GQ Magazine



Roland Barthes is one of the leading theorists of semiotics.

Semiology: the study of signs

Denotation: the dictionary definition of a message

Connotation: the implied or additional meaning of a message

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Semiotic Analysis of GQ Cover Page

SKYLINE: attracts the readers as this is a 'special issue' which makes the readers think this is a rare opportunity. The phrase 'mind, body and masculinity' appeals to the target audience of men. 

MASTHEAD: the font is simple and bold to draw attention to the magazine. The reader's focus is then brought to the rest of the cover.

COVERLINE: this is eye-catching and commands the reader's focus. It fits in with the design of the cover and appeals to the target audience. 

POSITION OF TEXT: the text is around the main image, focusing readers' attention on it.

PUFF: makes the coverline stand out

DIRECT ADDRESS: 'it's not as hard as you think' engages and includes the reader

TYPOGRAPHY: bold and classy, fitting in with the theme of the magazine. Different fonts are used for different parts of the cover to ensure each part stands out.

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Semiotic Analysis of GQ Cover Page

MAIN IMAGE/MODEL CREDIT: this is Dwayne Johnson, a celebrity well known for his strength and masculinity. This gives the readers someone to look up to, which will help promote products advertised in the magazine. Johnson is looking directly at the audience, seemingly making eye contact and adding a personal approach. The intensity of his stare could suggest how seriously he expects to be taken and how seriously the readers should take themselves. 

DESIGN: the red theme of the cover connotes strength and power, appealing to the magazine's target audience of men.

ADVERTISING: 'your ideal beach watch' is featured on the cover in order to generate advertising revenue. 

COVER LINE: 'The Style Guide'  encourages the reader to consider the magazine a 'how to' guide in terms of masculinity in a society so focused on aesthetics and image.

COVER LINE: 'The extraordinary truth behind the Viola Beach tragedy' is a reference to the band Viola Beach who all died in a car crash in Sweden and the subsequent speculation around the crash. By including serious journalism as well as entertainment and fashion advice, the magazine is broadening its range of offerings for its audience. 

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Product Context

GQ was launched in 1931 as a quarterly publication called Gentleman's Quarterly, aimed specifically at fashion industry insiders. The publication focused on fashion, style and culture for men as well as articles on food, movies, fitness, sex, music, travel, sports, technology and books. 

It is produced by Condé Nast and is now a multi-platform brand, published both in print and on the iPad. It also has its own acclaimed website, iPhone apps and an annual event called 'GQ Men of the Year'.

GQ has an average circulation of around 115,000.

GQ's slogan is 'the magazine for men with an IQ'. The brand is built around more traditional ideas of masculinity, targeting a more serious-minded, conservative and older reader than most other men's lifestyle magazines. 

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Social and Cultural Contexts

The term 'metrosexuality' was coined in 1994 to describe the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city. The term gained global popularity in the early 2000s, when it became more socially acceptable for men to openly care about their looks, clothing and skincare regime. 

Metrosexuality has since become a highly lucrative consumer market: research has shown that men outspend women on footwear. Men's magazines embraced this through their content and advertising. Arguably, the primary role of such magazines is to encourage spending amongst its readers.

In 2014, the term 'spornosexuality' was coined to describe men who are extremely body-focused, who spend all their time at the gym. This can be seen in GQ through the focus of Johnson's bicep in the foreground and the rest of his image secondary to it. 

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Audience Theory (Marketing)

Customer segmentation is the practice of dividing a customer base into groups of individuals that are similar in specific ways relevent to marketing, such as age, gender, interests and spending habits. Companies are then able to better tailor their marketing materials towards that segment, in terms of their:

  • Geographic (e.g. location, region, urban/rural)
  • Demographic (e.g. age, gender, occupation, socioeconomic group)
  • Behaviour (rate of usage, benefits sought, loyalty status, readiness to purchase)
  • Psychographic (personality, lifestyles, attitudes, class)

Psychographics: the categorisation of consumers in terms of their needs and desires. 

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Narrative Discourse

Narrative discourse is an account of events that employs verbs of speech, motion and action to describe a series of events that are dependent on one another. 

On the GQ cover, this involves telling the audience that masculinity is inherently linked to physical strength and that money and materialism are important. 

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Representation of Gender

GQ has very clear ideas on masculinity and femininity. Beginning in the 1990s, the magazine began introducing some female actors, models and music artists on the cover. While the male models remained clothed, the female models were mostly shot less than fully clothed. 

GQ frequently depicts women drastically differently to how it depicts men. Some women are nude not just on the cover but also within the magazine and on the magazine's website, which has an entire section dedicated to women (but not targeted to women readers).

GQ also publishes a yearly list of 'Sexiest Women' with accompanying photos. When Lana Del Rey was awarded 'Woman of the Year', she was asked to pose nude for the cover, whereas 'Man of the Year' James Corden was shot fully clothed, but still objectified - various women's hands stroke his face and pull aside his suit jacket.

What's different is the method of objectification. Del Rey is seen as **** because she is vulnerable and accessible, emphasised by her shy, passive body language. Tinie Tempah, another 'Man of the Year' stands legs apart, arms spread, clearly dominant. For women, the sexual objectification is derived from disempowerment, whereas for men, it's derived from empowerment. 

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Representation of Ethnicity

Using a hugely successful black cover model as their dominant image, GQ is presenting a role model for its readers. Although Johnson's Hollywood success might be outside of most readers' possibilities, his work ethic and desire to want to better himself isn't. 

Johnson's success as a wrestling character allowed him to cross over into more mainstrem culture, most importantly an actor. Black actors have, historically, always been paid less than their white counterparts and so for Johnson to be considered one of the most bankable Hollywood stars is an achievement and his success is even greater than one first realises. 

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Blumler and Katz's Uses and Gratifications Theory

Personal identity: 'How to be a man' promotes ideas of stereotypical masculinity

Information: 'The extraordinary truth behind the Viola Beach tragedy'

Entertainment: 'How Dwayne Johnson became Hollywood's most bankable star'

Social integration/interation: Direct gaze makes it seem as though Johnson is addressing the audience. 

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