Aaron Huffman, The Stranger

1. where are you from and how long have you been an AD?
I've lived in Seattle most of my life, and I've been the art director here at The Stranger since December 2006.

2. how was your university experience - did you feel ready for the real world upon graduating?
My university experience was a little disappointing, at least as far as my classes were concerned. I learned most of the practical skills I've used in my design work by working at the student newspaper, which came out five days a week. Deadlines, software, all the basic fundamentals of page design—all of this stuff came from the paper (and the amazing art program we had in my high school). Eventually I dropped out (partially on the advice of my favorite professor) and did whatever design work I could findposters, CD art, etc. Years later I ended up at The Stranger, where I started by doing manual paste-up (with wax! Another skill I learned in college) and advertizing design.

3. the stranger is such an awesome music magazine, how thrilled are you to be directing its visual identity?
I really love being part of the Stranger tradition. The paper is very involved in the local community in many ways—arts, politics, music. I really love Seattle, so I like to feel that I'm doing something for the city. We've always used our cover as our own personal art gallery. The cover images rarely have anything to do with the content of the paper, so I think that keeps us from looking like the average alternative weekly. Basically, if it seems like something that somebody else would do, we don't do it.

4. what are some of the key responsibilities in your day to day role?
I oversee a small staff of editorial designers, dole out assignments to illustrators and photographers, and generally do my part to help keep things running smoothly. With our tight deadlines, there isn't much room slacking off in terms of finding/creating good art.

5. you hire illustrators all the time, how does someone get your attention?
A unique style is an attention-getter, of course. There's an awful lot of illustrators out there, and less work to go around these days. This is another place where I try to avoid typical alt-weekly-style art. I try to use as many local artists as I can, but it's also great to have a stable of people all over the country—and beyond—who have fresh styles and viewpoints.

6. what can an illustrator do to really piss you off?
Missed deadlines and poor communication are the deal breakers. Lateness can easily be forgiven if you're in contact with me and respond quickly, but the combination of the two is deadly.

7. what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?
Well, my particular corner of the design industry, the independent alternative weekly, has been a little slow lately, but I think things are looking up. The key is to branch out, become a valuable part of the local community, and have a creative and vital presence on the web. The physical paper is just a part of what The Stranger is doing these days. Not only is that vital to our survival, it's also really exciting.

8. what are you loving about design right now?
Design is in an in-between period right now, as are a lot of things. There's a lot of possibility. The old ways of doing things are dying, and the new ways are in the process of being invented. I'm excited to see where things end up in, say, ten years.

9. what are you into music wise - what are you listening to / do friends REALLY trust your opinion band wise?
Since I'm also a musician, I would hope that my friends trust my opinion when it comes to music, but maybe I don't want to know the answer to that question. More often than not, I end up listening to the same music I've been listening to since I was a teenager: the Pixies, the Smiths, the Cure, Blur, R.E.M., etc. As far as new stuff goes, I've been listening to Blitzen Trapper, Grizzly Bear, Vampire Weekend, Liam Finn, and probably a bunch more that I'm forgetting.

10. what magazines catch your eye / do you just have to pick up?
I used to be such a magazine-aholic, but I've weaned myself off of them a bit. Paste has always looked amazing. The Believer and McSweeney's are always a pleasure to look at. There's a cooking magazine, Saveur, that's very attractive. I remember Rolling Stone always being really classy years ago, but I haven't picked it up in a while.

11. how important is down time, away from the office etc for your creativity?
Getting away from work once in a while is essential. It's all too easy to reach a point where the last thing you want to do when you leave work is think about art and/or design. That's not a good point to be at. I recently went on a trip to a few countries in Europe, and I didn't really speak any of the languages. It was refreshing to look at the design all around me—posters, books, signs, menus, everything—completely divorced from the meaning of the words, based solely on its composition. I try to step back and do that as much as I can.

12. favorite font and why?
Oof. That's a tough one. I'm partial to fonts like Trade Gothic these days. Classy, versatile. We have a font called Knockout that we use at The Stranger that has about a million different weights and variations. It's good for just about any display/headline/cover text application.

13. any advice for new illustrators just starting out?
I'd say establish your own unique style and convince people that you're the one they need instead of trying to figure out what people want and fitting yourself into that mold.

14. any advice for those looking to get into the magazine industry?
Learn web design. It will be a big part of your job. I went to school just prior to the web taking over everything—and I also happen to love the specifics of designing for ink on paper—so I can't say that I'm that excited about designing for the web, but it's undeniably a major part of everything. Learn to love it.

Thanks Aaron, LOVE what you do.


LOU VEGA, ESPN the Magazine

1. where are you from and how long have you been an AD?
I'm originally from NYC and have been an AD with ESPN the magazine for three years.

2. lets talk briefly about your job - whats great about being an AD?
For me it's always exciting to think of reader being entertained or enlightened by something that started out as raw copy, a handful of white pages and the seed of a rough idea. I also enjoy seeing the process transformed by pulling various resources together along with inspirational elements from everything around me to visually tell a story in a fresh way.

3. how was your university experience - did you feel ready for the
real world upon graduation?

Aside from having some terrific professors and a great foundation at F.I.T., the best part of school was having time to devote to study design in my free time. For example when I'd have time between classes I would hit the library and sit for hours devouring art books and pouring through back issue of magazines and spending my time sketching. But school also left me technically unprepared for the real world. I didn't have sufficient experience with design programs which I had to learn on my first job. Most importantly school opened the door for my first editorial job when I entered the SPD student competition.
4. i love your type treatments man - where do all of these great ideas
come from?

I usually start sketching ideas as soon as I have text to read. If I'm lucky I'll have a headline as well and that will help me to figure out how I can play on words or expand on what’s happening in the image while keeping with the tone and mood of the story.

5. do you design any of your own fonts - or do you like to kinda
manipulate and play with pre-existing fonts?

I mostly use pre-existing fonts. I know typographers dedicate numerous hours perfecting minute details that I haven't the slightest knowledge of so I keep all my typeface doodles confined to my sketchbook.

6. what are you loving about design right now?
I enjoy seeing all the different styles and integration of different materials and mediums in what seems like a tidal wave of constant output by designers. I also love how design in general is recognized and appreciated more as a sign of quality and value. And of course how type is given center stage and being treated like the main art.
7. does your approach to design or layout change when you're working
with illustration as opposed to photography?

My aim is always to compliment the art and never to overpower it. Illustration takes extra consideration in my execution since my design are a bit like illustrations and it can lessen the impact of the art.

8. can you give a quick once over of your process when designing a page?
We produce the magazine in two weeks and it's amazing to see the orchestra of writers, editors, photo editors, designers, production, photographers and illustrators co-ordinate to meet deadlines. It always ends in a blur.
So the process I mostly remember is meeting to discuss how to art the story, beg for a headline, commission art, approve sketches or make a photo selection, meet once again with editors to talk about all elements in story like sidebars.
Then I start to brainstorm opener possibilities while trying to keep in mind how those design elements from the opening spread can be carried into the interior pages to maintain a cohesive packaged feel from start to finish. I'm also trying to avoid overused or cliched sports metaphors in the design.

9. who's work are you loving right now?
Too many to list, I tend to fall in love easily. Anything that is clever or graphic gets my attention. I've also been admiring alot of motion work on motionographer.com. I'm always fascinated by movement since I stare at static images all day. So, I'm always trying to figure out how I can add the illusion of action in my layouts. I also love anything with infographics.
10. what magazines do you pick up on the regular?
I'm a magazine whore. I'll pick up or read anything. If I had to name the last magazine I read and enjoyed it was Monocle and Milk magazine.

11. can you list me some go to fonts? and maybe also so steer clear of fonts?
I'm a typeface whore too! It's hard to pick a favorite, because the typeface is usually selected after I've decided on the direction of the design. And unlike other magazine that have a specific palette of typefaces to work with, we are constantly switching faces to stay fresh. So it's not uncommon to have every feature in our well have it's own distinct typeface. Part of the fun is tracking down a new typefaces that fits with the story. If I had to name a typeface I've recently purchased and love using is Quanta and Composite. And no typeface is off limits.

12. how important is down time for you / how are you spending it?
I really love what I do, but i also strongly believe in a work life balance, so it helps to have outside forces direct your thoughts away from work. Like most creative types I don’t have an on/off switch so being home gives an opportunity to focus my creativity on other things.

13. advice to new designers or illustrators breaking into the industry?
-I feel lucky that I've worked with really great people at each of my jobs. I would say choose to work for some one who will offer criticism and feedback that you will value and learn from.
-Be comfortable and confident presenting your design and defend and articulate your design decisions.
-I find that keeping a sketch book and Keep all rejected or killed layouts useful.
-Learn time management. That will go along way in being able to show you can handle bigger jobs.
-Lastly sign up as a SPD student member and enter every competition.

For Illustrators: Have a clean easy to navigate website. I'm not a big fan of Flash or sites that don't allow me to pull an image off their site.
Thanks Lou! you can see more of Lou's work on his site: http://louvegamedia.com/
Great stuff - Awesome spread with Alex Nabaum!!


JASON TREAT, The Atlantic

  1. where are you from and how long have you been an AD?
    I’m kind of from the east coast generally. When I was a kid we moved every three or four years, so I grew up in a number of different places on the east coast: New Jersey, Atlanta, Suburban Maryland (Washington DC), Eastern Ohio (outside Youngstown), outside Hartford, CT. We kept moving back to Maryland, though, and I’ve lived in DC for 12 years and my brothers live in Baltimore and my parents in Annapolis, so I’ll say I’m from Maryland/DC. I’ve been the AD for the magazine since the fall of ‘05, and before that I was the AD for in-house creative services for Atlantic Media Company, which owns The Atlantic, National Journal, Government Executive, The Hotline, and a few other inside-the-beltway publications. I did house ads, media kits, marketing materials, that kind of stuff. I was doing that for three or four years before I got the opportunity to move over to the magazine.

how was your university experience -
did you feel ready for the real world upon graduating?

Uh, not in the slightest. When I was in high school I had this amazing experience the summer before my senior year where it was kind of like 5 weeks of art school with a bunch of super creative people with minimal parental supervision at Wesleyan University. I loved it, but I also realized that if that was what art school was like, I’d never get anything done. So I actually went to school at a small liberal arts college in Virginia, which was about as far from art school as you could imagine. I loved it, but I had no academic training to speak of in terms of design when I graduated, even though I was an art and english major. I regret that decision a little bit, because knowing what I know now I’m sure I would have been great in art school, but I was young, and I loved my college experience, and without it I wouldn’t be where I am now. Life is funny that way.
the Atlantic is such an exciting magazine,
how thrilled are you to be directing its visual identity?

I really love my job. I work with what I consider to be some of the smartest people on the planet, and they happen to also be some of the nicest people around. Each issue is really challenging, in that you have to balance the ideas expressed in the article (which are usually very, very nuanced and complicated) with the legacy of a very old magazine with which readers have a pretty intense relationship. Which is to say everything has to be very well considered. Additionally, there are so many smart people here, and so many good ideas, that you really have to be open to anything and willing to listen, which I enjoy. There’s a lot of collaboration, a lot of discussion, and the best ideas often come from unexpected places around the office. It also doesn’t hurt that I really believe in our content and find it smart and engaging. It’s a dream job, really, at least for me.

what are some of the key responsibilities in your day to day role?
It really depends on where we are in our edit cycle. Because we’re a monthly, we have a ridiculously long lead time which often makes me feel like I’m living in a time warp. For example, today is October 14, and I’m sending my first batch of files to pre-press for our December issue, which won’t hit newsstands until mid-November. So for the past few days I’ve been viewing final color, proofreading pages, kerning headlines, that kind of thing. But three weeks ago I was doing a lot of reading and research, looking at portfolios for possible illustration and photo assignments, and trying to figure out how all the stuff we wanted to get in this issue was going to fit. I guess this is another reason I love my job: every day is different.
you hire illustrators all the time, how does someone get your attention?
The simple answer is: do great work. If it’s good, we’ll see it. The more complicated answer is: it really all depends on what I’m looking for. My job is almost like being a collage artist. I need to combine a lot of different elements together to tell individual stories that make up a more-or-less cohesive whole. Doing that requires certain artists for certain types of illustrations. There are tons of illustrators that I love, and would love to include in our book, but I just haven’t had the right story for them yet. I keep an eye out for them, and I have their work bookmarked and on hand, but the fit just hasn’t been right yet. It doesn’t mean I don’t like their work, or that I won’t hire them. The right opportunity just hasn’t presented itself yet. So to get my attention, I’d say do good work and get it in front of me. I get an absurd amount of spam, and 99% of the time I delete mass mailings that aren’t personally addressed to me. If you like our book and think you fit, write me a personal e-mail. I read those, and look at the work. It might not fit, but at least you’ll know that I looked at it. I like mailers too, and we keep and file stuff that we like. If we really like it, we hang it up in our offices.
what can an illustrator do to really piss you off?
Spam really, really, really sucks. It’s a huge waste of time, and it almost always ensures that I’ll delete it. If you send out a mass mailing, make sure you use BCC, because otherwise we see who else you’ve sent it to, and how many. I know illustrators need to hustle, and I don’t mind that, but making it look like you’re NOT hustling goes a long way. Treat me like a real person, and address me like a real person. Send me a personal e-mail. Spell my name correctly. And don’t send me stuff every other day. One last thing: illustrators that send me snail mail and e-mail when they really don’t fit our magazine (or know anything about it) piss me off. If you know anything about our magazine, you probably know that we don’t do goofy animal illustrations of children’s type stuff. Illustrators that don’t take the time to think about and understand their potential clients definitely piss me off, and I say that with a lot of respect for illustrators and the work they do. It’s tough out there, and you’ve got to get your work in front of a lot of people, but there are smart ways to do it and dumb ways to do it. Don’t be dumb.

what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?
It’s obviously tough out there, and something has fundamentally changed in the nature of the industry. No one is quite sure how it’s going to shake out, but it will never be the same. So I’d say those that are doing what they were doing 5 years ago probably aren’t going to thrive in this new environment. It’s not going away, it’s just changing, and the roles that have been established based on the old economy are changing with it. So there are a lot of lines being blurred right now, and a lot of experimentation, and no one is sure what publishing will look like quite yet. But I know that there will always be a market for great content. I can’t speak to the economics of it, but I’m fairly confident that people will still be able to make money off of it. Which means that if you make great content, there will be a market for your work. Finding the right marriage between what that content is and where that market is and how big it is, I can’t say. But it will be there somewhere.

what are you loving about design right now?
I love that there is so much out there. It’s pretty intimidating, actually. You can’t keep up with it, which is pretty cool. I try to keep up with We Love Typography, but they post like 25 things a day, and you really only have time to explore one or two of those in depth. That’s a good thing, by the way. Everybody has different stuff that they see and that turns them on, and you can share that with people and they’ll have never heard of what you’re talking about but they’ll show you something that you’ve never seen before. It’s super-democratic, and it’s awesome. It really breaks down that idea of exclusivity built around knowledge, which I think is a good thing. The curatorial powers of the collective is mind-blowing, too. As a culture and a species we have a vast archive of visual material to reference and reflect on. Felix Sockwell turned me on to Eric Baker’s “Today,” and that totally nails what I’m talking about. I find a lot of cool design stuff in places that aren’t necessarily design-tuned also. I love Strange Maps and Awful Library Books for those reasons.
what are you into music wise - what are you listening to?
I’m a musical omnivore, and I go through phases, so it’s pretty random. I also have music on constantly. I’ve been on a pretty big Iron Maiden kick for the last month or so, and I don’t see this infatuation ending anytime soon, much to the chagrin of my wife and co-workers. Stop laughing. I never thought I’d really like them because in a way they are so ridiculous, but they’re so damn sincere, and I’ve really grown to love the epic metal. A lot of it is crap, but the good stuff is oh so good. Powerslave is almost a perfect metal album. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Scratch Perry (I go to the dub reggae well a lot). I keep listening to Tears for Fears a lot, mostly Songs from the Big Chair and The Hurting. Seriously, stop laughing. I’ve only streamed it so far, but the new Flaming Lips album really intrigued me. I’m going to buy that this weekend. Plus, it’s furry. Any and all Tom Waits.what magazines catch your eye / do you just have to pick up?
Good, Wired, New York, New York Times Magazine. I actually like to read magazines as well, so I pick up some magazines that don’t necessarily catch my eye, but I know there’s good stuff in there. Those four, however, do both.
how important is down time, away from the office etc for your creativity?
It’s really important, but it’s so hard to do. I work hard, and I take it seriously, and that means that you can theoretically spend all of your time in the office. So it’s hard to get away. But I know when I’ve been working too hard, and for too long, and my brain will shut down and go on down time whether my body does or not. So it’s best to listen to yourself. When you’re bored, or when things get too rote, it’s time to go somewhere else.
favorite font and why?
I know this is lame, but I’m going to duck this question. I’m a font agnostic, I guess. There are fonts out there that are good solutions for different problems, and to fall in love with a font and to use it because you like it clouds your judgment, and might lead to a design solution that doesn’t work. That said, there are tons of fonts out there that I really love and appreciate aesthetically, but they have to be used in the right context.

any advice for new illustrators just starting out?

Don’t do it half-assed. Think a lot about what you’re good at, who you are, and how that translates visually, and think a lot about places that will value that work. Develop a style, constantly work on it, and make sure it’s yours. Make yourself unique.
any advice for those looking to get into the magazine industry
Just understand what you’re getting into. It’s pretty volatile right now, and things are changing pretty drastically. If you’re still up for it (and from where I sit, it is worth it), make sure you’re approaching it from a content perspective. Know that it’s a content business, not a magazine business, and that your content needs to be accessible a number of ways, from printed paper to the internet to technologies we don’t even know about yet. Experiment.
Thanks Jason!! Everyone go buy The Atlantic, its always a fun read and you can be sure to get inspired by the design and illos inside.


Sarah Garcea, Inc. Magazine

Hi readers of Nonslick. November is going to be an awesome month. On top of lots of illustrator interviews to be posted, we've been lucky enough to get quite a few Art Directors donate some of their free time for interviews as well. The AD interviews will follow the same format as the illustrator ones. It just seemed to make sense to interview the people who give us such great jobs and make such a beautiful product. So, without further ado:

Sarah Garcea, Inc. Magazine
where are you from and how long have you been an AD?
I’m from Buffalo NY, went to University of Buffalo, and I’ve been an AD for about 5 years

how was your university experience -
did you feel ready for the real world upon graduating?

My university experience was pretty good, I think because I took several “fine arts” classes like painting, illustration, and photography. That also helped me when I entered the “professional” world. And I did feel ready when I graduated because I did a full time internship my final semester. That’s what brought me to NYC, I did my internship at Life magazine.

Inc. is an excellent financial mag, how thrilled are you to be directing its visual identity?
It feels great to be part of a very creative team of people here. Blake Taylor our Creative Director is always open to fresh ideas, and new illustrators. And our photo staff consistently produces award winning photography which inspires us to design exciting pages.

what are some of the key responsibilities in your day to day role?
I design a section titled “Strategy” which is a heavy finance/business section so it takes some creativity to come up with fresh ideas for stories and also involves assigning illustrations. I’m also constantly researching illustrators for new talent, there’s so much out there. Feature stories are split up between the 3 of us in the art department, so I’ll design one or two a month, and depending on the subject assign an illustration or assist in selecting the photographs.
you hire illustrators all the time, how does someone get your attention?
I don’t know about other AD’s but I do usually open emails I receive from illustrators. I say usually because once in a blue moon I’m having an extremely hectic hellish day and I just delete all emails that don’t have a “serious work” subject. But I do open them, you never know when your going to get someone amazing that you never heard of before, and I can’t take the chance of missing that! For example I recently got an email from an agency I use on and off, and they were sending me someone new, and his work was great so I saved it, and ending up just recently using them for an assignment. So I can’t pinpoint what gets my attention, but I will say it doesn’t have to be a fancy mailer, save your money!

what can an illustrator do to really piss you off?
Miss a deadline, or just be difficult when it comes to making changes. Since our stories are sometimes more technical/financial we have to bring our editors in for their thoughts and opinions. And this usually involves the illustrator having to compromise to please not only us but also our editors.

what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?
The magazine industry is not in a good place right now, several have shut down in the last couple years and the ones that are still around are just not getting the ads they used to. With that said I believe Inc. is in a pretty good place, we are still hiring illustrators, and still putting out a quality product.

what are you loving about design right now?
I love that design is everywhere, and especially with more young people having access to the technology you can see so much more online. Some good, some bad, but the good stuff is great and inspiring. I also moved apartments recently so I was obsessed with interior design, my husband is a graphic designer also so we were both finding vintage furniture and objects that fit our style. It was fun, and important too for us to be inspired by our surroundings.

what are the 5 greatest things about living in New York?
  1. The majority of our close friends are here which makes for good times, great conversations, and networking!
  2. So many museums and openings, so little time!
  3. It’s the place to be for publishing, graphic design and art.
  4. I love biking and walking around the city and exploring new places and just being inspired by it all.
  5. Riding through the city on the back of my husband’s motorcycle!
what magazines catch your eye / do you just have to pick up?
I always like to see what Good Magazine is up to and I also love that it’s for a “good” cause - GQ, Wired, Details are usual suspects but they never fail to disappoint.
I love NY Magazine, I subscribe! It’s so useful and the design is great, and I’m constantly on their website too!

how important is down time, away from the office etc for your creativity?
It is very important to me. I also dance and that’s a great way for me to “escape” but to also enjoy another art form that makes me feel creative and energized.

favorite font and why?
That’s a tricky one. Ok I know it’s cliché but I usually revert to Helvetica when in a pinch. It’s just so multi-functional and clean.

any advice for new illustrators just starting out?
It’s great if you have a connection somewhere, just getting in to see or talk to one AD, if you make a good impression and your work is solid they could refer you to other people. For me it comes down to style, if it fits the magazine and my aesthetic then I will most likely hire you at some point. I also go to the student portfolio reviews to check out the “young” talent, so it’s important to show there and be approachable.

any advice for those looking to get into the magazine industry?
Don’t do it! Ha, well half joking. The way the industry is going I think it helps to also have some web skills. But doing an internship, I feel, is the best way to see if you like it and also meet people and make connections. The magazine industry is a small community where everyone “talks” so make a good impression and try to meet as many people as possible.

thanks a lot Sarah!!! To see more of her work go out and buy a copy of Inc. Its a great read and always has great design and great illo's