EW's managing editor talks about EW's editorial and design

By James W. Seymore
Updated June 26, 1992 at 04:00 AM EDT

Letter from the Editor

Magazine mastheads traditionally refer to editorial and design as if the two were separate universes of words and pictures, type types and art types. But nowhere is design more integral to editorial success — and designers more important to the direction of a major national publication — than here at Entertainment Weekly.

Much of that involvement comes from the magazine’s editorial mission, which is to cover entertainment and popular culture — the most compellingly visual of journalistic beats — in a style that communicates the eye-popping variety of the territory. The very technology with which we make the magazine heightens the involvement of our designers. EW is the first major weekly produced entirely on desktop computers, which transform every designer, by necessity, into something of an editor. (Don’t tell the type types I said that.)

In refining our weekly balance of news, features, and reviews, design is crucial, shaping everything from the choice and placement of illustrations, photographs, sidebars, and charts to the larger issues of how the whole magazine looks and feels and reads and works. But in the end, no matter how we define and refine it, an issue is only as good as the people who make it. And EW is fortunate to have a staff that makes our pages look fresh week after week.

Design director Michael Grossman, EW‘s keeper of the style flame, thinks big, conceptually: What is our mission? How can we improve? What’s new? What’s next? He also involves himself in the administration, troubleshooting, and planning of every issue. And he’s a major player in the story meetings and dream sessions that have led to some of our most arresting features and special issues.

Art director Mark Michaelson oversees our features and designs most of our cover stories himself. He’s the staff visionary — and the staff curmudgeon, keeping us honest and offbeat enough to be right on the money. And he writes the best headlines of anyone on staff.

Managing art director Arlene Lappen sweats the details, both in her own designs and in overseeing the popular News & Notes pages and EW’s backbone: the six review sections (and thus the lion’s share of our award-winning illustrations).

Just when we think they’re totally tapped out, Elizabeth Betts and Miriam Campiz dazzle us with yet another of their stylish and innovative feature designs. Along with Anna Kula, Gregory Mastrianni, Bobby B. Lawhorn Jr., and Michael Picón, they strive to make every design, from sprawling special sections to tiny sidebars, at once a reader-friendly solution and an expression of individual flair.

In a brief two years, EW has won more than 60 awards for visual excellence; this past spring we also received a National Magazine Award nomination for design. Such quick and ongoing recognition is rare for any magazine — and probably unprecedented for a national weekly, which must be designed in a matter of hours, not weeks. The other day I asked Grossman what was the key to this success. ”I’d say the close, collaborative relationship we have with the editors here,” he told me, ”and it took work to earn that. It begins with accepting that it’s our responsibility to participate in shaping the very concept of the magazine, and then to do whatever it takes to make it work. That’s more than making it pretty. We’ve got to be artists, but also architects, engineers, cops, and yes, editors. I looked for designers as savvy about the world we cover as the word people we work with. And I’ve been incredibly lucky to find a group so talented, smart, journalistic — not to mention sexy, well-groomed, and kind to animals.”

See, even in his statements he’s well designed. I, too, count myself incredibly lucky to work with EW‘s design department. The magazine you hold in your hands, our second annual Summer Double Issue, is the best proof of their extraordinary talent, dynamism, and hard work.

James W. Seymore Jr., Managing Editor