First 60 Days: Details ‎Deputy Art Director, Justin Patrick Long

First 60 Days: Details ‎Deputy Art Director, Justin Patrick Long
After flexing his design muscles at Men's Health for two years, Justin Patrick Long transitioned to Details back in June.  He's been busy settling in as the magazine's deputy art director, immediately diving into the September issue, and conceiving various design elements for the magazine's overall design.  Long hails from Indiana, where he graduated from the Herron College of Art and Design and started his career at Indy Men's magazine. He then moved to Los Angeles and designed at Orange Coast magazine, until finally moving to New York.

Justin is relaxed, cool, and determined. His aesthetic aligns perfectly with Details, and it seems like now the pages will be more sophisticated than ever.

So tell me about your path to Details.
When I first moved to New York I freelanced for a few years.  I was here [at Details] for a while, then I went to Popular Mechanics, and I was there for almost two years. I was doing print, iPad, Android--all that stuff. It was tough; we would do the print and then an hour later turn around and translate it all to digital. But it was really cool because that was the first time I did iPad design and thought about functionality instead of just layouts.  But I had to move on.

Robert Festino approached me and brought me over to Men's Health, and I was there for two years. As soon as I got there we started to redesign. That was really cool. We pretty much tore the whole magazine apart, and really stripped it down. The whole front-of-book was redesign, we introduced new type faces--it was major. There is a lot of content in Men's Health and we had to simplify things. We would even have conversations with our editors, like, There's an auto page here, and then two or three pages later and there's another auto page. What's the difference? What's the difference between nutrition and health? And sometimes even our editors would be like, Uhh?  So, there was just a lot of stuff that we had to take out.  It was a huge project.

After about a year, there was some restructuring at Men's Health and I met Natalie [Kirsheh] and talked with her and Rockwell [Harwood] about their design aesthetics, which pretty much pair up with me, and here I am now.

What were you doing when you first took on this role? What have you been doing since?
I did a whole bunch of waterfall type studies so we could look at type sizes, because we needed to get rid of what we didn't need. One day, I literally drew hundreds of design elements that I thought looked cool, or, like, [points at the magazine] Here's a place in the magazine where we need a point of entry, what do we need here? Rockwell and Natalie were encouraging, they wanted it, and from my standpoint, they can turn down any of these but we might as well try.


Now, I'm pretty much in charge of the Style section and the Know & Tell section in the front of the book, and I work on one feature a month. When I first got here I was really evaluating the whole magazine. 

Can you comment on your experience with the MH aesthetic compared to the Details aesthetic? For example, you know what a Bulletin page looks like, or what Thomas (O'Quinn) or Bill (Phillips) may expect in a feature. How is Details different?
The way I look at it, it's more sophisticated design here. At Men's Health, every page, literally, had an illustration or a chart we had to build, or just something. Here, it's much more photography driven, there's barely illustration. I use to assign, yano, a lot each much, but here? None. Men's Health needs a lot of illustration--it sets itself apart from Men's Fitness and Men's Journal, and readers love it.  We're very focused on keeping the grid structure, and wanted it to be fun, to be a service to the reader, and it's a mainstream magazine. We have to cater to that; whereas at Details, you're dealing with a different demographic, and a little bit more sophistication. We're allowed to get a little avant garde, a little edgier. I'm bringing in a little bit of a Swiss thing, too, which is kinda my thing.


I was talking about this earlier this morning, but every single magazine, they all work differently. Production schedules are differently, workflow is different, people's roles are different.  In some art department's their creative director does XYZ, but not in other departments. It seems like in this business, especially in NY, people bounce around a lot. And the skillset is the same, but you've still gotta to figure out the workflow and how the department gels together. At Men's Health, we had a lot of pull in the art department concerning copy.

You said Swiss is kind of 'your thing'-- what do you mean?
Stripped down, graphic approach. Simplified approach to getting to things. The biggest thing when I say "Swiss" is the type selections we chose--we're experimenting with some new ones; a good sans serif that, if you needed to, you could set your whole book up if you wanted to (I mean, we wouldn't do that, but you could!), and then our grid. It was a loose grid. I make sure that whatever I am doing will work for the grid, because that just gonna give consistency throughout, especially in this magazine, where we don't want the design to screw with the photography or look overdesigned. We can still have fun with type and feature openers and stuff; we just want to the design to feel transparent.

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Details can play. It all comes down to who we're selling to. Details readers won't be put off if something is changed, something is new. In fact, we're hoping they'll be excited about it.  

How was it like to have the edit of Men's Health miles away in PA, while here at Details edit is in the same office?
Crazy. Crazy. When I first started at Men's Health, I was like, Cool! No editors breathing down my neck, I'm just gonna be able to do what I want...And like I said, we had a lot of power as far as what the pages were gonna do, but eventually after a few months at Men's Health, it started to suck. You're relying on emails and voicemails for communication, you can't just walk down the hall and ask a quick question. It delays things. And there's always a communication breakdown. I don't think that system is good. If someone asked me if I could fix anything at Rodale, I would get them together. And there's always been a divide between church and state, but it was magnified, when you're literally in two locations. There was a weird dynamic between editorial and art.


It seems like Details is a good fit for you, huh?
Yeah, I do think Details is a good fit. I was talking to Natalie about this earlier, when you're young and hungry, it doesn't where you work. And I would have said, Oh, content doesn't matter! But, now it totally matters. Popular Mechanics was fun and interesting, and Men's Health taught me a lot about design, but when I came to Details, it became the first magazine where I was interested in the content. I'm sitting in meetings that I'm actually interested in going out and buying. It's inspirational, and that helps as a designer.

My stress level has actually decreased. I'm into it. I believe in the brand, which everyone says but most people are probably bullshitting.

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