Mike Schnaidt, Creative Director

656- Summer Music Preview.jpg

Mike Schnaidt: I fell in love at my dentist’s office. No, not with Dr. Bernstein, but rather with a copy of Entertainment Weekly.

It was 2002, and I was pursuing a B.F.A. in graphic design at C.W. Post. My parents were grateful that I even went to college, as I was a bit thick-headed in high school. But, by studying design, I was able to knock down a few walls in my brain. When I discovered Entertainment Weekly, it shed light on which direction to go.

The treasure I found at Dr. Bernstein’s office was the Summer Music Preview issue. David Bowie and Moby were on the cover. The photography pinched your cheeks, and the design smacked you in the face. The gestalt: a magazine cover that felt poster-size. Open it up, and every square pica was designed to maximum volume. As a fanboy of comics, music, and movies, I understood why. EW’s design had to express the content with the same geeky excitement as readers would consume it. Once I came to that conclusion, I came to understand a larger lesson in graphic design: form follows function.

Soon after, I ordered a subscription for my Weekly jolt of design inspiration.


As a design student, I worked at a glacial pace. It took me months to get a single magazine opener right. Therefore, I was perplexed at how the EW art department could produce a magazine at the rapid fire pace of a weekly. But what seemed like an impossible feat were EW’s packages. For each Fall TV preview, Summer Movie Preview, and IT List, the design team conjured up an intricate structure that somehow spanned across 50+ pages.

By studying these packages, I came to understand the art of larger design systems. As a whole, these magazine packages were beautiful. But like a Lego block, the ingenuity was in the design of the modular– the core design pieces of the package had to be simple enough in order to build a seemingly complex system.

Throughout college and my first job at Network Computing magazine (long gone), I made many attempts to mimic whatever design nuances I learned from EW. But one night, while up late doing work for grad school, I saw a listing for a designer position at my favorite mag. I applied to Entertainment Weekly, although I was fairly confident I wouldn’t get a call back.

Well I did.

I was totally unprepared for an interview that week, but of course took it anyway. So, I pulled an all-nighter, where I cut and mounted an oversized black print portfolio (remember those?) to perfection. I’m pretty sure I was high off 3M spray adhesive during my interview.

The rest is history. I was hired by my design heroine, Geraldine Hessler, and was put through bootcamp. I learned how those packages were put together: teamwork from some of the most talented designers out there. Geraldine’s direction was tenacious, and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to learn from her, Brian Anstey, and Amid Capeci.

Today, I exercise what I was taught at the breakneck pace of a weekly. And it wasn’t until I finally became a Creative Director that I fully understood those lessons.

I wonder what magazines Dr. Bernstein has in his office today?


Sam Cannon, Artist and Director


Sam Cannon: As a kid, I would spend every summer with my grandma (Mema) in South Carolina. Mema was my favorite person in the entire world, and her hobbies included chain-smoking, vehemently denying her age, and watching Days of our Lives. By the time I was 8 I knew I wanted to be an artist, and Mema had offered a jump start by getting me addicted to coffee. I remember she had this huge stack of supermarket tabloids that I used to sift through when I was bored. 

SPD: What year?

SPD: What were you up to?
: Making unintelligible movies with my first compact VHS camera and getting on Mema’s “last nerve”. 

SPD: What magazine?
Weekly World News


SPD: What was it that so enthralled you?
I was a very imaginative kid, and I had this fear that when you grow up your imagination dies. I remember wondering what my life would be like when I was no longer able to play or make-believe and it caused me a lot of anxiety. I was old enough to understand that the stories in Weekly World News were fictional, but it didn’t offer any kind of disclaimer which I loved. It was silly and fantastic but most importantly it was made by and purchased by adults. It made me less scared of growing up. 


SPD: Do you know now who the creatives were?
At the time the editor was Eddie Clontz, a 10th grade dropout from North Carolina. WWN was only created to make use of the black-and-white presses after its sister publication, The National Enquirer began being printed in color. It started out as another source of celebrity gossip but began running stories about alien abductions, merfolk, and Elvis still being alive. It was the OG of fake news. 


SPD: How does that inform your creative now?
It was the first time I realized images could be doctored, which had a big impact on the way I understood photography from a young age. I think a lot of people see a camera as a way to capture and reflect the world but for me it was just a way to gather the footage I needed to make something new.  

sam-cannon.com | instagram.com/samcannon

Chin Wang, Creative Director at ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine


SPD: What year?
Chin Wang: Around 1998 

SPD: What were you up to? 
CW: My first job was at a newspaper in Florida doing mundane production work (coloring in the Sunday comics!).

SPD: What magazine?
Entertainment Weekly


SPD: What was it that so enthralled you?
Back then, I found anything on nice paper glamorous and loved so many magazines, but especially Entertainment Weekly. Every page was a treat and I devoured everything – from the bold illustrations to the expressive typography. One particular layout I remember: Jennifer Aniston's disembodied head set up like a mannequin in a row of dummy heads, opposite the headline “Big Wig” on an illustrated can of hairspray. All the elements seemed to work so harmoniously together: the image, the design, the words. Even now, I wonder about the editor who wrote the headline and imagine that person saying, “Oh yeah? You've got an amazingly styled photo of a breakout star with a cult haircut? And you came up with a hairspray can design and want me to come up with a headline that’s six letters or less? (Dramatic pause) Yup, I got it! It’s … BIG WIG!” 


SPD: Do you know now who the creatives were?
CW: Robert Newman, then John Korpics. I am such a huge fan of both. Years later, when John offered me a job as the art director at ESPN the Magazine, I jumped at the chance. Working for him was equal parts inspiration and hilarity. When I expressed some trepidation about taking over the magazine after he got a bigger job at the company, he shooed me away and laughed, “Chin, get the f*ck out of my office!” It was exactly the kind of Tiger Boss vote of confidence I needed.

SPD: How does that inform your creative now?
Well, I stopped doing text on a curved path years ago, but haven’t forgotten that all the things on a page have to speak to each other and that everyone on the masthead has a job to do. It’s nauseatingly sentimental, I know, but I really do believe creativity doesn’t happen without a good mix of people who champion one another.


Casey Stenger, Photo Strategist at MetLife


SPD: What year?
Casey Stenger: 1998-ish

SPD: What were you up to? 
CS: I had just moved to New York and was lucky enough to land a gig at Men’s Journal, my first bona fide publishing job. I was green as green could be—more of a chartreuse.  Magazine baby skates days. I was working in the hallowed halls of Wenner Media and could not be happier (or poorer).  There was the occasional celebrity parading through to meet with Jann, you could get buds from the mailroom guys and I worked with the best bunch of pre-“bro” editors of all time. The soundtrack of the day was some mix of Beth Orton, Elliot Smith, Air and Massive Attack.  Get the picture? Oh, and there was Fred. I never did work with the man but working down the hall from him made me feel kinda special. 


SPD: What magazine and what was it that so enthralled you?
CS: A little preamble here. YM was my first childhood magazine subscription, which was my bible. In college I graduated to Rolling Stone and The New Yorker which made me feel both cool and smart, respectively. Then I joined the industry. Magazines were new. New York was new.  And SPD was this new wonderful family I had discovered.  All first loves, indeed. In those days I digested every magazine I could get my hands on. Mining and learning and discovering and, I see now, developing my voice as a nascent Photo Editor.

I came upon Madison one day and fell hard. Restrained, minimalist thoughtful design and photography. And a shit-ton of black & white. Was there anything more satisfying to see in a magazine (or on the cover, gasp!) in the late 90’s?? I don’t have my copies anymore but I remember Helena Bonham Carter looking badass smoking a ciggie on the cover, Robin Wright (Penn then, maybe?) in perfect icy blueness and Samuel L. Jackson looking smooth as ever. It was both graphic and soft. Edgy but gorgeous and so clean and modern in that moment of time. I think I also liked that it was an indie find. It had a short life but I cherished those deliveries and hoarded my little collection for many years. 


SPD: Do you know now who the creatives were? 
I reached out to Antonia Ludes who was the Creative Director of Madison and Wolfgang Ludes, photographer, and thankfully they got back to me. Antonia was generous enough to share some of her favorite layouts with SPD which you see here.

Of her time making Madison Antonia says, “We created 10 issues per year with a very small team - a labor of love and hard work, but we had the best time.”  Love.

SPD: How does that inform your creative now? 
CS: I learned a lot about editorial photography during this time and Madison is one of many examples. Your pictures have to work hard on their own.  You can’t rely on design to prop them up.  I also find I’m drawn to simplicity and negative space…and black & white!