The Launch of NatuRx with Creative Director, Bryan Nanista

Last month, Active Interest Media launched NatuRx, a new publication focused on “Better Living Through Cannabis.” We spoke with Creative Director Bryan Nanista about being a one-man art department and the process behind designing this brand new magazine in a short period of time.

SPD: Tell us about NatuRx.
Bryan Nanista:
“Better Living Through Cannabis” – cue the weed jokes, right? NatuRx readers certainly appreciate a good high, and our new magazine can guide them to the latest, greatest strains. But NatuRx is no stoner mag. It’s a smart, deeply reported, and occasionally sassy service manual for grown-ups who want to experience the healing powers of this ancient plant. With initial national distribution of 250,000 copies, NatuRx is a serious launch with a serious mission: To demystify and normalize this booming wellness category for the millions of canna-curious consumers out there who’re striving for a healthy, active lifestyle. Published by Active Interest Media, NatuRx will provide world-class how-to editorial from a world-class editorial team who’ve run service-oriented staples like Backpacker, Men’s Health, Clean Eating, Better Nutrition, and Yoga Journal. From sex to travel to recipes to fitness, NatuRx (pronounced Nature Rx) will help you sleep better, play longer, ache less, and focus more clearly– while learning what’s safe, legal, and effective.

SPD: What was the brainstorming process like for the launch of this new publication/first issue? Did you have a particular vision in mind?
Ha! I wish. I mean, I sort of had a general stlyle I wanted, I had mood boards and tear sheets and all that jazz, but I wasn’t sure where I would end up. For me, a big project such as this is like wrestling a monster. Sure the monster is sort of friendly and cute and all, but it has a mind of it’s own and wants to do what it wants to do. Since that analogy didn’t lose anyone, what I mean is that I can create a strong foundation with styles, grids, rules blah blah blah, but the design is always moving and changing. It is very organic (tried not to use that cheesy word) in the way it begins to take on its own shape and lead me down paths I didn’t think I was going to go. And that is one of my favorite parts of big projects, watching them take on their own personalities while I try to keep them focused in the direction I want.

SPD: Are there certain elements you wished you could have included but didn’t make the cut?
To be honest, there was no time to come up with multiple ideas or designs for sections/pages. Almost nothing was “left on the editing floor” but not because we think everything we do is awesome, but because we needed to use everything we had to get this out the door. It was very “run and gun” figuring out the system as we went, which is both a blessing and a curse. Besides some outside writers, the core team consisted of 4 people, 3 on the edit side, and then just me on the design/art side.

SPD: How long did it take to put this issue together/launch the magazine?
We had done some initial mock up pages to gauge general interest from subscribers and, more importantly, advertisers. The project was sort of forgotten about while that process was going on. Then one morning I woke up to an email that said we were a go. We had eight weeks to write and design the first issue. For design, I quickly reworked the overall fonts, colors, and vibe to work in the real world, as opposed to the magical mock-up world where they were first created.

SPD: What’s your favorite part of this issue?
A few things really. One is getting to use more illustrators. I have really never relied on illustations all that much in past work, but our subject matter and stories really lend themselves to illustrations. I have also been in awe of 8by8 and Howler magazines, the style of and the way they use illustration was really inspiring.

One of my other favorite things is a changing grid structure. In the past, I thought it was almost a sin to break the grid, or to use different grids for the same section. But now, I’m more of a “consistency is dead” type designer. I mean, stay in the rules yes, but let’s push those rules as far as we can. Way more fun to design that way and makes for more interesting pages.

Oh, and the actual editorial is fantastic. There are some very entertaining stories in here along with real information that is done with such a great tone of voice.

SPD: What’s next for NatuRx?
Well, to be honest, hopefully just more issues. Starting new mags is pretty hard these days, but hoping this one finds a home. I would love to keep going and see what the design can do and how far I can play with it. That said, we are also doing the full gamut of social, web, and online education to accompany the magazine.


Creative Director: Bryan Nanista with Monochrome Design House
Managing Editor: Christina Erb
Editor-In-Chief: Peter Moore
Founder & President: Jonathan Dorn

Gentleman's Journal: Issue 32 with Art Editor, Joseph Sinclair Parker

Cover_SeptOct_TGJ Magazine_V3.jpg

Yesterday, The Gentleman’s Journal, released its September Food & Drink Issue with cover star Ryan Reynolds. We asked the quarterly’s Art Editor, Joseph Sinclair Parker, to take us behind-the-scenes of the cover shoot.

Joseph Sinclair Parker, Art Editor: I have worked at Gentleman’s Journal for the last three years, art directing the quarterly magazine and working closely with our talented editorial team. During this time I have also been involved in a redesign of the company’s branding, and launched the Gentleman’s Journal newspaper in March this year. 

Before joining the brand, I worked at Esquire UK and British GQ. Starting at Gentleman’s Journal gave me the interesting opportunity to work with editor Joseph Bullmore, and help him push the magazine in a more contemporary direction whilst maintaining its luxury, high-end origins. In order to challenge what it means to be a ‘gentleman’, we sought out well-known, diverse cover stars from around the world; from A$AP Rocky and Lenny Kravitz to Samuel L. Jackson and Jeff Goldblum.

For our September/October issue this year, we landed Ryan Reynolds for the cover shoot. Our features writer, Jonathan Wells, spent the best part of a year playing email tennis with Ryan’s team to make the New York-based shoot come together — and in early August we headed to Tribeca, where Ryan lives, to spend four hours with him.

As the magazine celebrates and champions business and entrepreneurship, we were keen to approach the project from a different direction than the expected ‘A-list actor’ angle. Ryan’s latest business venture — acquiring a majority stake in Aviation American Gin — provided a natural way into the interview, and informed the direction for the shoot.

We worked through the design process, playing with lots of ideas and concepts - from Ryan as a travelling salesman in a hotel room, to him filling up gin bottles using a garden hose (interesting, but not our finest hour…). We eventually settled on the aesthetic of 1960/70s business America, but rather than the Mad Men office setting, we’d shot it ‘after-hours’ in a bar.


Our American producer on the project, Chris Balestra, found the ideal location in The Flower Shop — an event space by day; classic American bar by night. On the day of the shoot, we headed to Tribeca. I had heard stories about Ryan being camera-shy and preferring a quick shoot, but he turned up with his daughter (“This is her first bar…”) and, after some brief handshakes, went into the interview.

We had decided to fully embrace the larger-than-life aesthetic of this period, and brought props for Ryan to interact with; retro briefcases, vintage telephones, a drinks trolley and notepad. Each of our issues follows a theme and this was our food and drink special. Ryan’s gin and the whole jar of olives you can see in the cover shot were a nod to this.

As most art directors will know, you can never predict what is going to happen on the shoot day. Working live always has its challenges. During the interview, I got the news that Guy Aroch, our photographer on the project, had been delayed in Florida and was still in the air flying to New York. He was going to be two hours late — at which point we were tempted to open a bottle ourselves. Fortunately, Guy and Ryan are firm friends, and had a great relationship when he finally arrived. Guy’s team used mobile and dynamic lighting, playing with different gels and objects around the bar (a whiskey bottle, a ashtray) to create interesting and unexpected lightscapes — such as the one you can see on the cover. After the shoot, we relaxed and all enjoyed a glass of Aviation on the rocks at the bar (best enjoyed with mixer). 

It was a shoot that had its fair share of challenges. The combination of working overseas and at a New York pace made it a testing project at times. But, having the opportunity to collaborate with a talented team who all understood the same vision meant we produced a photo series which presented Ryan in an unexpected and more mature way.

We’re an independent doing some great things and I can’t recommend the issue enough. Grab a copy at

Art Direction: Joseph Sinclair Parker; Photography: Guy Aroch; Styling: Joseph Episcopo; Set Design: Amy Henry; Grooming: Kristan Serafino; Production: Chris Balestra

Pop-Up Magazine's Escape Issue with Art Director, Supriya Kalidas

Pop-Up Magazine's Escape Issue with Art Director, Supriya Kalidas

Pop-Up Magazine is back with its first-ever themed issue centering around escape. The new tour kicks off next week in San Francisco with stops in Oakland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago. We chatted with Pop-Up Magazine (and The California Sunday Magazine) Art Director, Supriya Kalidas, who walked us through the design process for the live magazine event.

Read More

Entertainment Weekly's Game of Thrones Issue with Executive Editor and Creative Director, Tim Leong

Entertainment Weekly's Game of Thrones Issue with Executive Editor and Creative Director, Tim Leong

As the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones draws closer, Entertainment Weekly, put a spotlight on the much-anticipated return with their recent issue. Breaking EW records with 16 unique covers—besting last year’s 15 cover Avengers spectacle—and focusing solely on the hit show, we spoke with Entertainment Weekly’s Executive Editor and Creative Director, Tim Leong, about how the team put together this record-breaking issue.

Read More

California Sunday’s Photo Issue with Photography Director, Jacqueline Bates

California Sunday’s Photo Issue with Photography Director, Jacqueline Bates

The California Sunday Magazine’s December Issue is the publication’s first-ever photography issue and focuses on the concept of home in the American West. This special issue also features an off-the-page extension with an exhibition that extends upon the “At Home” cover story at the Aperture Foundation Gallery in New York City (December 6, 2018 to January 4, 2019). Read on to hear from Photography Director, Jacqueline Bates, about the issue and the exhibition.

Read More