The Art Direction of Musician Magazine: Gary Koepke

The Art Direction of Musician Magazine: Gary Koepke For much of the 1980s and 90s, Musician magazine served as a home for creative art direction and imagery. It was a place where art directors learned their trade while producing cool covers and feature spreads. Art directors during this period included Gary Koepke, David Carson, Patrick Mitchell, John Korpics, and Miriam Campiz.

SPD is going to be hosting a month-long celebration of the art direction of Musician, starting with the work of Gary Koepke. Koepke was an art director at Polaroid before moving to Musician in the mid-80s, where he worked with a staff of two others (a typesetter and an assistant). He describes his design approach at the magazine as "Simple and elegant. The articles were always by great writers, and the photos were all by amazing photographers, so I always respected the word."

After working at Musician from 1984-87, Koepke went on to be the founding creative director of Vibe, designed publications as diverse as Colors, World Tour, and Businessweek, and is the co-founder and executive creative director at creative agency Modernista!

(Above): April 1984. Photograph by Deborah Feingold.


Gary Koepke: My days at Musician magazine were pretty amazing. Our offices were housed in an old brick building perched on the shore of the Atlantic, and all during the spring, summer and fall, sea breezes wafted through our windows, our latest cassettes filling the air. In those days, I was responsible for doing word counts to spec type, using the stat camera and ruby lithe, overseeing press type and mechanicals, drawing window traps, and color spec-ing the entire magazine on tissue paper for color breaks that would be made at the prep house when they went to film. My process went something like this--type KO's from background to 20% yellow, 15% magenta, 30% cyan. Photo traps to rules, rules print black, etc. These production processes seem so quaint now, and I look back with great nostalgia. It's incredible how far the technology has come--magazines will most likely not be printed on paper 10 years from now. As much as my job was to manage this rather old-school production process, it was always hugely rewarding to find or commission a great piece of art. Once I had an excellent photo or illustration from an artist, the rest of my job felt easy.


Bono_Musician Cover.jpgPhotograph by Anton Corbijn.


Jimmy_Page_Musician_Spread.jpgPhotograph by Laurens van Houten.


Mick_Jagger_Musician_Spread.jpgIllustration by Patricia Dryden.


Springsteen_Musician Spread.jpgPhotograph by Larry Busacca/Retina.


Joe_Zawinul_Musician_Spread.jpgPhotograph by Chris Cuffaro (this is a spread, turned sidewise).


Psych_Furs_Musician_Spread.jpgPhotograph by David Stewart.


Springsteen_Musician Cover.jpgPhotograph by David Gahr.


Tom Waits_Musician_Spread.jpgPhotograph by George DuBose.


Miles_Davis_Musician_Spread.jpgPhotograph by Jim Marshall.



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