When I was an art director at The New York Times, a large broadsheet section that looked like this, no less devoted to a single excerpt from a novel, was an impossibility. It is not hard news and until the advent of the lifestyle sections, soft news was not part of The Times’ ethos.
But times have changed and so has The Times. In 2017 Debra Bishop became art director for special projects at The New York Times Magazine Group and NYT Magazine Labs, and the Sunday paper turned the design and illustration dial up to “12.”
While editorial design at the paper had already achieved a solid “11,” the Times‘ designers are now doing once-inconceivable things with an array of special print-only Sunday sections and greater high-design-octane daily sections.
The Feb. 16 excerpt from Deacon King Kong by James McBride, with illustrations by Martha Rich and art direction by Bishop, is among the most visually charged of the illustrious bunch of sections published in the past couple of years. It makes me glad I subscribe to the print edition.
Yet it makes me sad (no, envious! no, sad!) that these specials did not exist (or I’m forgetting if any were published) with the same intensity or frequency when I was an art director. (Although I was proud to be involved with or in proximity to other exceptional Times breakthroughs.)
I do have one nit to pick. Despite the hand-drawn lettering that breaks up the text pages, I did find reading the wide columns that resemble galleys rather than book pages—especially the portions with dialog—a tad challenging. Then I found rhythm with the prose. Otherwise, that the Times is publishing fiction is exciting, and the way it is framed is so compelling, it may produce even more readers who read.
PRINT is back. And soon, we’ll be relaunching with an all-new look, all-new content and a fresh outlook for the future. Stay tuned.
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →