Dual Covers of Zeit Magazin

Zeit Magazin is the weekly magazine of Die Zeit, the German national weekly newspaper with a circulation of 520,000, based in Hamburg. With offices in Berlin, the current iteration of Zeit Magazin was launched in 2007. Since its beginning, under the direction of editor-in-chief Christoph Amend, Zeit Magazin has published a unique dual cover design, with a front and inside cover working together as a unified theme. The covers are an exhilerating and often provocative mix of illustration, celebrity photographs, photojournalism, and powerful graphics. “Split covers” have become commonplace on magazines, but they’re often little more than outtakes, or at best a selection of multiple characters from a movie or TV show, the magazine cover equivalent of trading cards (“collect all 4 covers!”). These on Zeit Magazin are fully-realized and very purposeful, with a sense of creativity, wit, and style that consistently delights and surprises. (Much of the strength and effectiveness of the dual covers lies in the brilliance of their cover headlines…it’s worth the slight effort to get them translated.)

In addition to the creative approach to covers, the inside of Zeit Magazin features strong, simple, elegant design mixed with smart, stylish photographs and illustrations, often presented in very original formats.

Zeit Magazin has just published their bi-annual International Issue, a 260-page collection of the best stories and images from the past six months of the magazine [see covers below], along with some original material as well. It’s a beautiful magazine experience, rich, lush, and very art-driven, with expansive photo essays and bold graphics, plus lots of style and fashion. The International Issue is a true visual treat, and a striking piece of magazine making. The New York Times T magazine blog reviewed an earlier edition of the Zeit Magazin International Issue and called it “A truly great international magazine.” Copies are available at newsstands in New York, London, and other cities, or by emailing:

Along with the revitalized New York Times Magazine, The California Sunday Magazine, the Wall Street Journal‘s WSJ., and others, Zeit Magazin represents part of a remarkable renaissance in newspaper magazines. These magazines all feature high-quality journalism and writing, combined with dynamic design and creative imagery. And as with Zeit Magazin’s dual cover design, many of these magazines are experimenting with new and creative approaches to story and visual presentation.

In addition to editor-in chief Amend, the Zeit Magazin creative team includes:

Creative Director: Mirko Borsche
Art Director: Jasmin Müller-Stoy
Photo Director: Milena Carstens
Photography Consultant: Andreas Wellnitz

Editor-in-chief Christoph Amend gives some insight into the creation and making of Zeit Magazin’s dual covers, followed by a collection of 15 dual covers from 2010-2015. In all cases, the front cover is on the left, the inside cover on the right.

How did the dual cover idea originate?
Christoph Amend: We had to prepare a internal presentation before the launch in 2007. So we came up with a couple of “fake” cover stories to explain what kind of stories we wanted to run. I saw two photographs of a balloon; on one of them the balloon popped. We used both photographs to illustrate a story about the booming art market: “Will it ever burst?” It was the first double cover. During our presentation everybody seemed to like the cover, so we thought, why don’t we try that every week? In the beginning it was tough, and a lot of people in the German media thought we would give up sooner or later. We didn’t. And after a couple of weeks it became a trademark.

Are the covers conceived as dual from the beginning?
Christoph Amend: Every cover is conceived as dual from the beginning. The punchline is always different. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s all about the headlines, sometimes it’s all about the visuals.

What is the hardest part of creating two covers?
Christoph Amend: The double cover has to work on two levels: the first cover has to get your attention, as every other cover. But than the second cover has to add something, too! What I find fascinating these days are reactions on my Instagram account. I post the two covers separately; I’m always curious to find out which one works best.

Do you have a favorite cover?
Christoph Amend: I loved the beautiful artwork, that Adam Higton did for the Spring Issue [No. 10, 2015, see below]. We asked ourselves: How do we feel when Spring is finally there? Our creative director Mirko Borsche came up with the idea of the bee on the first cover and the flower on the second one. Then Adam did a wonderful job; our photo editor Milena Carstens worked with him. When you look at the cover now, I hope it comes across naturally, maybe cute, maybe funny, too. But it’s also a radical one; we decided to let the visual speak on its own on the first cover. No words necessary.

What has been the reader response to the covers?
Christoph Amend: The readers loved it from the beginning, which we didn’t really expect, to be honest. What I really loved was an email from a reader a couple of months after the launch. She wrote, that she had read another newspaper’s magazine and thought, ”Wait a minute, something’s missing here, where’s my double cover?!”

(Above): Zeit Magazin, No. 53, 2014. Images: Kraftwerk, 2014, courtesy: Spruth Magers.

Zeit Magazin06Zeit Magazine, No. 16, 2012. Illustrations: Christoph Niemann.

Zeit Magazin01Zeit Magazin, No. 41, 2010. Photographs: Jonas Unger.

Zeit Magazin04Zeit Magazin, No 7, 2013. Photographs: Janz and Hendrik Schneider.

Zeit Magazin05Zeit Magazine, No. 14, 2012. Illustrations: Steven Bonner.

Zeit Magazin20Zeit Magazin, No. 10, 2015. Illustrations: Adam Higton.

Zeit Magazin10Zeit Magazin, No. 5, 2014. Photographs: Pari Dukovic.

Zeit Magazin02Zeit Magazin, No. 43, 2011.

Zeit MagazinDesignZeit Magazin, No. 14, 2015 (The Design Issue). Illustrations: Naomi Okubu.

Zeit Magazin07Zeit Magazin, No. 20, 2013.

Zeit Magazin11Zeit Magazin, No. 9, 2014. Illustrations: Konstantin Grcic.

Zeit Magazin16Zeit Magazin, No. 2, 2015. Photographs: Daniel Josefsohn.

Zeit Magazin14Zeit Magazin, No. 32, 2014. Illustrations: Christoph Niemann.

Zeit Magazin03Zeit Magazin, No. 32, 2012. A tribute to the 12 people killed in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings.

Zeit Magazin13Zeit Magazin, No. 18, 2014. Photograph: Jiri Hubatka / Mauritius Images.

Zeit Magazin18Zeit Magazin International Edition, No. 1, 2015. Photographs: Peter Lindbergh, Ward Ivan Rafik.