Gail Bichler, design director of The New York Times Magazine
Gail Bichler is the design director of The New York Times Magazine. She is part of an amazing visual team at the magazine that includes Kathy Ryan (photography director) and Matt Willey (art director), among others. Every week they create bold, graphic, smart, provocative and always memorable covers and inside pages. A few recent covers are pictured here, and you can see them on a regular basis by following Bichler on Twitter (@gailbichler) or watching the new video series, Behind the Cover. Bichler has been a frequent speaker at design and visual conferences around the world; ModMagNY Edition will present her giving a very rare hometown presentation May 30 at Parsons School of Design in NYC.
SPD: What's your most recent project?
Gail Bichler: We just finished our annual Health Issue, out this weekend. The cover story is a piece by Michael Pollan about mainstreaming the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental disorders. In the piece Michael describes his own experience taking shrooms, which provided some fun material for illustrations. We got to work with Christoph Niemann on those.
SPD: What is some recent work that you're most proud of (and why)?
Gail Bichler: In the past month we’ve published a couple of cover stories that deal with public health issues. One on the crisis of black infant and maternal mortality rates in the U.S. and another on children of the opioid epidemic and the struggle that their mothers face to get clean. These stories are typically not big opportunities for design. In fact, the design usually needs to be pretty understated, but it’s gratifying to have a role in putting them out there. I’m proud that we publish them.
SPD: Which magazine best represents the current state-of-the-art of magazine creation?
Gail Bichler: Fuck it, I'm going to say Civilization.
SPD: Which magazine best represents the future of magazines?
Gail Bichler: I don’t have a clear vision of what the future of magazines is. I think it could take many different forms. California Sunday has a beautifully designed print edition, but it is also has a pop up performance magazine and a digital presence. They’re telling stories in a number of mediums in ways that are really satisfying. I think that’s a version of the future of magazines.
SPD: Is there one person or magazine at the NY edition of ModMag who you think is going to be a "don't miss"?
Gail Bichler: I’m looking forward to Michele Outland’s talk. The photography for Gather is so distinctive and has had a huge influence on food photography in both independent and mainstream magazines. Now that Michele is at Bon Appétit I’m interested to hear how she has managed to continue making Gather and what kind of crossover there is between making that magazine which is so personal and driven by her own taste and making one that has what I imagine to be very different goals and a more mass readership.
SPD: I'm optimistic about the future of magazines because....
Gail Bichler: ...quality journalism seems to find ways to survive. The appetite for it still exists. A lot of magazines have been shuttered, but exciting things are happening in the ones that are thriving.