EW's Geraldine Hessler tackles a high-profile book-cover assignment

Last June, the American Society of Magazine Editors began searching for a first-rate graphic artist to design a reader-friendly cover for its second annual collection, The Best American Magazine Writing 2001. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s managing editor, James W. Seymore Jr. — a member of ASME’s board of directors — realized he knew the perfect candidate…and she was sitting down the hall from his office.

He immediately volunteered EW design director Geraldine Hessler, a Parsons School of Design graduate who arrived here in 1997 following an eight-year stint at Rolling Stone, where she created covers for the magazine’s Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll and Trouble Girls: The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock. His recommendation, says Seymore, was a no-brainer: ”Geraldine is one of the premier designers in the magazine business. In everything she does, there’s an eye-catching conception and a clean approach that works very well.”

Her latest achievement is no exception, but Hessler admits the assignment was a bit daunting. ”I was excited because it’s a great project,” she says, ”but nervous knowing that every single magazine editor and art director would see it. I knew that it had to be good.” When she unearthed a whimsical Fredrik Broden photograph of a man buried beneath an overwhelming mound of papers, she knew she’d found the cover. The photo — and her design — is Hessler’s playful salute to the countless hours that assorted journalism professionals spend annually poring over magazines to determine who’s worthy of an ”Ellie,” ASME’s National Magazine Award. (The award itself is a bronze abstract elephant designed by Alexander Calder — hence the name.)

Indeed, the book — edited by esteemed journalist Harold M. Evans — boasts articles and essays from such top-notch writers as David Foster Wallace, Donna Tartt, and Malcolm Gladwell, and can be found at bookstores nationwide. And the folks at ASME are glad they accepted Seymore’s offer. ”It’s fabulous, it’s creative, it’s fun,” says executive director Marlene Kahan of the book’s cover. ”We love it.”

Hessler, meanwhile, stays focused on the hectic demands of our weekly deadline. When she’s not busy fine-tuning EW’s award-winning, always innovative design, she’s practicing yoga, playing tennis, and tirelessly preparing for her August 2002 wedding to Colby Hall, the producer of VH1’s Pop-Up Video. She couldn’t be prouder of her latest project: ”I think it feels like a good fiction book…something you would want to read rather than something that you have to read.”

We agree, which is why it’s at the top of our reading list. Here’s hoping it finds its way onto yours, too.