Posts tagged "Seattle"

I’ve decided to start pulling out more stuff from the archives, my newspaper and magazine work in particular starting with stuff from  The Rocket, a now defunct alternative bi-monthly rock newspaper in Seattle I was Art Director at for a number of years in the 90s, right in the middle of the whole goddamn grunge era. I worked on about 125 issues and should have kept a copy of each of them, but lugging boxes of newspapers around is a pain in the ass when you’re moving cross country. So I have just a few cover samples here, some of the better ones. It was one of the few place I had almost total control over as Art Director, and it took awhile to realize that just because I could do whatever I wanted didn’t mean I didn’t need some restraint and wisdom takes time. So there was some real garbage that came out of that experience, stuff I’m glad is gone and better off dead and buried. That’s always the case, every single year. and why I’m inclined to be a bit conservative about showing rejects from some of the comps I’ve posted on other entries on this blog. Still, it was by far the best job I’ve ever had, and I hold it against all other employment as the litmus by which I measure the worth of a company. Everything’s fallen short since. I worked with some great people back then., tremendous illustrators and photographers.


Standard one-page features and special section openers from The Rocket. A lot of this stuff was done by hand on a stat machine, since we had some piece-of shit scanner shared by 5 people in editorial and advertising design. It was pretty low-budget, the way I like it. There was rarely color on the interior unless you happened to get a page in a signature some advertisement was running, and then you had to piggyback on their color, which was usually red or magenta. The schedule was one week on and one week off and during that week on me and my staff of one spent a lot of time fucking around just trying to work up to some kind of pointed concept we’d hope would be offensive or mocking enough to rightfully make fun of the mostly pompous nature of the Rock community in general.


So after The Rocket closed it’s doors on a Wednesday (I’m pretty sure of this) I literally got a phone call that day from the Seattle Weekly where the news had traveled rather quickly. They wondered if I was interested in a Senior Art Director position they had an immediate opening for. So that Friday I came in, and by Monday I was at a new job. Those where the times when work was plentiful and things were always happening. I don’t really remembering taking all that much time off in my 20s, now I seem to be soaking in it. I stayed at the Weekly a year, no really jibing with the scene and somewhat disenchanted by the whole newspaper thing in general. Then one morning I showed up for work to see people watching planes flying into buildings. I sat at my desk for about a week after and thought about how I could have been in a building like that at a job I hated, and being in a situation where I didn’t have a choice anymore, about anything. I gave notice and about three weeks later after packing all my shit into a tiny storage unit, went to Australia and New Zealand for three months. These are a few of the covers I worked on in my short time there.


Most of the time the interior work I did at the Seattle Weekly was regulated to special sections and an occasional feature or two. I can see how I was transitioning out of the Rocket free-for-all and into the more conservative stuff I’d end up doing in later years as attitudes changed in design, and clients and companies started getting more fearful of taking risks. I tried to get as many people from The Rocket as possible to work with me, and brought over a bunch of my freelancers.


After leaving the Seattle Weekly and returning from New Zealand, I spent a number of months ungainfully unemployed remodeling a studio space I’d end up never using. I finally landed a job at Sasquatch books, a number of whose covers are on this blog, and after a few years decided after a bunch of unsatisfying personnel changes (like terminating a perfectly excellent Art Director and replacing them with a newly relocated one from Farrar, Straus and Giroux that was remarkable inept) that it was time to leave. I got scouted for an AD position at a new startup magazine called Seattle Metropolitan that hired not just me but my long-time associate William Quinby (this was the third job we’d worked together), and we promptly and gleefully gave notice together. I ended up working all the time, 70-80hrs a week, sick all the time, miserable and basically hating my life. I left after 8 months to live with my girlfriend at the time in NYC. This is a small sampling of the covers work I did.


We had some nice-sized budgets, I can’t complain about that, but never enough staff to finish everything without killing ourselves. I think my favorite thing was getting infamous Seattle music scene photographer Charles Peterson to shoot a photo essay I came up with about the construction of the Seattle Light Rail project.


Occasionally I’d get a one page opener for a feature. My riff for the travel article on the old Steve McQueen/Ali MacGraw film elicited a few blank expressions.


Departments were designed on a modular concept, so you basically just plugged artwork into them, though it was fun hiring people out off the NYT’s op-ed page and book review section. I got some great local and national talent to do great things from me. I didn’t work on a magazine for almost five years until Pittsburgh Magazine called in 2011, wanting me to be their new AD. This is a rather fascinating story I’ll go into detail later on a future post.


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