I had planned on noting the current issue of PRINT here, which is a well-deserved celebration of its 70th anniversary. I am interviewed in the issue alongside my esteemed PRINT alumni and work from my five-year tenure is scattered throughout the issue. I hoped the celebratory tone was an indication that all was well with what I affectionately still think of as “America’s Graphic Design Magazine,” in light of the owner recently pulling the plug on its venerable “sister” magazine, ID, after 55 years.
Julie Lasky, former PRINT and ID editor wrote a heartfelt and accurate account over at Design Observer:
So it was will great dismay when I heard that PRINT’s editor, Emily Gordon, had been let go just prior to publication. I found this incredibly puzzling, considering the excellent job she had done maintaining PRINT‘s high standards since taking over from Joyce Rutter Kaye in fall 2008. No small accomplishment considering the staff has been slashed in half since I left.
I first subscribed to PRINT in the early 1980s when a design student. Somehow it seemed to speak to me directly: my interests, by concerns, new discoveries, and an overall view of how design affects our culture and the world. PRINT arrived irregularly despite its claim to being bi-monthly but it was always worth the wait: over-sized, theme based issues, general issues with great writing and insight plus the Regional made wading through the myriad paper samples to get to the core that much more invigorating.
In the early 90s, as my career progressed, an article on my work appeared, and shortly thereafter I began writing for PRINT, alongside my writing partner John Gall. It was around this time that I met the PRINT staff, Marty Fox, Andy Kner and Carol Stevens, who had shaped and guided it since the early 1960s, as well as Julie and Tod Lippy.
In 1994 I designed the cover for and was involved in their second parody issue. John and I had a regular column in the mid 90’s and in 1999 I was hired to redesign the magazine and take over the art direction from Andy who was retiring after 35 years.
PRINT was owned by a mom and pop publisher who supported its vision, and I expected all to remain status quo. Unfortunately, not too long after my arrival PRINT was sold to a publishing conglomerate which in turn was sold to an investment firm, and then resold, and again. In addition they had purchased ID, as well as HOW which was begun by PRINT in the 80s. The editorial publishing wing boasted of over 80 titles, the most successful being a scrap-booking magazine, and things did not bode well. There was a one-size-fits all mentality and PRINT would never fit. Despite myriad awards and media attention they simply did not seem to understand what design and by extension PRINT was about. There was a rapid succession of ever changing powers that be. The last in charge was the former head of an office furniture supply company who had furnished the new corporate offices. When I was informed he would now have cover approval I knew it was time for me to go.
I had a good run. During my stay we had won two National Magazine Awards (PRINT is only second to THE NEW YORKER for wins and nominations), Gold and Silver at SPD and many others. More importantly I made close and lasting friendships.
Since my departure the corporate heads have changed over at least five times. ID’s death is a frightening indicator of what may lay in store. Worst yet is the ad for the new editor, calling for someone with “overall content development strategy across media platforms” and “to grow a multi-platform business.” Alarming really, since it demonstrates an absolute lack of understanding of what PRINT has been and should be all about.
Keep in mind I am simply an outsider looking in these days. I wish from my perspective it looked better, and for the sake of my friends and colleagues who remain that things will improve and this important magazine will survive unscathed.
I guess time will tell.