Five Questions for Sue Swenson, Production Director

Five Questions for Sue Swenson, Production 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 Production Director is like for Sue Swenson.

Editor's Note:  Self  is a past host of our Pub(lications) Crawl.

The Pro's Work




About the Pro
Sue Swenson
Works for: SELF magazine 
Degree Earned: BA English

1. Imagine you're talking to someone who has never heard of your job. How would you describe it to them?
I oversee the editorial production of SELF magazine in its print, digital and special editions. I meet daily, weekly and monthly deadlines and ensure that each magazine page is shipped accurately for publication. My team works closely with the art, photo and edit departments, which all use Adobe software (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, DPS, and more) to create the print edition, and once it's approved, we use those same applications to create the editions that are published on iOS and Android tablets: Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle, and others. In this job, there is a lot of multi-tasking every day, and at the same time there must be great attention to the details of the magazine's pages: color, typography, and overall quality control. Our department updates InDesign templates and library elements that are used to produce each issue, and I must ensure and manage organized work flows between us and the teams that get our work into print and onto the tablets, in order for everything to run smoothly.

2. What about your job makes you love it?
Many people think that working with tight deadlines can be too much pressure, but I find it exciting every time a magazine issue is successfully closed and goes to press, especially when those around me work with professionalism and good humor to boot. Working in a creative environment is always interesting and keeps me on my toes, especially when the unexpected happens. Then, I just remind myself that change is good, and I enjoy trouble-shooting problems that come up.

3. What do you think of as the big break in your career?
When I answered an ad in The New York Times for a production assistant at Condé Nast, got an appointment with Human Resources, and didn't know until I went into the interview that it was for Vogue. I got that gig and worked for Vogue for five years, at a time when technology was changing, and I learned a great deal on the job.
4. What is your biggest professional mistake or regret?
I don't think I feel regret over any professional mistakes I've made. I am sure that I've felt upset at the time I made them, but I always learned something from them and that made me better at what I do. It may sound cliché to say that, but it really is true because no one is perfect and mistakes are just part of the learning process.

5. What advice or parting words do you have for anyone who wants to do what you do?
Everyone tells you to network, but it really does work, and also, to do a job like this, you must keep an open attitude and learn new technology as it comes your way. I believe in good karma: If you keep working hard, doors will open up, no matter what. 

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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