From the SPD Archives: John Kascht at The Washington Times, 1988-91

From the SPD Archives: John Kascht at The Washington Times, 1988-91
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John Kascht, who was featured on the SPD site earlier this week pictured at the 1990 SPD26 gala, took home the gold that evening in the Design/Cover category. His work at the Washington Times newspaper in the late 1980-early 90s exhibited both his considerable talents as a illustrator as well as a masterful page designer and art director. Like David Cowles, Andrew Skwish, and other art directors who started at newspapers, John worked in a very old school style at the Times, both illustrating and art directing his pages (and he won many awards for both)!

These pages were groundbreaking in their time, both for the boldness of the design and the sheer scale of the illustration size (The Washington Times design director was Joseph Scopin). Very few publications of any kind, and certainly few newspapers, were running pages and artwork at this kind of scale. You can see Kascht experimenting with his illustration style, and his design and typography has an impressive fluidity and diversity, especially considering the very limited, pre-desktop production environment in which they were created. Kascht's art direction and illustration at the Washington Times were highly influential on the explosion of publication design and imagery that took place starting in the early 1990s.

Since leaving the Washington Times in the early 90s, John's illustrations and caricatures have appeared in the pages and on the covers of countless magazines and newspapers. A selection of his work has been collected by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. And you can see a lot more of his work on the Above & Beyond: John Kascht iPad app, created by Joe Zeff and available (free!) from the iTunes Store.

We've gathered a gallery of John's work at the Washington Times, from 1988-91, along with some of his behind-the-scenes comments.

(Above): The Washington TimesFebruary 26, 1990
Art director, designer, illustrator: John Kascht; design director: Joseph Scopin



Kascht9.jpgThe Washington TimesFebruary 8, 1988
Art director, designer, illustrator: John Kascht; design director: Joseph Scopin

Kascht5.jpgThe Washington Times, May 20, 1991
Art director, designer, illustrator: John Kascht; design director: Joseph Scopin



John Kascht: The gold award I received at the SPD Gala 26 was for [the FDR cover] that 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.

I dove into page design the only way that made sense to me--by making pencil sketches of possible compositions; playing with tone, movement, balance and color as if I was working on a big illustration. Since newspaper printing is so unpredictable, I realized quickly that a broadsheet has only one reliable strength: its size. I started thinking of the pages as posters. I wanted the entire page to make a single statement rather than look like a pile of boring, unrelated elements. I worked intuitively and even though I was inexperienced, it came easily. To my surprise, I loved the process. 

Fortunately the Times organization was almost as green as I was. Only a few years old, the paper hadn't yet become entrenched in ideas about what constituted "the look of the paper," so things that would have been impossible at more established journals were allowed at the Times, and even encouraged. Many of us in the art department didn't remotely fit the paper's right-wing politics, but we were given almost unchecked freedom to experiment. A paradoxical and exhilarating creative tension developed between the paper's conservative editorial content and its radical design.

The art department of the Washington Times in its first decade was a magical, unrepeatable experiment. The right ingredients came together in an unlikely place and everything just blazed for a time. The artists there were poorly paid and often flying by the seat of our pants, but looking back now I'm smiling at the memory of how high we flew.


See more of John Kascht's illustration work here.

Kascht8.jpgThe Washington Times, October 23, 1989
Art director, designer, illustrator: John Kascht; design director: Joseph Scopin


Kascht7.jpgThe Washington Times, June 25, 1990
Art director, designer, illustrator: John Kascht; design director: Joseph Scopin


Kascht6.jpgThe Washington Times, September 26, 1988
Art director, designer, illustrator: John Kascht; design director: Joseph Scopin

Kascht10.jpgThe Washington TimesFebruary 26, 1990
Art director, designer: John Kascht; illustrator: Terry E. Smith; design director: Joseph Scopin


Kascht3.jpgThe Washington Times, September 15, 1991
Art director, designer: John Kascht; design director: Joseph Scopin


Kascht4.jpgThe Washington Times, October 13, 1991
Art director, designer: John Kascht; design director: Joseph Scopin

Resources:

Big Interview: John Kascht
John Kascht Website
Above & Beyond: John Kascht is an app created by Joe Zeff, available free from the App Store
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