The Modern Fanzine Covers of NME

Mark Neil has been the art director of the venerable weekly UK music magazine NME for the past year. Neil came to NME after a stellar stint as art director of The Big Issue magazine, first in Glasgow and later in London. He led a redesign of NME October 2013 that radically revamped the magazine’s look and cover format. The new design is brilliant from front to back, influenced by everything from punk fanzines and The Face to old issues of NME and the loud and snotty pages of Bloomberg Businessweek. MagCulture says that the NME “feels more vital than it has for ages,” and I couldn’t agree more.

It’s on the covers where Neil’s new design really shines. Alternating between sharp, original photography, bold graphics, and cut-and-paste punk style visuals, Neil describes it as “a 2014 way to do rock and roll magazine covers that isn’t just purely celebrity photography-based.” The covers often remind me of music gig posters, and it’s no surprise that Neil says “I like the cover to act like a poster for the club of NME.”

Many of the covers feature artwork and graphic designs by Neil, necessitated in part by the limited NME budgets. “I see this as a good thing,” says Neil, ” to create variety and encourage us to be more fearless.” He describes his design style as “pop-arty, messing with cultural references when I can, looking to old punk fanzines and rock magazines such as NY Rocker for inspiration.” Neil also cites the work Barney Bubbles did at NME in the late 1970s and early 80s. “I love his illustrative approach when production was so limited, the playful nature with colour overlays on text and the cut and paste printing. I wanted to nod to this but make something new of it, too.”

The NME covers are delightful and surprising and have a very rock and roll edge to them. Best of all, they feel like they’re done by someone with a real love for the music and the culture that the magazine covers. “We try and play with the past, present and future of music so it opens up this great window of creative opportunity with styles and looks,” explains Neil. “My idea with the new NME was to make it feel classic and iconic but at the same time make it feel like some sort of modern fanzine.”

You can read more about Mark Neil at magCulture, Creative Review, and Andy Cowles.

(Above): November 2, 2013. Artwork: Mark Neil.

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January 4, 2014

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November 16, 2013. Photograph: Shamil Tanna.


April 5, 2014. Illustration: Noma Bar.

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October 26, 2013.


February 22, 2014. Photograph: Paul Slattery.

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March 1, 2014. Photograph: Ed Miles; artwork: Mark Neil.

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February 15, 2014. Photograph: Roger Sargent.

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February 1, 2014.

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October 12, 2013. Photograph: Jimmy King.


March 22, 2014. Photograph: Dean Chalkley, set design: Dani Liquieri.


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