The End of PRINT as We Know it and a New Beginning
Steven Brower says farewell to the printed PRINT magazine with a tribute to fellow past art directors & editors who helped to reshape the magazine over the years.
Hard to believe the Winter 2017-2018 Regional Design Awards issue is the very last printed edition of PRINT. For younger readers this may seem like the logical progression into the digital realm, but to my generation it is a rite of passage.
My connection with PRINT began in the early 1980s, when I was an undergrad student in Southern California. The magazine offered a student subscription discount, something I could actually afford. The issues would arrive, often much later than their issue date, but arrive they would, and they were a wonder to behold. Oversized, with beautifully designed and illustrated conceptual covers, the content was about everything I wanted to be as a designer. Somehow it managed to be at once sophisticated without pretense, provocative yet warm, and reeked of New York City, to which I desperately wanted to return.
Around this same time, I began regular pilgrimages to used book stores and began collecting early editions of the magazine. Looking at the masthead of an early 1970s issue, I saw three names that would appear in many other issues as well—editor in chief: Martin Fox; art director: Andrew Kner; managing editor: Carol Stevens. Next I found a mid-60s edition, and there they were. Early sixties? Same crew. Who were these mysterious folks?
Martin Fox (photo credit: AIGA)
Fresh from his army service, aspiring playwright Marty was an outsider to the design world, and he brought with him a wide-world view. He began his tenure at PRINT as an assistant and was soon promoted to editor. Prior to his taking the helm of PRINT, every issue was designed by individual design stalwarts, such as Henry Wolf, Leo Lionni and Lou Dorfsman. Marty changed all that.
He hired Andrew Kner as art director, on a freelance basis, which remained in place for several decades, while Andy worked full-time gigs at Architectural Forum and later the New York Times. Andy was the son of Container Corporation of America’s veteran designer, Albert Kner, and brought with him a European Modernist sensibility.
Andrew Kner. Andy passed away in 2016. (Photo credit: Chuck Byrne)
Andy hired his new bride, Carol Stevens (they were married in 1961), as his assistant, “Which would mean that I only had to work 3 days a week and I would bring him home packages of stuff to lay out,” Stevens said. Soon she was writing stories, and interviewing “all kinds of interesting people,” the likes of Lionni, Duane Michaels and Edward Gorey, and was promoted to managing editor.
Carol Stevens Kner. Carol’s poetry has been published in the Paris Review and elsewhere (Photo: Chuck Byrne)
The three of them reshaped the magazine into what it would remain for decades: as much about American culture and how design played an integral part in that culture as it was about the visuals displayed. And it was not afraid to be political provocative, with articles such as “Women’s Lib and Women Designers” in 1970. Its prescience proved to be quite profound, covering other socio-political issues in regard to design: the world of comics; “The Designer and the Computer,” published in 1966; and other design trends long before they were commonplace.
In 1980 Marty and Andy created the breakthrough Regional Design Annual. Unlike anything else at the time, the annual broke down the country into five regions. The thinking in those pre-internet days, was that each region had their own stylistic identity, and they were proven right. Soon they were wading through 35,000 entries to cull down to a publishable 1,800.
Among their many other innovations was HOW magazine, begun in 1985. It was art directed by illustrator Scott Menchin, and sold soon thereafter to PRINT’s current owner, F+W Publications. Scott, however, remained in the offices as a contributor to PRINT for 15 or more years.
This is indicative of the family atmosphere in the office, for the many fortunate enough to pass through. Michele Trombley, associate art director from 1993 to 2000 notes, “I looked forward to going to work each day, I gained immeasurable knowledge from my lifelong mentor, Andy, and best of all, my PRINT colleagues are still like family to me. The camaraderie was second to none. Fortunately, I knew how rare and special this was even back then, and appreciated the time I had there. I worked with folks who were (and still are) the best in the business. I met design giants I’d only read about back in school.”
Former editor Caitlin Dover concurs, “(Editor) Katherine Nelson hired me as an intern in 1996, during my senior year of college. … PRINT felt like a family to me from very early on. Marty Fox, Katherine, and the rest of the staff made me and my work feel valued, even though I was so young. To this day, I feel incredibly lucky to have started my career there, working with such smart and kind people … Most importantly, my memories of PRINT are of the people. I loved my coworkers there (still do). Everyone cared deeply about what they were doing, and were trying to make something great. I feel like, for a long time, the magazine really reflected who were were and what we felt was important.”
In the early 90s I met editors Julie Lasky and Tod Lippy at a party, and following was invited up to the offices when Carol wrote an article on my design work. Soon after I pitched my first article, co-written with John Gall, on Grove Press designer Roy Kuhman, and much to my amazement they agreed to publish it. Many more followed. John and I even went on the have a regular satirical column; “The Cutting Board” appear throughout the mid to late 90s, and I have been writing ever since.
And for many others Marty and Carol were instrumental in turning them into writers as well, including a young Steven Heller. In 1990 Carol hired designer Michael Dooley for an article, and Marty invited him to be a contributing editor. According to Dooley, Marty’s sales pitch was, “That and a buck’ll get you on the subway.”
Trombley recalls, “I even took up writing, and learned a thing or two from Marty, Carol and Julie, who edited my stories. Marty even ran my “Malling of Manhattan” story as the lead one time—my crowning editorial achievement!”
Designer Chuck Byrne, contributing editor from 1988 to 2000 remembers, “Carol was my editor for the 12 years or so I wrote for PRINT. She was critical to my becoming a ‘readable’ writer. I’ll always remember her telling me that ‘writing is thinking.’ For many years Marty Fox was so proud that the three of us, Phil Meggs, Steve Heller and me, were writing for PRINT and turning out some important, well-written material.”
Under Marty’s tutelage PRINT was nominated five times and won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence twice, in 1994 and 2002. As Carol observes, “That was really fun and that was good for all our egos.”
“PRINT is the ultimate authority on all things graphic. It presents what’s new and good in visual communication, from high-style to mass-market, plus commentary by the industry’s best minds. PRINT’s design is just as it should be: boldly handsome.” —Jurors of 2002 National Magazine Award
In 1994 I contributed to and designed the cover for PRINT’s second parody issue (the first was in 1984). My cover was a parody of photographer Oliveri Toscani’s Benetton ad, of a nun kissing a priest, over which I drew Groucho glasses and mustache. Marty soon informed me that as a result of this cover, they had received a number of angry letters and subscription cancellations, a record to date. This didn’t stop Marty and Andy from hiring me to redesign the magazine in 1999. Andy, who was by now full-time, retired soon thereafter and I assumed the role. I was given two directives from the then publisher: 1) to keep the logo big on the cover and 2) to use only license-free fonts (to save money).
My last issue for PRINT in 2004 was the “Sex Issue.” This began as a joke in an editorial meeting after viewing a student cover entry we deemed too obscene to publish, when I said, “Let’s save it for the Sex Issue.” As it turned out this issue garnered more angry letters (well, by then, emails) and subscription cancellations than ever before. I felt my job was done.
Marty retired around this time. He was awarded the AIGA Medal that same year. Under the guidance of former managing editor, and new editor in chief Joyce Rutter Kaye, PRINT went on the win yet another three National Magazine Awards for General Excellence. Following her tenure there were myriad dedicated editors and art directors who took up the mission, too numerous to mention here.
While I will always treasure the issues I was involved in, PRINT, for me, will always remain the 9 by 11 inch crisply designed magazine that featured covers by the likes of Milton Glaser, Edward Sorrel, Kit Hinrichs, Paula Scher, Barbara Nessim, Rafal Oblinski, Art Spiegelman, Cipe Pineles, Carin Goldberg, Chris Ware, Menchin, et al, and the myriad created by Andy. The one that you had to search through to find the table of contents among all the paper samples tipped in up front. The one that fell apart one time when opened, all the pages detached, and the one that sent a following letter of apology to all subscribers, extending their subscriptions.
While it lost this tagline several years ago, for me and for many of us, PRINT with always remain “America’s Graphic Design Magazine.”
Special thanks to Jess Zafarris and Zac Petit.