I'm not an artist. When I was in 6th grade, I  failed art class. (One assignment was to crumple a piece of paper and  draw it. Mine looked kind of like a mountain, so I drew a mountain. Not  very well.) I was in awe of a friend who, in just minutes, with no  preparation, could draw dogs that looked like dogs, while all mine  looked like giraffalopes. As I've aged, I've not developed any greater  skill.

I do like art, though, and so do others.  So, when designing the magazine, I decided it should have art, and it  does, in a variety of styles. Some day, I may decide on a house style;  until then, eclectic is my watchword.

Because I have  no graphic talent myself, I have a very hands-off approach to cover  creation. I usually pick a story I think would make a good cover, and  then choose an artist whose style I think is a good fit. (I sometimes  let the artist pick from among several stories, but I usually have one  in mind as most appropriate.) Once the story's chosen, I send the artist  one or several clips from the story, intended to a) set the desired  scene, and b) provide enough information that the artist knows what  there is to know.

I ask the artist for one or more  concepts, give some feedback (sometimes administrative - "I need space  for author names", sometimes opinion - "I like this one better"), and  let them loose. Then there's a draft of the complete image, a few minor  tweaks, and the thing is done.

Usually, the result  doesn't look at all like what I originally imagined. That doesn't really  matter, though. The artist is drawing on the same source material I am,  and their interpretation is just as good as mine. Better, since they  know how to draw.

There are drawbacks to this approach, of  course. Sometimes, the resulting cover isn't really to my taste. Invariably, that's  a cover that draws raves from others, so once I've selected an artist whose style I like, I broadly trust their judgment. Of course, the public is unpredictable. Once (and only once), an artist failed to produce anything. In that  case, I whipped something together myself with GIMP and some photographs  - and that also got good reviews. It worked, but I know my limits, and I use professionals whenever possible.