Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fit for Print

The editors at the Print Regional Design Annual asked a series of questions of each of the winning design firms, below are my answers:

1. What's your favorite thing about being a designer in your city or town?
Being a designer in New York City – though technically we’re located in Brooklyn.
 The most challenging?
Space. Dollars per square foot.

2. What was the single greatest challenge or obstacle in making this piece, and how did you overcome it?
Trying to make each issue perfect and perfectly un-designed.

3. Is there an interesting backstory to any of the materials or elements you incorporated—the typeface(s), paper, photos, or illustrations?

The covers are a new direction for us where we ask each featured illustrator to somehow incorporate the issue number on the cover in an interesting way. And hopefully an interesting, non-obvious, unusual way. No. 12 and 13 have been the most successful in my eyes and what we are hoping for with each cover.

When I asked if we might be able to purchase the Martin Haake’s cover art for Issue 11 I was surprised to learn that it was all digital.


Issue 12’s model is the illustrator, Krister Flodin’s girlfriend who is also an illustrator. She doesn’t have six fingers.


Issue 13 began when our illustrator was going into the hospital, he promised the sketches before going in but warned us that he would be out of commission for at least 30-days. We didn’t worry about the deadline, we did offer to reschedule his feature for another issue but he insisted we go ahead. He delivered the final, we finished the article, it went on the newsstand and then we did another piece on him in our sister publication, Creative Quarterly. He went back in the hospital in early January and passed away at the end of the month. Nick Dewar was only 37 years old.

4. What was the process like for this piece? Did your client give you a lot of leeway, or were you sticking to a strict brief?
We are our own client; we’re not a publisher, we’re a design studio that produces two art/design magazines, an annual, directory and books, oh, and we did our first annual conference this year.

5. If you could do one thing differently in designing this piece, what would it be?
Size. I would love to have a larger format or at the very least more pages. We’d love to show more environmental photos as this is a very popular feature of 3x3.

6. What sorts of clients do you normally work for? Large, small? Any particular type of industry or institution?
In my career I’ve worked in advertising agencies large, medium and small. I’ve owned two of my own and now operate an independent design studio with self-generated projects. We also do the occasional branding project but quite frankly I prefer being my own client.

7. How do you get most of your work? Self-promotion, word-of-mouth, other approach?
A combination of approaches has always worked for me, primarily publicity and direct mail. I have always believed in being as visible as possible whether it was through a press release or entering a show. Publicity has brought more work over the transom than anything. It gets people talking which leads to being invited to a pitch.

8. How has the economy changed your design business? Has it affected the designers in your area, and if so, how?
It’s scarier. We have three shows for 3x3 and four shows for Creative Quarterly—I sweat bullets for a full thirty days prior to every show deadline. I don’t sleep well, I check my email more than usual, I tally the total entries every night--I worry constantly whether anyone or enough people will enter the show. It hasn’t been any different since we started in 2003, but this year was scarier than usual. But I have to add that it has been our most successful year to date. And the entries were of a very high caliber, fewer marginal pieces than prior years.

Most of the people I know, the really good people are busy. They may be taking on projects they normally would turn down, or do it for less just to get the job but they’re busy. The lesser talents are the ones who are really hurting.

9. Do you do any other type of work besides design? Or do you have a passion that you hope to turn into a business one day?
Since this is our business, publishing and designing magazines and books, we stay pretty busy just doing that. I have an interest in art and photography and spend more time with a camera than with brushes.

10. Is there a certain type of work you see being done by a lot of designers in your area? Do you think your location has a regional style?
I’ve always thought New York had a very sophisticated style, heavy on the conceptual side when compared to the west coast, which is more decorative and less conceptual.

11. On that note, have you worked (or trained in) any other region of the US as a designer? What differences have you noticed?
Yes, I spent the bulk of my career in Texas—Austin and Houston, moving to New York in 1999. New York is different in that you specialize; in Texas I was a generalist. I would design packaging one day and be on location the next day for a major TV shoot. When I got to New York headhunters asked me what I wanted to do, I told them “everything” and quickly learned that’s not how it’s done here.

12. What does winning a place in the Regional Design Annual mean to you personally, to your clients, to your colleagues, or all of the above?

It means a lot to our small staff (three full-time plus an intern or two) and it means a lot to our audience of international illustrators. And hopefully we’ll get more interest from art directors and designers about illustration, after all that is our mission. Throughout my career illustrators have always made me look good.

Any comments about the issue or about Print generally?
The Regional Design Issue is so important in that you get to see work by region; no one else is doing that. I’ve been a subscriber to Print for eons.

Thanks so much for your responses.

The Print staff

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