Gail Anderson’s Path to Design

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Meet the judge for this year’s student section of the Regional Design Awards: Gail Anderson. All winners will be published in PRINT’s all-new book.

Editor’s note: This interview was originally conducted by Zachary Petit in 2016

Official bio: Gail Anderson is a designer, writer, and educator. She is the director of design and digital media for Visual Arts Press at the School of Visual Arts, and a partner at Anderson Newton Design.

Gail Anderson

From 2002 through 2010, Anderson served as creative director of design at SpotCo, a New York City advertising agency that creates artwork for Broadway and institutional theater. From 1987 to early 2002, she worked at Rolling Stone magazine, serving as associate art director, deputy art director, and finally, as the magazine’s senior art director.

Anderson is the author of Outside the Box, for Princeton Architectural Press, as well as co-author of 12 books on design, typography and popular culture with Steven Heller. She has also written for magazines and blogs, and lectures around the world on all things design.

Anderson teaches at the School of Visual Arts, and serves as design subcommittee chair on The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee for the USPS, and on the board for the Type Directors Club. She is the recipient of the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Medal from the AIGA, and her work has been recognized by design organizations including The Society of Publication Designers, TDC, AIGA, The Art Directors Club, Print, Graphis, HOW and Communication Arts. Anderson is a reformed collector/hoarder who now just looks but no longer buys.
Originally from: The very last block in the Bronx, at the top of the borough. When you made a call across the street to Mount Vernon, you dialed a different area code.

Path that led you to design: I drew a LOT as a kid, on Magic Slates, my dad’s shirt cardboard from the laundry, oaktag, and in many, many sketchbooks. I made Elton John posters, and little Partridge Family and Jackson 5 magazines, collaging together images from Spec and 16 magazines. After reading a book that SVA sent to my high school called Careers in the Visual Arts, I knew that I wanted to be what was then called a commercial artist. I took Saturday classes at Pratt Manhattan thanks to my art teacher, and applied to SVA at her suggestion—but also made my decision based on Paul Davis’ “To be good is not enough when you dream of being great” SVA poster. Years later, I got to tell Paul that in person, and I think he looked at me like I was crazy.

Gail Anderson

Your career, in a nutshell: I’ve been fortunate to get the chance to try a little of everything over the last three decades, from magazine design to teaching, designing for the theater, packaging, writing, and now designing for academia. I’ve worked really hard and made some big sacrifices, but I’ve also been extremely lucky to have had amazing mentors like Paula Scher and Fred Woodward. And I’ve had the pleasure of working with gifted designers and students over the years who have both inspired and challenged me. It’s made me really proud to watch them conquer the design world.

Work of which you’re most proud: It’s hard to deny that the Rolling Stone work has defined my career, but I’m also really proud of the subway posters I’ve done for SVA over the last decade. Ultimately, though, it’s the “smallest” thing I’ve ever done—the postage stamp commemorating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation—that is the singular project that makes me proudest. I mean, I got to design a postage stamp!

Gail Anderson

Moment in your life of which you’re most proud: I finished a 35-mile five-borough bike tour a few years back, and that felt pretty great.
Cause that means the most to you: I have an 18-year-old nephew with Down Syndrome, so anything related to school or workplace inclusion gets my attention. I want nothing more than for Nic to lead a full life as he enters adulthood, with good friends and a job he enjoys.

Favorite designer: Paula Scher’s ever-evolving career is astounding, and don’t get me started on those amazing maps. She’s been my design hero since college, and my admiration has only grown over the years.

Favorite city: I am a born and bred New Yorker, so I’ll have to stick with NYC as my favorite city. But Rome is right up there, too. I haven’t gotten to spend any time in Paris yet, but I bet that’ll be on the list soon.

Gail Anderson
Gail Anderson

Motto: I am always just waiting for the anvil to fall on my head, so perhaps my motto is something fatalistic, like “It could be worse.”

Have you ever entered Print’s RDA in your career? We used to enter when I was at Rolling Stone, and our work was featured in one of the Print Casebooks, if you remember those! The last work I submitted was a series of posters for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis back in 2010 when I was at SpotCo, and I’m proud to say it made the cut.

Gail Anderson
Gail Anderson
Gail Anderson

Enter the 2018 Regional Design Annual today for a chance to be featured among the country’s best design work Our judges: Sagi Haviv, Rebeca Méndez, Nancy Skolos, Alexander Isley, Chad Michael, Gail Anderson and Justin Peters