Posted tagged ‘print to digital’

Q&A with John Grimwade, graphics director of Condé Nast Traveler & Portfolio magazines

November 13, 2008

John Grimwade is the information graphics director of both Condé Nast Traveler and Condé Nast Portfolio magazines. With a career spanning over thirty years (which includes contributions to 30 other major magazines, and 8 years as graphics consultant to Popular Science), he is inarguably one of the most influential information graphic designers of the past three decades.

He very kindly took the time to answer a few questions for us. You can see samples of his work at his site, and of course in the pages of Condé Nast Traveler and Portfolio.

Please briefly describe your role and responsibilities as Condé Nast Traveler Graphics Director.
JG: I read stories, go to meetings, and generally look for places where visual explanation could help. Information graphics are (thankfully) considered to be an important part of the editorial process. Once we have an idea, I work on it with editors and designers to come up with a clear plan. Only then do we go on to the artwork stage.

You seem to use a variety of designers to create the information graphics in Condé Nast Traveler, what are the criteria with which you select the right person for a particular job? Are they a mixture of in-house and contract designers?
JG: All the design, and most of our information graphics are done in-house, but we go outside for specialist illustration. We try and match projects to the strengths of the people we have. The advantage of the in-house project is that we can control it very carefully.

How do you determine which information should be displayed graphically?
JG: There is no exact formula. It’s a combination of experience and intuition. I have a pretty good sense of what will work better if we present it visually. But it’s not magic, I learnt it from some superb practitioners.

How do you potentially see your role changing as digital solutions (such as the iPod, Amazon’s Kindle, the Sony Reader … which may not be there yet, but look like they’re trying hard to close the gap) become accepted everyday tools for downloading and viewing magazines, newspapers and other material that is traditionally print?
JG: I’m optimistic on this subject. Digital media will take over at some point (surely we all know that), and I think it will definitely offer more opportunities to display material clearly. The possibilities to layer information, and provide users with tools to control and unfold a graphic, are exciting.

Expanding on the previous question, do you see the information-graphic designer being required to become more of a writer/editor/designer than ever before in order to accommodate changes in technology and the speed with which content can be produced and distributed?
JG: I think so, and that can be a good thing, we’ll have headlines and captions that really compliment the visuals. However, I don’t want graphics to become text-driven. I do believe in the “Show Don‘t Tell” principle.

What other publications, formats and/or designers would you point to as currently being ahead of the game, or pioneering the way information-graphics are used and created?
JG: In magazines, Wired is often brilliant. In data visualization, Ben Fry is a genius.

If you could give a recent graduate who wants to pursue a career similar to yours one piece of advice, what would it be?
JG: Make a commitment to infographics. You can’t be anything less than 100% interested in explaining through visuals. It can be hard work, but it’s worth it.

Family Guy or The Simpsons?
JG: The Simpsons. Even after all these years.