Five Questions for James Reyman, Principal/Creative Director

Ever looked at a magazine's masthead and wondered just what do all those job titles actually mean? What does a photo producer actually do? Does a deputy art director get a shiny badge? And why are some people creative directors and others design directors? 
Our blog series "Five Questions for..."  is here to help answer those questions and give you insight into working in the world of publication design. Is there a particular job that you want to know more about? Email  us at and we'll find an expert who does it. They'll give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work. Read on to find out what being a Principal/Creative Director is like for James Reyman.

Editor's Note: James is on the SPD Board of Directors, and is a past host of our Pub(lications) Crawl.

The Pro's Work




About the Pro
James Reyman
Principal/Creative Director
Works for: Reyman Studio
Degree Earned: BFA, Illustration
Twitter: @jamesreyman

1. Imagine you're talking to someone who has never heard of your job. How would you describe it to them?
Potential clients come to me with an idea: Sometimes it's a magazine, a book or a newspaper redesign. Sometimes it's an infographic. I work with them to come up with a compelling, contemporary visual solution to their needs, taking their ideas and turning them into sturdy visual forms, while being the bridge between the client/editor's idea and the reader. I choose typefaces and present design concepts, we talk about them, they make a choice from what I present to them, and we begin to develop the idea. Design is an evolutionary process; it's collaborative.

2. What about your job makes you love it?
Creative problem solving is what makes me tick. It's what I've done since I was a child. I've always drawn pictures and designed things. I've had my own design studio in New York for 17 years, and while I never know what the next project will be, they are all great. It's a profession that requires an honest assessment of a client's needs and an honest creative solution. It's not a profession for teenaged whiz kids: It takes experience and knowledge. It's not like sports. My best project was the last one I did, and hopefully the next project I do will be my best one!

3. What do you think of as the big break in your career?
After I redesigned the Far Eastern Economic Review for Dow Jones, which was very well received, I got a call from Joe Dizney, Design Director of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). He said he had a project for me, and asked if I could come down and see him. I said, "Sure, is tomorrow ok?" He said, "hmmmmm." I said, "Is later today ok?" He said, "hmmmmm." I said, "Now? Is now ok?" He said, "Yes! Now is good." I dropped everything and ran downtown to meet with Joe. This was a Monday, and he wanted me to work on the redesign of The WSJ. David Pybas, who was the front page Art Director, and I, were to redesignWSJ covers in tabloid format on Tuesday, which we would show to the Editor of the newspaper on Wednesday, when he would see our solutions and decide if we would continue working on the project. David and I designed 26 front pages in one day. The editors came by the next day and approved our work. That was the beginning of my studio's single largest project: the total redesign of The Wall Street Journal, including the European, Asian and domestic editions, and it lasted 2 years.

4. What is your biggest professional mistake or regret?

Tough question, which I will do my best to answer. I once underbid a project by half of its actual amount. I got the project and lost money. Everything went extremely well and the client loved it, but I kicked myself for undercharging. I have also overbid on a project, lost it, and kicked myself. Sometimes you just can't win!

5. What advice or parting words do you have for anyone who wants to do what you do?

As difficult as it may be to understand, it sometimes takes many years to find your voice as a creative professional. You might have so much love and desire to be at the top of the industry, but don't yet have the creative subtlety you'll need to solve the most advanced problems. The design profession is one of evolution: It takes time and you should always work hard to achieve your potential. It's totally worth it. You'll do it. As the saying goes (I'm paraphrasing), the creative life is not a destination, it's a journey. You learn as you go. Enjoy every minute and never look back; always move forward.

Is there a particular job that you want to know more about? Email us at and we'll find an expert who does it. They'll give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work. 

"Five Questions for..." is edited by Joseph Caserto

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