From the SPD Archives: Gala 26 Gold Medal Winners, 1991

From the SPD Archives: Gala 26 Gold Medal Winners, 1991 SPD50.jpgThis outstanding bunch of art directors was photographed at the SPD Gala 26, in 1991 at the New York Public Library. Pictured are the Gold Medal Awards winners who were in attendance at the Gala. They are (top row, left to right): David Carson (Beach Culture), DJ Stout (Texas Monthly), Janet Froelich (The New York Times Magazine), Kent Hunter (Frankfurt, Kips, Balkind); (bottom row, left to right): Gary Koepke (Global Magazine and Koepke Design), Fred Woodward (Rolling Stone), Tom Bentkowski (Life), John Kascht (The Washington Times).

On the turn page, DJ Stout, John Kascht, and Tom Bentkowski share some thoughts on this very memorable gathering and evening.

DJ Stout: This picture was taken on May 3, 1991 at the Society's 26th Annual Awards Gala held at the New York Public Library. You can see the distinctive white marble of the hall upstairs where the fun part of the gala was always held after the more somber awards ceremony downstairs. I always loved that two-part format at the library.

The SPD 26th Publication Design Annual lists Fred Woodward and Rip Georges (Mirabella) as the competition co-chairs that year. Fred had been the art director of Texas Monthly prior to my arrival so I had stepped into some really big boots when I became the art director in 1987. He was a mentor and an editorial design hero of mine (still is). So it was a great honor to be asked to be a juror of the show.

David Carson and I were both judges of the competition. That was when I first met David Carson. We were both staying at the Paramount Hotel off of Broadway for the judging and we hung out a bit. Prior to that David had been sending me issues of Beach Culture so it was interesting to meet the madman behind that quirky publication. I've been friends with David ever since.

I was awarded a gold for a photo-feature that appeared in the May 1990 issue of Texas Monthly called "Faces of the Border" which featured the large format portraits of Max Aguilera-Hellweg. Max, who is the product of a border romance (his Mexican mother who was living in Juarez fell in love with his German-American father in El Paso) had contacted me and wanted to travel the entire length of the Texas/Mexico border as an itinerant photographer in order to explore his roots. I loved the idea so I agreed to send him on his quest. He started in Juarez and hit every major border town as he traveled down to Matamoros at the most southern tip of Texas.

The photograph on the opening spread of the boy with the inner-tube on his head was taken right after he had swum illegally across the border. A large print of that photograph hung in the living room of my home for many years and for most of their lives my two boys thought that picture had been taken at a popular tubing/waterpark in New Braunfels, Texas called Schlitterbahn.

In her President's Massage, in the front of the 26th annual, Phyllis Richmond Cox bemoans the sudden downturn in the economy and gloomily forecasts the 1990s as a "very challenging decade." That was actually a fruitful decade for magazines-compared to today. I had a lot of work featured in that awards annual. It was a good year for me in every way, except for that mullet. I'm not sure what that was all about.

DJ Stout is the former art director of Texas Monthly. He joined Pentagram in 2000 as a partner in their Austin, Texas office.

Milton Glaser program.JPGThe SPD 26th Annual Gala program. The evening honored Milton Glaser, who was given the SPD Herb Lubalin Award.

John Kascht: The guy front right is a young newspaper staffer about to see if he can make it as a freelance illustrator. He has a lot less hair these days but still has (and still fits) the cool silk coat.

I remember when that picture was taken. For some reason I remember that the guy next to me had shiny shoes. I felt immensely honored and more than a little fraudulent to be receiving design gold alongside Woodward, Froelich, and Stout. I didn't know them personally at the time but would work with each of them in upcoming years. Janet in particular would become an important figure in the development of my work and my career.

The gold award was for a portfolio of pages I illustrated and designed for the Washington Times. I was 27 when the paper's design director Joe Scopin asked me to lay out the weekly Books and Arts fronts. It felt like a reprimand somehow; I had been hired as an illustrator and knew little about design. Joe convinced me to try it and I rose to the occasion.

John Kascht was an art director at the Washington Times. He is currently an award-winning illustrator whose work appears in numerous publications.

Tom Bentkowski: When this picture was taken, I had already been on the Board of Directors of SPD for several years. I was flattered to have been asked by Bob Ciano to join the board, and I even looked forward to the meetings every month. It was a pleasure to meet with accomplished designers, share interesting conversations, and hear scandalous gossip. Plus, there was a table at the side of the room with urns of coffee and plates of pastries from Mangia.  What could be better? 

I was the Design Director of Life magazine back then, and would be for some years after this picture was taken. For a time, I wrote a monthly column for Life called "Speaking of Pictures." It was no lofty, windy, exegesis on Aesthetics. Rather, it was a kind of meditation on how those inky panes of paper could have such power to evoke feelings, recreate experiences, inspire memories. Just as this simple image now does. I hadn't seen this picture for, probably, 20 years.  And yet, upon my seeing it again, it took a split second for a wave of happy thoughts to come rushing forward. I immediately thought about David Carson, standing in the back, and how he created a new, idiosyncratic, exuberantly inventive typographic style. And how he once, upon reading a particularly uninspiring manuscript, set the whole article in Zapf Dingbats, converting those unexciting words into unintelligible textblocks. Next to David is D.J. Stout, whose designs for Texas Monthly were so beautiful that I subscribed to the magazine though I had then never even been to Texas.  I used to exchange occasional letters with D.J. He always signed off: "Adios Amigo." (Though D.J. is long gone from the magazine, I still get it to this day since I've always felt too guilty to cancel any magazine subscription--we need to hang on to as many as we can for as long as we can. Sadly, the subscription list has been reduced by attrition: Graphis and Fine Print and Emigre--and so many others--no longer arrive, eagerly awaited, in the mailbox.)  And I remember how honored I felt to be sitting next to Fred Woodward. Unassuming and soft-spoken, he was, just the same, like a rock star among art directors. When the SPD Annual would come out, we'd all immediately go to the index in the back, to check how many numbers were next to our names. Though it may have been egotistical and vain, it was a thrill to see that we had gotten three or five or nine pieces into the book. Then we flipped ahead to Fred's name, and found that he had 20 or 30.

And the picture brought back memories of . . . the trousers I was wearing.  A little while earlier, I had gone to the annual Barney's Warehouse Sale. After shivering in line for several hours on a Saturday morning, I was caught in a suddenly moving, surging mass of humanity--like a piece of driftwood being carried over Niagara Falls--and deposited in a warehouse basement. The first thing to catch my eye was a pair of Comme des Garcons trousers. What really captured my attention was a red tag with a series of x-ed out and rewritten prices. The trousers had been reduced from $180 to 90 to 60 to 30 to 15. I immediately felt sorry for them. Here they were, graphically and humiliatingly exposed as the objects of cold, cruel, repeated rejection. So I bought them. Luckily, they were close enough to my size that, for several multiples of the purchase price, a tailor was able to alter and cuff them. (Back then--as now--I didn't believe trousers should ever be uncuffed.) The pants' allure may have been diminished a bit, I suppose, by the fact that they had a bright yellow stripe down each side. I thought they looked pretty sharp. (Back then, men wore Old Spice and used phrases like "looked pretty sharp".) I soon found that I was alone in that assessment. The trousers seemed to have the magical ability to dissolve all restraint and tact in everyone I met. They all made snarky remarks (long before the word "snarky" had even been invented) about how "unusual" the pants were. That did it.  I wore them to every SPD Gala from then on.

Tom Bentkowski was the art director of Life magazine. He currently consults on a variety of magazine and media projects.

01 26 book cover.JPGThe 26th Publication Design Annual book jacket cover was art directed by Robert Altemus and Fred Woodward, with an illustration by Terry Allen

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