Editors vs. Art Directors: Part III
A designer concedes the point ... sort of.
As you might expect, there’s a bit
of foot stomping about the piece in art directorial circles—at least I think
that’s what it is. As we are just art directors, we can’t express ourselves
very clearly with words—so I’m hearing complaints but I’m not really sure what
they’re about. People think we art directors speak a secret language, sorta
like porpoises, but no, we make no more sense to each other than we do to
anyone else. Sad.
So, as I am incapable of mounting an
effective counter-argument, I think I better concede his point, yes the editor
is always "right" but only because he or she is defined as being so-at most
magazines the art director reports to the editor. I’m actually not sure why
this is a point worth making, there are very few of us who do not report to
someone—editors report to publishers, publishers report to presidents, and
presidents report to boards of directors. There’s a lot more Dagwoods around
than Mr. Bumsteads.
So why is he making it? Probably
because it has never been less true. In the 1940s, when art directors were
assigning a fraction of the art that appears in a modern magazine and pasting
up rude mechanicals for hot-type forms, Mark Newman would have felt no need to
defend his autonomy against the visual clerks who brought largely generic form
to his words. It’s now that the culture has grown increasingly visual, and the
cognitive walls between words, images, and form have been shattered at the most
successful magazines that his point seems urgent. The editorial inches,
budgets, and staff devoted to art and design has never been higher. Most
editors know that if they aren’t visually conversant, their career will be
limited and their magazine will suffer.
Now, good art directors have always
been word people. The translation of verbal ideas into visual and graphic ones
requires it. But, a lot of old-school editors are playing catchup right now,
and they know it. But clearly, there are also and a few who haven’t noticed
that the nature of the magazine has changed.
There are, of course hacks in every
field-art directors who can’t read or understand past a headline, and
complacent and blunt-witted editors, but we have entered a period in which,
whether you are an art director or an editor, you must be bicameral to be fully
competent. The increasing number of visually astute editors (and editors who
know they should be, but aren’t) has been good for us, and it’s the future. No
matter who’s boss, we’ll be getting up in each other’s business for the
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Buy Jandos’ new book!]