From the SPD Archives: Publication Design 12

From the SPD Archives: Publication Design 12 -1.jpgWelcome to From the SPD Archives, a weekly look back at graphics, publications, people, photographs, and more from deep in the Society of Publications Designers history. We'll be publishing one or two of these a week for the coming year to celebrate SPD's 50th anniversary. If you've got pictures or visual remembrances of your own that relate to SPD and magazine making history, please send them to us at

Our first archival delight is the cover of Publication Design 12, the very first SPD hardbound design annual, published in 1978. The cover is an illustration by Bill Nelson, art directed by Steve Phillips, who was the art director at New Times magazine. It's a reproduction of the 1977 SPD Call for Entries, a poster that was folded and mailed to members. Editing and design of the inside pages is credited to Liz Wilbur, from American Heritage magazine.

Inside, the book was printed entirely in black and white, except for 12 pages of color reproductions of the top awards, including the Best of Show Jerome Snyder Award, given to Stuart Silver and Alvin Grossman for American Ephemera, the publication of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As was common at the time, the credits for winning entries included information on the typesetter, color separator, printer, and paper manufacturer.

(Scroll down to the bottom of this story to click on a larger-size version of this cover.)
Poster / book jacket designer Steve Phillips shared his memories of this project with SPD. Phillips won countless publication and art direction awards for his influential and groundbreaking work in the 1970s at New Times and Folio magazines, to name just two. Visit his website, Phillips Design, to see inspiring examples of his work. 

Steve Phillips: "Way back then I was pretty well-known in the business, with lots of awards and involvement with the Society of Publication Designers. By far, my biggest client was New Times magazine, where I worked often with one particular illustrator, Bill Nelson. The Society involvement led to Bill and I being asked to do the Call for Entries. I had forgotten that the Call for Entries was also used as the cover to the book.

Bill's style had always had a feel to it that lent itself to a fun poster approach. Circus poster in the case. We sat down and just played with the idea of a circus poster, and then we thought of using New Times staff people in the artwork.

The people in the middle circle are all New Times staff members... Starting from the left: the publisher, illustrator Bill Nelson, the lion was the editor, below that is me (with a T-square), and on the right is one of the editors. A couple of the editors did the writing.

Things have changed since the 70s. Back then no one mentioned the nudity in the "Exotic Nudes" circle on the right. Maybe because it wasn't photographic, just an illustration with a light feel to it.

Since those New Times days I established myself firmly as a publication designer. I've probably done over 100 redesigns and also produced countless whole issues monthly. I think I've done a lot to improve the look of many business and trade magazines.

Lately I've been working on some non-magazine projects, logos, promotion for product lines, packaging. Magazines going digital have slowed down the magazine workload and changed the type of projects I became known for. I wouldn't mind getting back to good old fashioned print magazine redesigning. Are print magazines slowly dying out? I hope not.

I think that SPD helped give magazine art directors a sense that what they were doing was important, that the look of magazines had a visual influence on other areas of life."

Some representative spreads from the inside of Publication Design 12:


CIMG2897.JPGHere are the officers of the Society of Publication Designers listed in Publication Design 12 (with their affiliations):

President: John Barban, Science Digest
Vice Presidents: Noel Werritt, Quest 77 and Elizabeth-Anne Wilbur, American Heritage
Treasurer: Jack Golden, Designers 3 (Golden received SPD's Herb Lubalin Award in 1983)
Secretary: Ezra Shapiro, Free Enterprise

Note the small circle on the bottom right of the book jacket, which features a portrait of "Ira Silberlicht, Our President." Silberlicht was the SPD President in 1977 when the Call for Entries was created.

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