From the SPD Archives: The SPD Gala 22, 1987

From the SPD Archives: The SPD Gala 22, 1987 -1.jpgFor our second trip through the SPD Archives, we have this photograph of snazzy looking dudes at the SPD Gala 22 in 1987, when it was still being held at the main branch of the New York City Library on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Pictured from left are Don Morris, who was design director of Metropolitan Home, Josh Gosfield, art director of New York magazine, Robert Best, design director of New York, and William Nabers, Metropolitan Home photography editor. Gala 22 was hosted by co-chairs Amy Bogert, art director of Ms., and Nancy Butkus of Nancy Butkus Design.

All of the folks in this photo have continued to have vibrant and very diverse careers in the years since. Don Morris has directed the design and redesigns of countless magazines, digital platforms, and books via his Don Morris Design studio. Josh Gosfield has had great success as an illustrator, window designer, artist, and author (his most recent book is The Art of Doing, co-written with Camille Sweeney). Robert Best was the longtime design director at New York, followed by an equally stellar stint as design director of Conde Nast Traveler. He is currently consulting through his Best & Co. Design studio and is the creative director of The Nation. William Nabers worked for many years as a photo editor at Fortune, eventually becoming photography director in 2004. William continues to work as a photo editor and teaches at SVA.

Josh Gosfield, Don Morris, and Robert Best shared some memories of the photograph and the times with SPD.

Josh Gosfield: I inherited Don Morris's job as New York magazine's art director, where I worked with Robert Best. Working with Robert exploded my understanding of what true creativity is. Back then, New York magazine spewed out special issues at a frenetic pace. And we created an entirely novel design concept for every special issue. Robert was fearless in the face of serial deadlines. He would sit at his desk in the art department bullpen, like a mad scientist, rummaging through books and ephemera for ideas. He found inspiration in unusual places--record jackets, posters, travel stickers and fruit box labels. We might have been already working on a concept, when he would call me over to his desk and sketch out some outrageous idea based on say, a matchbook cover. At first his unorthodox method freaked me out. With just a few days to design the issue we would have to get on the phone and hire typographers or calligraphers or technical illustrators or cartoonists or sculptors. And then design the entire issue from scratch in four or five days.

I have had a lot of careers since I was an art director but I have applied these two lessons that I learned from Robert to everything else ever I've done: 1) Find inspiration EVERYWHERE! 2) If a better idea comes along tear apart everything you've done and start all over again.

A long time ago--before we all became ensnared in the nets of the World Wide Web--publications were kept flush by ad dollars and magazine subscriptions. Liquor flowed at lavish parties. The world of design was smaller. You knew all the players. The SPD Galas were wonderful gatherings of the design tribe. There was a healthy sense of competition, but more importantly a respect for the good work of others. You got to raise a cocktail and trade a story with people whom you admired like Fred Woodward, Robert Priest, Walter Bernard, and Janet Froelich.

Don Morris: When this photo was taken I was the design director of Metropolitan Home, which I'd just redesigned. We had just hired William Nabers away from Fortune to be our photography editor. This was a really fun time. Yes, it was a great party in the majestic (if a bit echoey) New York Library, but also fun in a broader sense. You see, there was still a separation of church and state, meaning the publishing staff was responsible for the business and the editorial staff was in charge of the product. I'd lucked out in finding Dorothy Kalins, an editor in chief who loved design. She quickly become my champion and was truly grateful for the work my staff (Richard Ferretti, Kayo Der Sarkissian, Cathy Munisteri, and David Wolf) and I were doing. Dorothy had city editors constantly reporting on design trends from all around the country. We absorbed this and challenged ourselves to be equally innovative.

Before this I was working with Robert Best at New York magazine. Robert's energy and enthusiasm for putting out a great magazine in a week was infectious. He made it like a game: we'd feel like we'd succeeded in stretching the limits, and the next Monday he'd treat it like it was just the new starting point. Since I'd left New York, Josh Gosfield was hired as the art director. This was kind of intimidating because Josh was always a Renaissance man, able to design inventive pages and create incredible art. But Josh had a wry wit and was very cool. In fact, the amazing thing about the SPD Galas through the years is with rare exception how approachable everyone has always been, even your current hero. William Nabers and I were really just getting to know each other. He had that classic Time Inc. poise. Look how well-dressed he is. He could wear that same tux today. Me, I'd try anything once, and usually did ("festive attire" is a dangerous thing). A bolo tie!

This shot was taken moments before we found out that Metropolitan Home won a Silver Award for redesign and a bunch of Merits, and New York won a Gold for Special Issue and a truckload of Merits. It was a good night.

Robert Best: Ahhh those were the good old days...actually we look like a bunch of accountants at a convention, except of course for Don with his cool bolo tie. The truth is we were probably exhausted after a day of putting out a weekly magazine, pre-computer. It was quite the work out. Time for a drink...wait where is my drink!
The New York magazine office back then was like an archeological dig with years of artwork, files, pasteup boards, props and lots of take out food containers (Josh's desk is freshly in my mind). It actually looked like a place that created magazines. Today all of that and more is tucked away in your hard drive.

The other thing the office was full of: amazing characters. For instance, there was the designer who seemed to always accidentally set her garbage on fire by dumping the ashtray into it, and the editor who played darts in the art department 12 hours a day, literally. The entire art and photo department shared one large room, which led to regular seltzer bottle wars.

Here are some pages from the SPD Publication Design 22 annual showing the winning entries for New York and Metropolitan home. (Thanks to Theo Morris for the photos.) The book was designed by Anthony Russell and Samuel Kuo. Cover illustration: Philippe Weisbecker.




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