The SPD Interview: Dean Abatemarco

The SPD Interview: Dean Abatemarco Reader's Digest has had the pleasure of having Dean Abatemarco for over 15 years on it's staff. But it's his relatively new tenure as it's Creative Director that has made the magazine even better.

We asked him some questions for our new updated Q+A series 'The SPD Interview'

(and special thanks to Reader's Digest Associate Art Director Gloria Tebelman for our new SPD Interview logo!)

Imagine you're talking to someone who has never heard of your job. How would you describe it to them?
For me, being a creative director is akin to being a symphony conductor. You're constantly coordinating all the various little aspects; pushing for more here, pulling back there, changing on a dime when necessary, fine-tuning and refining all the little details, and always asking for the best performance possible from your collaborators. The "notes" we work with are the photographs, illustrations, words and typography. The layouts are our instruments where we innovate and explore, hone our skills and visually express. Hopefully, when it all comes together you end up with a unified, exquisite piece of work that elevates, inspires and informs.  

What do you think of as the big break in your career?

When I left art school after one year, I started working in a small design studio in Los Angeles. I had been studying painting and knew nothing about graphic design when I started, but eventually I learned all the basic skills of layout design there. We worked on all kinds of projects, from movie posters to magazines; it was a great education, if not a formal one. Eventually, I moved back to NYC and was really struggling. A friend from art school heard about a job at Time Inc. and recommended me. When I went for the interview, it turned out the creative director was an old friend of my former boss in LA. Needless to say, I got the job and my foot in the door at the largest publishing company in the world.  

What advice or parting words do you have for anyone who wants to do what you do? 
The best advice I could give is to never burn any bridges. Publishing is a very small world, and as tempting as it may be (and easier now more than ever) to trash-talk or disparage someone publicly, you never know when your paths might cross again. 

What's the biggest challenge you've had to deal with at your current title?
The biggest challenges are the ones we are all facing in the publishing industry these days--keeping our brands vital, relevant and prosperous in an ever-changing media landscape.

Favorite thing about your job?
By far it's the people I work with. We have a relatively small staff and produce a tremendous amount of content, but have a lot of fun doing it. It makes it all worthwhile

Least favorite thing about your job?
My commute.

Who at your magazine (what position) makes your life easier/better that most people wouldn't think of?
I feel lucky to have an editor-in-chief whose vision for the brands aligns so closely with my own. It's so important for the editorial and the visual identities of a publication to sync and I believe that our shared vision and mutual respect has been a big part of our success.
  • Luanne kleiman

    Proud of you cousin! And I love your advice about not burning bridges. It's SO easy to do these days, but you have to remember that you never know who you may see any circumstance!

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