Archive for June 2017

Gael Towey: A life in stories beyond Martha Stewart Living

After spending nearly 22 years at the creative helm of Martha Stewart Living, Gael Towey left in late 2012 to pursue something different, though she didn’t know what that would be at the time. She and Martha had practically invented the DIY revolution, encouraging their readers to craft their own lives, from cooking to sewing to entertaining. Towey led the brand strategy for everything Martha, including magazines, books, and products.

She took a much needed hiatus for six months, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and pondering her next move. Since Towey is so adept at storytelling, she decided to do documentary shorts, thus she started her next venture, Portraits in Creativity, which features artists and artisans doing what they do best. It’s an intimate look at the creative journey, through the experiences of the makers.

Here we talk to her about the creative journey from Martha Stewart Living to now, and the inherent challenges and benefits of being so intimately linked to a brand everyone identifies with.

Was it hard going out on your own after being at Martha Stewart Living for so long?

It was time to go. I knew that they were going to downsize and start closing magazines, and I didn’t really want to stick around for that. It was the end of 2012, I had just turned 60, and I thought, I’m still young and energetic and have lots of ideas, I need to have time for myself so that I can do something that’s really from my heart.

I’m so glad that I had the nerve to think that I could do something for myself. When I left, I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I knew I wanted to keep working but I gave myself six months to just decompress, travel, get together with friends who I had not seen in a long time. I almost never had time go out to lunch with friends for 22 years! That’s a slight exaggeration, but being able to do that opened a world of building relationships, and reconnecting and networking, which is good. I needed that.

I had amazing experiences at Martha Stewart. I was there for all the inventions and creativity and I feel enormously lucky. I learned so much and I was exposed to so much. Some of my happiest days at Martha Stewart Living were out shooting stories around the country: flowers and gardens, profiles of farmers, chefs and entertainers. Whether it was shooting peonies in Illinois or cheese making in Vermont or a new chef in Colorado, the opportunity to get around America and learn about makers and growers was enormously gratifying. I worked with incredible photographers, editors, and stylists to create our iconic photographs and tell stories in visually stunning ways.

At Martha Stewart I learned about creative, visually seductive storytelling. I bring that sensibility into my Portraits in Creativity series, where I have tried to capture the essence of a person in a profile that is only eight to twelve minutes long.

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

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Jennifer Kinon, Hillary Clinton’s Design Director: What happens when the campaign is over?

Despite the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton had the most memorable branding and social media campaign ever. Michael Bierut’s design of the “H,” started it all, but the campaign branding was carried out by Jennifer Kinon and a team of 16 designers over a 16 month period. She will tell you it was the most grueling and most rewarding experience of her life.

How do you build a brand in one of the most contentious presidential races we’ve ever witnessed, with a constantly evolving news cycle and berating Tweets from the opponent? Here we talk to Kinon about the campaign branding, her team, and what happened when it was all lost in the end.

How did you end up being the person in charge of Hillary’s brand?

I was recruited by Michael Bierut. I had worked with Michael for four years before Bobby C. Martin and I started OCD, and he knew my obsession with creating identity systems. He knew me and how I lead projects, so I was flattered that he reached out and said, “This thing just went live. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. I think you should be the design director.” I was like, “Well, I have a company, haven’t you heard? I have a lot of other things to do.” He’s like, “Well, you should do this instead.” I kind of knew from the minute he called that I would say yes, but it was a long process for Bobby and I to discuss and figure out how we would divide and conquer the world at that point, knowing that we wanted to keep OCD going. We had some of our most exciting clients that we’ve ever had at that time. We couldn’t just walk away from it.

The campaign interviewed a whole pile of people, so I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to get the position. But I got the call back, and when they said yes, I knew that I would say yes, and the rest is history.

It was sort of too good to pass up, wasn’t it?

It is. I often get asked, “What do you miss most about the campaign?” It took me a while to figure out an answer. At the beginning I was like, “Nothing. I’m glad I have my life back.”

But, the real answer is, every day I knew I was doing the most important thing that I could be doing. It was a huge, exciting moment that changed dramatically throughout the experience.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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Art Chantry: Design’s Anti-Hero Receives AIGA’s Highest Honor

As a guy who rose to popularity for his crude album cover designs for bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Sonics, and Mudhoney nearly three decades ago, Art Chantry is still trying to figure out the design world. In fact, he’s adverse to most design these days and resists technology as much possible. The man prefers to work with his hands, manipulating materials, images, and type in a way that the computer just can’t do, in his opinion.

Chantry is an outspoken critic of modern design and designers, but despite that, he’s being honored as a 2017 AIGA Medalist. The irony hasn’t been lost on him. It just goes to show that good work is good work, and you can be welcomed into the club even if you’re an outsider with a bad attitude. Even he couldn’t believe it when he received the call from AIGA.

Here he talks about what’s wrong with design today, his hoarding habits, and why he’s such a pain in the ass.

Do you like design today?

That’s a loaded question. I do like SOME design done today. But, frankly, I look at old design, not new design. Old design, pre-computer design—when the IDEA was the coin of the realm. I look at contemporary design annuals and see this incredibly high level of mediocrity. Page after page of beautifully rendered (crisp and clean) design that all looks the same. About every 10 to 20 pages one piece will pop out like a huge sore thumb. At first you can’t figure out why. Then you realize it’s because it actually has an idea being presented. Most graphic design today is not really design. It’s decoration. Graphic decoration. It just has to look nice, or pretty, or cool. It has to fit in to a very high standard of production values that only computers can give you.

Any design work that doesn’t look exactly like your ‘comp’ is pounded down like a nail that sticks up. Ideas are erased so fast in an environment like that. These are all things that I try to avoid in my work. Strangely, ideas are all I have to offer any more. Computers don’t have “idea” buttons (yet).

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

Joe Duffy: Reflecting on his contentious debate with Tibor Kalman 28 years ago

At the 1989 National AIGA Conference, Tibor Kalman took the main stage and talked about what was wrong with design. He then proceeded to point the finger at an ad Joe Duffy and Michael Peters put in “The Wall Street Journal” as an example of bad design. Duffy, who was in the audience, was stunned and completely caught off guard.

It was unprovoked and unfair, to say the least. After the onstage debacle, Duffy called for a session in which he could respond to Kalman. It was perhaps too little, too late. Kalman’s wrath had already gone viral, or as viral as things could go in 1989. So, Print magazine’s editors invited the two to sit down in their New York office, with Steven Heller as moderator, and published the debate. It’s recently resurfaced online, so I wanted to talk to Duffy today, 28 years after the fact, to get his take on it. Kalman, of course, passed away in 1999, and was feisty til the end.

Duffy is still designing, but his son and daughter—who are his business partners—are mostly running the show at his Minneapolis-based office. He prefers to paint as much as possible.

Tell me what happened at the conference?

Tibor was a different guy. I was in the audience. We knew one another, at least by reputation back then. I think I was on the national board of AIGA at the time. He knew I was going to be there. He took it upon himself to tell the audience all the things that were bad in design, and as a summation he projected this full-page ad that I took out with Michael Peters and said, “Now here is a perfect example of what’s wrong with design,” or something like that.

It was a cheap shot, to say the least. It was like this 12 year old boy on the playground that was jealous, basically.

Read the rest of the interview here.