Scott A. Davis


"The SPD annual is a big inspiration. It's where pub design is headed and it sets the bar (and that's not me being a kiss ass)."

-Scott A. Davis, Vice President and Creative Director of AARP Publications

SPD: What is your current job? 
Scott A. Davis: I'm the Vice President/Creative Director of AARP Publications.

SPDWhere did you get your start?  
SD: My first real publishing job was at McGraw Hill designing book club catalogs. A former teacher contacted me about a freelance gig designing the prototype of Entertainment Weekly.  I jumped at the chance (was a big risk). I spent the next 19 years at Time Inc. gaining experience working on various titles in different roles. Sports Illustrated (freelance),  People magazine, Who weekly (People Australia), InStyle, Money magazine, Time magazine and Fortune Small Business magazine only finally to land back at People in their books division. Saw the D.C. Based AARP job and on a whim, threw my hat in the ring.

SPD: Who are your mentors? 
SD: Rudy Hoglund (Money magazine’s Art Director) was my first creative mentor, though I picked up something from every boss I'd had along the way. Hal Wingo, Hank Gilman, and Bob Safian were the editors that helped me develop a voice as a partner in the edit process. My mentor now is my current boss, AARP's Editorial Director, Myrna Blyth. Very smart and knows our audience inside out.

SPD: What's your favorite part about your job? 
SD: It's when we nail a photo shoot, illustration or when my staff comes up with a strong design. As the creative lead, it's also gratifying to see staffers grow. I'm proud of my small part in that process.

Lauper DID NOT want to get on the scooter originally (Caitlin Peters, OUR Photo editor, coerced her).  it was the last take of the day and she lit up on it. She was quoted SAYING "the head of AARP liked motorcycles” in an interview. I’m certainly not the head of AARP but glad she hopped on :) The lighting on this shoot (by Jim Wright) was great, very little photoshop clean up on our part. We seriously try not to do too much. 

This was for Fortune Small Business Magazine. I rarely take over layouts (notably because I’ve had such creative staff) but this layout I sat with the designer (the talented Mike Novak) and ask THAT he try the logo huge with the type nestled within.  Love it because we got away with zero body copy :)

SPD:Where do you go for inspiration? 
SD: I graze other publications and love movie credit typography and graphics. And yes, the SPD annual is a big inspiration. It's where pub design is headed and it sets the bar (and that's not me being a kiss ass. I think the majority of members get juiced about the work in the book).

SPD: What is the biggest challenge of your job? 
SD: Pushing our design while keeping in mind our audience (38 million readers) and the needs of AARP as a brand.

SPD: How did you first hear about SPD? 
SD: I joined SPD back in 1994 because the rest of the art department were members. I remember my first two submissions won merits and I thought, this is so easy. Found out over time, it's not.  It was beginners luck (it also helped that Gary Baseman and Mary Ellen Mark’s work graced those pages).

SPD: Tell us more about some of your recent work for AARP.
SD: A deal was brokered by the Editor-In-Chief, Bob Love, Peter Max and our ad sales team to run a second cover celebrating the anniversary of the Summer of Love. It was an unusual but fun assignment for our celebrity cover driven magazine.

On the opioid cover, I asked my Director of Photography, Michael Wichita, to shoot opioids in the shape of a U.S. map. Gregory Reid created beautiful images of nothing but pills and capsules.  

The Steve Martin cover was shot by Robert Trachtenberg, who injected the right amount of humor and sophistication to the images. Deputy Photo Editor Caitlin Peters directed this shoot and texted me from the set that we had something special. She was right!

SPD: What does SPD mean to you? 
SD: It's inspirational, both the work and the people. The creatives I meet at the galas are refreshing, and exciting. It's one of the things I miss most about not living in NY. SPD is also the bar for us. If we get recognized for our work, it’s appreciated.

SPD: What words of wisdom would you pass onto your childhood self? 
Don't worry so much. If you work at it and treat people right, things tend to work out.  I also think taking a risk early on was important for me. Lastly, if you aren't digging the publication you're at, get out! I jumped around.