Five Questions for Andrea Dunham, Creative Director

Five Questions for Andrea Dunham, Creative Director

Edited by 
Joseph Caserto

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 Creative Director is like for Andrea Dunham.

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

The Pro's Work




About the Pro
Andrea Dunham
Creative Director
Works for:  People Magazine, 
Degree Earned: BFA Illustration

1. Imagine you're talking to someone who has never heard of your job. How would you describe it to them?
It's not unlike being the cruise ship captain, entertainment director, DJ and also the guy who bunks with 14 dudes down in cargo mopping up vomit after hours. What I actually do, is set a course for the design aesthetic for the People brand: I prototype ideas, design covers, brainstorm cover lines, work on video initiatives, direct shoots, and hire, manage and work with exceedingly talented designers and photo editors to achieve consistency throughout the pages of the magazine, the digital editions and all brand extensions. And maybe only mop vomit around Oscar season.

2. What about your job makes you love it?
I love the entire process of hearing the pitch of a story, wrestling the "nut graph" to the ground, striving to understand what the messaging needs to be, solving the visual challenges, reworking things when they don't work right, and learning something new, about dozens of topics, every day. I also love being exposed to the most extraordinary talent in the business, by virtue of working at one of the biggest brands in the world. 

3. What do you think of as the big break in your career?
I quit waitressing take over an internship after college at Entertainment Weekly. I was hired right out of that into my first paid job as a staff designer at New York Magazine
4. What is your biggest professional mistake or regret?
I regret I didn't push to do more of what I loved about my last job, in this current job, which is get away from the desk and out into the world on shoots experiencing the making of art as opposed to commissioning of it. The real learning, and improving, is in the doing, not the long-distance directing. That said, I'm working to correct that, and bit by bit, I'm hoping to return to much of what I loved about art direction, just in totally new areas.

5. What advice or parting words do you have for anyone who wants to do what you do?
Consider yourself a journalist AND a designer--at least the longest-employed, most valuable ones do--and, don't just decorate; communicate. Don't be wedded to your first ideas and don't get emotional when they don't work for your editors. If you think like them, and like a reader or a user, you're doubly endowed because few editors can push you over, grab the mouse and make their vision come alive, but YOU can. So don't just be a precious designer. Expand. And get out of your seat often and seek fresh inspiration. No one magazine or product or site should satisfy your soul forever.

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. 


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Friday, September 19, 2014.
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