SHANE LUITJENS, Ink Publishing / torquere.com

1. where are you from and how long have you been an AD?
Born and raised in the Midwest (rural Illinois). Been an AD now for 7 years (2 of which were freelance while living and working in Europe.)

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

I got my degree in communications. I was supposed to be a TV News Reporter, but after 17 internships and 2 national awards, I actually started watching the news with these excessive live shots, stalking behaviors and fear mongering ("how your credit card can be used to kill YOU!?!") that it defeated what I saw as the value of journalism: to educate. At the same time, I worked across all mediums from TV to radio and print, and after doing my time in AmeriCorps helping at-risk youth discover the arts in rural Washington state, I stumbled into design. Since then, I try and absorb and learn and listen as much as I can to improve. I believe I enjoy this work because I continue to learn.

3. Now, you sort of rule over several mags, how challenging is THAT?
(curious about the challenges of each mag having its own visual
identity , cohesiveness etc)

Not only are they different magazines, but at times, they are vicious competitors in the same market. We have different editorial teams for each of the magazines and I work with an exceptional design team that works to really understand the brand, even as it is a complicated mix of corporate voice and independent journalism. In this way, I have an idea in mind along with the editors and work to have the visual image of the magazines communicate that. MyMIDWEST, for example, represents an airline very focused on the people and communities that they serve, so the illustrations have a more hand-touched feel (Ilana Kohn, Yuta Onoda, Polly Becker, etc.) and the editorial will veer from harder sell travel to engaging pieces about cultures and discoveries in destinations. GO Magazine, on the other hand, is always trying to discover new trends and topics that continually engage a consumer to take a proactive role in their travel (hence the inspirational, movement-natured name of the title) so the illustrations will tend toward newer technologies and flavors (Si Scott, Thomas Allen, Army of Trolls).
4. what are some of the key responsibilities in your day to day role?
Answering email. :) Seriously tho, I am actively in design on at least two magazines at a time with the current schedule and doing the cover and feature design work. We recently took on a photo editor, but the bulk of that work continues to fall on my team. Also, as a photographer, I take on some of the feature photography (an exciting perk to the gig!).

5. you hire illustrators all the time, how does someone get your
attention / what does it take to work with Ink Publishing?

I think the primary thing is to really present a solid ability to translate abstract concept into meaningful compelling imagery. That gets you in the door. From there, you gotta know that the industry has changed a lot over the years and the parent company and these magazines stay strong by being reasonable when it comes to budget. High end newsstand magazines set a precedent with bloated budgets that we can't afford. I give illustrators up to five weeks sometimes to work on assignments so that they can be flexible with the budgets. Once I like you, I want to work with you, and I work hard to make sure I pay a respectable amount. And we do pay. Seriously, the money does show up. As a former freelancer, there is no undervaluing the idea of a client that follows through. Now, as the client, I will make sure it happens.

6. promotion wise, what do you like to see?
It's tough because other friends in the business also get inundated with postcards and mailers. Some I keep and some I don't. Those are really about the work. At the same time, what really pulls you into the pool of contributors will be regularity and forming the relationships. Not so much kiss ass as to do simple reminders about the latest work you are doing. We do come to recognize names. And a lot of us do at least look at the emails most of the time. Obvious other areas are awards. They do matter. We do look. 7.what can an illustrator do to really piss you off?
It is rare an illustrator has gone too far. Most are respectful of my time. Photographers, on the other hand, can get under my skin. So, this is more a word of warning. Have limits. In this day and age, cold calling may get you one client out of 20, but most of us, will bag you then and there. Nothing bothers me more than calling to ask if I got a promo. Nothing. If you want a response of some value, run a contest, start a blog, something. But in this day and age, interrupting my day to ask if I got your unsolicited note: unforgivable. Same with sending books unsolicited. At larger agencies with huge photo and art departments, that might be cool. But with us, we are a small team working very hard. Keep it simple. You'll know if I am interested.

8. what are you loving about design right now?
Typography. I wish I had more time to be playing more in the world of less-digital type. One thing my schedule has NOT allowed enough of is play. INvaluable to the world of graphic design is the silly, slovenly mess of screwing things up only to put them back together in interesting ways. Sometimes you get an idea from the start, and that's great. Even in the best situation, inspiration and ideas need to be opened up. But when you got so many pages to move in a day, I don't get enough play. So I get excited when I see the returning trend toward non-digital type (can I call it analog?). I want to be hiring out more type to illustrators versus illustration. so that excites me.

9. whats amazing about living in New York?
What isn't? Every section of the city opens up new ideas, new opportunities to learn or expand upon existing ideas. In my first year here (four years ago), I read my spoken word at Lincoln Center, learned to make paper at Le Petit Versailles (a performance art garden space in lower Manhattan), saw Cassandra Wilson play for free in Central Park, danced away Sunday mornings at Club Shelter and started my much loved hiking in the Hudson Highlands. And that isn't counting the museums, the walking tours, the private art shows, the millions of conversations one can have in the cafes or sitting round the fountain at Washington Square Park. I have lived in eight cities and visited countless ones. At this point in history, nowhere is like New York City.

10. what magazines catch your eye / do you just have to pick up?
I kind of divide these in two categories: those I pick up for visual reasons and those I pick up for the content. As an outdoorsman, I admit a bias to the well-designed Outside or the wonderfully redesigned Backpacker, not to mentions Men's Journal and National Geographic Adventure (rest in peace). For design and content, Esquire and New York continue to do interesting work. I like that they push the boundaries. Andrew Horton's stint at BusinessWeek has really given their covers such flare! Conceptual illustration at its best! I am always excited by the growing number of DIY magazines in the mix as the market changes to represent a new generation of readers and these homegrown publications really introduce the 'zine in a way that looks more together, more produced.
11. how important is down time, away from the office etc for your

VERY. I am lucky in this job to be able to shoot on location and also work off location. So, while I am working, I am still exploring the world and that hopefully reflects in the work. My vacation time is serious business for me, so I am planning jaunts pretty far out. This year, I got my eye on some backpacking excursions in Canada and California as well as kayaking in Maine. Save our parks!

12. best places to get lunch, coffee, inspired in the city?

Inspiration from people: Washington Square Park and the Village. For me, having always lived in Manhattan while in NYC, I admit a bias to the overcrowded island. But then you walk down past Sullivan Street Records (and the bizarre superhero-laiden store across the street), grab a bite at Cuba (after checking out one of TWO, yes TWO, chess specific stores), and then go sit and watch the kids run in and out of the fountain or local rock star hopefuls sloppily croon on some song or another. It's why I live here.

13. any advice for new illustrators just starting out?

I have many friends that are illustrators now, and I hear a lot about the ups and downs. Here's what I take away from listening: 1) Define yourself so that you are doing work no one else is doing, 2) Be controlled in your marketing so you don't throw money away on promotions that don't speak to your target group, 3) Share the new work and 4) Be social. I hate to think it, but I am just as susceptible to it as anyone I know. Once the name and the artwork are familiar, then when I am thinking of a story, it is easier for me to associate a particular illustrator to it. You want to be the image that comes in my head when I am plotting something.

14. any advice for those looking to get into the magazine industry?

Think creatively. That doesn't mean don't do print like everyone keeps saying. It means, rethink print. The bloated beast and it's lazy brethren won't last much longer. expensive shoots for one photo, fashion budgets, credit cards without limits - those days are gone. Designers are expected to design. Art directors are expected to know the software. Production as a business is disintegrating and a lot of cash cows for a lot of less talented people are out to pasture. To hold course in this new world, you have to become famous (but you have competition) or indispensable. As I am not the former, I make sure I have the latter. Coming from the interactive sector, I continue building up my skills (recently completed a Flash minisite for TV Guide, finishing up a redesign of GO Magazine), as well as producing award-winning work for my main employer. Versatility is a tough trade to get into, but as the market changes and e-mags hint at their profitability and magazines begin Darwinian struggles, it is better to react to the instability by focusing on skills that go beyond the creative. Idealistic? No. Pragmatic? Totally. No one knows what will happen to this industry, so to be in it, you gotta be willing to ride where it takes you, and that could be anywhere.

More about Shane, including some cool projects can be found on his website: www.torquere.com
Thanks so much Shane!!