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TYPE Magazine Presents A Conference That Looks At The Visual Side Of Rolling Stone & The People Who Contributed To That Legacy – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Roger Black, Editor In Chief, TYPE Magazine…

May 21, 2018

“I believe that’s the real problem and that’s the second part of what we’re going to talk about at this conference, what do we do; how do we recreate the magazine experience in the digital era? And how do we do it digitally? I will be the first to admit that I have not succeeded in figuring out digital formats for magazines that have the same compelling feeling, the same attraction, the same experience where you sit down with a good print magazine and you enjoy it. And then you get to a finish; you feel like you’ve completed it and you put it down. And that’s not true with the websites or the apps. They’re never finished. And it’s a very tangential and short experience. You dive in and read part of an article and you’re gone. You don’t even know where the article came from some of the time.” Roger Black…

“What I want to ask everyone (at the conference) is what they learned. What was the point? What is the value that we can impart? If you had a young designer today, what would you say to them? Or a young photography editor, what are the main guidelines? What is the meaning of Rolling Stone? What is the end result of all of this? And try to push that into not just an oral history, but actual analysis. And that’ll be fun to do. Andy Cowles, who was one of the designers who shook things up, who burned the brush, he is going to try and talk about how the brand was built and what that means now. And for the new owner, that may be what he paid for, the brand. What can you do with that?” Roger Black…

May 25, 2018 at the School of Visual Arts Theatre in New York, TYPE magazine will present “The Art of Rolling Stone,” exploring the impact art directors, illustrators, photographers, and visual creatives have had on the 50-year-old magazine.

Roger Black is editor in chief of TYPE and a typographer and designer in his own right. The stories and ‘lessons learned’ from the visual leaders of the magazine is the ultimate goal of this conference.

“And I want to get them to tell some of their funny stories, because they all have hilarious anecdotes,” Roger told me when I spoke to him recently. Each time I speak with Roger Black, I feel energized and learn something new with every conversation. This interview was no different. As a former art director for Rolling Stone, the magazine holds a special place in Roger’s heart as he told me during the interview, and he gives the musical icon total credit for putting him on the national map when it comes to design.

The conference, which will be held on May 25, 2018 at the School of Visual Arts Theatre in NYC, will pay tribute to the people who created a design legacy, from Rolling Stone’s first art director to its current one—plus photo editors and photographers who’ve immortalized a whole culture. As the magazine is at a turning point in its 50-year history, what better time to explore the impact of the visual aspects and ask the questions that deserve to be answered: what have we learned from something as influential and connective with its readers as Rolling Stone? And what’s next for the five-decades-old publication?

So, I hope you enjoy this very informative conversation with a man as knowledgeable about design and the magazine industry as a whole, as I have ever spoken with, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Roger Black.

And for more info on “The Art of Rolling Stone” conference, please visit TYPE magazine’s website here: http://www.typemag.org/home/the-art-of-rolling-stone

But first the sound-bites:

On the conference TYPE magazine is presenting on Rolling Stone magazine: We really hear a lot more about Hunter Thompson and the writers than we do about Mike Salisbury or Fred Woodward. We started talking about doing this a few years ago, but by the time we got it organized it was 2018. (Laughs) Essentially, it’s a non-profit event. We have a nice bit of support from Rolling Stone, they’ve been very friendly about it. But at the same time, we’re really taking stock of what has Rolling Stone done on the visual side and who are the people who did that. So, to some degree they’re very proud of that and happy with the legacy, but they’re preoccupied with trying to figure out what to do next. So, at that level, it’s probably a good idea that we do this, because I don’t know when it would get done again.

On whether he can think of anyone other than Jann Wenner or Hugh Hefner who had 50-plus years as editor in chief at the same magazine: William Shawn, although he was not editor in chief of The New Yorker the whole time. He was there for 50 years, a ridiculously long time and he was an old man when he retired, but in some respects, it wasn’t his magazine, it was Harold Ross’s magazine; he inherited the mantle, so it isn’t quite the same.

On whether the move from the west coast to the east coast for Rolling Stone had an impact on the design or the brand: It’s difficult for me to sort out how much of it was because of New York and how much of it was because of the change in the business, because if you remember, that move coincided with the magazine’s heyday. That was a time when it was filled with ads and had everyone’s attention. It was very important at that moment. It was also past the 10-year mark and it was beginning to institutionalize; it was beginning to settle into patterns. If you look at, say, Fortune magazine, it was very experimental and very interesting from a design point of view in the early days. But then by the 50s it became almost formulaic, and I think Rolling Stone was settling into a formula, into its formula. Three features and one of them would be rock and roll, one would be personality and one would be politics, the front of the book and the back of the book. And a certain number of pages.

On bringing all of these art directors together at the conference and if he thinks it will be a “Clash of the Titans” or they’ll check their egos at the door: One thing that I’m trying to do, and we’ll see how successful I am, is to get everybody to focus, not so much on their portfolios, because with people like Fred Woodward, we know his portfolio. And we don’t need to see the history of Annie Leibovitz’s photographs again. It’s like going to a Picasso show, okay that’s the Blue Period, I get it. (Laughs) I want to get them to tell some of their funny stories, because they all have hilarious anecdotes. But I really want to find out what they learned.

On the collective art of print magazines: Yes, and that’s the fun part too, I think. We do have one session on the team at Rolling Stone, and none of the top art directors are there, but all of the people who are on the panel have gone on to become art directors. We’ve had more people who have become art directors from the 70s than anything else. Some of them went into advertising, there is Rich Silverstein in San Francisco, but there are people like Mick Stevens, The New Yorker cartoonist, he was a paste-up artist.

On why he’s always had a soft spot for Rolling Stone, even though he’s worked on many magazines: Well, I owe a lot to Rolling Stone. It taught me, because I never went to design school. I had already done some newspapers, tabloids. I had been the art director of a weekly in L.A. and then I had done some freelance work. I recently found the first issues of Cycle News that I did in 1973 or 1974. (Laughs) And they looked pretty good. And that was before Rolling Stone. So, I had learned a few things along the way, but Rolling Stone was a much more challenging environment. I had a year before I had to be the art director, so that was great training. And Jann had to be the most, he is a completely compulsive lunatic, but he’s a genius. He would come up with something in a split second that would electrify you and you’d have to move as fast as you could to keep up with him. And that was a wonderful experience.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Roger Black, editor in chief, TYPE magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the conference that Type magazine is presenting about Rolling Stone.

Roger Black: Rolling Stone magazine is at a turning point and at a very interesting moment in its history. There was quite a lot of attention with the HBO special, and there was a very beautiful book put out, but very little about how the magazine was designed and how that visual style developed over the years and the people who contributed to that.

The book about the Rolling Stone covers is in its third edition, and this edition is called “Rolling Stone 50 Years of Covers,” and Jann (Wenner) has a nice introduction to that, where he gives due credit to the designers and the art directors and tells a few anecdotes about that.

But other than that, we really hear a lot more about Hunter Thompson and the writers than we do about Mike Salisbury or Fred Woodward. We started talking about doing this a few years ago, but by the time we got it organized it was 2018. (Laughs) Essentially, it’s a non-profit event. We have a nice bit of support from Rolling Stone, they’ve been very friendly about it.

But at the same time, we’re really taking stock of what has Rolling Stone done on the visual side and who are the people who did that. So, to some degree they’re very proud of that and happy with the legacy, but they’re preoccupied with trying to figure out what to do next. So, at that level, it’s probably a good idea that we do this, because I don’t know when it would get done again.

Samir Husni: When you really think about it, we had two magazines; we had Rolling Stone and Playboy, with the longest-serving editors; from the beginning of Playboy in 1953, Hugh Hefner was editor in chief, and the beginning of 1967, it was the same thing with Jann Wenner. When you look at the magazine industry as a whole, can you think of any other icons who lasted 50 years-plus?

Roger Black: William Shawn, although he was not editor in chief of The New Yorker the whole time. He was there for 50 years, a ridiculously long time and he was an old man when he retired, but in some respects, it wasn’t his magazine, it was Harold Ross’s magazine; he inherited the mantle, so it isn’t quite the same.

At Playboy there was someone else, Art Paul, who just passed. Art Paul did the magazine, when we were at Esquire or something, you’d look at Art Paul a little bit like you would look at Hugh Hefner; he did the magazine very sleek, with a love of chrome and velvet. And it was a little too rich and too polished for the kind of AIGA wisdom of what design is supposed to be. And it was much more eclectic; it wasn’t a powerhouse, modern design, despite the fact that he was in Chicago. It was much more fun. (Laughs)

A little later in the sixties, we saw people like William Holbert, the art director of Look, adapt that modern style in a much warmer way than say, the Germans had done it. But still, what Art Paul was doing was a little more like what Rolling Stone was doing, he was trying to create his own voice or the voice of the magazine, that had its own rich personality. It was what we call today “branding.” (Laughs) And incredibly successful. The paid circulation of Playboy was what, two million at one point? I don’t remember. But it was huge.

Samir Husni: Seven million at one point.

Roger Black: Seven million? There you go. And it wasn’t a discounted magazine either. Now, Rolling Stone never got to those kinds of numbers, but it held over a million for quite a few years; I’m not sure where it is now.

But it was the same kind of thing. Instead of being one art director, there was a series of art directors who all had a different take on the same voice. And I think Jann gets an enormous amount of the credit for pushing that and for also shaking it up from time to time. I don’t think he would be particularly surprised or disheartened by the changes that are very likely to be made today.

There are two things that we’re going to talk about at this conference with this group, and we do have the photography editors too, all of them, and that I’d say has more continuity than the art directors, but I’ll get to that in a minute. In the graphic design, in the format of the magazine, it started in a very restrained, very classical type of typographical style. I’ve said that it was trying to look like it was the entertainment section of The Times of London. (Laughs) Not even the Sunday Times. It was very sober.

And all of this was pushed back against the why of the illegible underground press, because right in San Francisco, you had all of the wonderful underground comic artists and illustrators. That whole underground look, which was rampant in the mid-sixties, by the time Jann got going, and actually in a way, it was inspired by what Warren Hinckle was doing at Ramparts, because Jann went to work at the Sunday Ramparts. All of this period is very nicely told in Joe Hagan’s book, “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine,” which came out last year. The book’s account of the first 10 years is fun and interesting. How do they do this?

Actually, Steve Heller asked me recently in an interview for Print Mag, did we think Rolling Stone was going to be a long, enduring publication when it was in its first 10 years? And actually, by the time I arrived, which was year eight, I was so young that it didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t already a fixture. It seemed like it was a permanent institution. And your attitude is quite different about that from the hard travel underground, which I also knew from the 70s. There was a staff; there was machinery; everyone had fancy typewriters and we had a budget for editorial. So, we didn’t really think it was anything but something that was going to last a long time. We were building for success and we were building for a continuing style and idea that could be carried on.

And a lot of that has to do with the relationship a magazine has with its readers. I mentioned William Shawn; The New Yorker under keyed a fairly big visual change, but it still looks very much like The New Yorker. The cover idea, the style of illustration may have changed from time to time, but it’s still The New Yorker. You see a painting someplace or another picture and you say, that could be a New Yorker cover. And that’s an amazing thing.

Rolling Stone had that silly rock song, “Cover of the Rolling Stone” about it very early. It had already become a thing, a visual icon that people recognized. So, the first art director struggled with that and started this fairly straightforward, kind of an antidote, to the crazy underground that was unreliable and not very long-lived. Rolling Stone was setting itself up as the arbiter of the style and the culture and the politics. It was trying to give itself authority. And that was something that the underground was pushing against; they were pushing against authority.

So, that was a very interesting thought. For the first five years Jann worked with this fellow, John Williams, the first art director, and who is coming to our conference and who is never mentioned, someone Jann didn’t even know was still around. He’s been in San Francisco the whole time and he’s done very well and is in great shape. He’s done well as a designer, but he went away from publications. He’ll be at the conference and talk about those early days.

Robert Kingsbury, who is still alive, but unable to attend, was the second designer and actually Jann’s brother-in-law. The magazine started getting a little bit of money and hiring named illustrators and then Annie Leibovitz joined the staff. And all of that started the change. And he’s the one who first had Ralph Steadman in the magazine. He was an amazing guy. He was not part of the community of art directors; he was a sculptor and an artist that Jann pressed into service because he didn’t have much money. And he wanted to help. He was a very nice guy. Later, he did a lot of the book.

Then Jann turned to Mike Salisbury, who was a record company art director, fairly big-time and had done Surfer and Surfing magazines. He was a very lively and funny guy, kind of impetuous. It was difficult to have Jann and him in the same room at the same time. (Laughs)

He didn’t last that long, and then Tony Lane came in from a record company in the Bay area that had had some big hits. He was also a really polished art director with a big Rolodex, as we used to have in those days, filled with illustrators and photographers’ names. And he made a lot of amazing assignments. His typography was also superb. But he was also an extremely volatile customer, he and Jann were great friends for a while, then fell out.

I had been hired as the assistant and I came in and was there for about four years. I was the art director for almost three years and then my assistant, Mary Shanahan, took over. So, at that point, we had a certain kind of brand-building era. That was the first 10 years. Five art directors, Mary came in after the 10-year mark, she came in 1978. She went on to do GQ and French Vogue, and then Town & Country, not exactly the same kind of magazines, but she was very good, and the only female art director we’ve had at Rolling Stone for 50 years.

And at that point, when she left, Jann said, clear to the next, getting all so self-referential. And then he brought in Derek Ungless, a Brit, he had been Robert Priest’s cohort on “Weekend in Toronto.” And he took the Oxford rules off; he took the borders off the pages. (Laughs) So, that set up the cycle. Then Fred Woodward came in and he restored it all, put the Oxford rules back, and he was there for a long time. I think about 12 years.

Then another Brit came in and burned off the brush again. (Laughs) And then my friend, Amid Capeci, who is no longer alive and was a wonderful art director, came in and started doing the restoration, and Joe Hutchinson put the typefaces all back. And if you look at the last 10 years of the magazine, it’s very much Rolling Stone-looking. So, the obvious next step would be a big change, but we’ll see. It’s been reformed, has had a whole lot of brand-building, and has had a revival or shall we say, been reformed; radical change again and then revival. It’s very interesting to look at its 50-year history.

Samir Husni: It would make a nice case study, in terms of a conversation about brand-building and change.

Roger Black: Yes, and the amazing thing is people say that Rolling Stone isn’t what it used to be, but nothing is what it used to be. The culture is totally different and it has changed several times since. People say the magazine business is in convulsion and we haven’t figured out what we’re doing, and I think that’s fair. But if you talk to people in the music business, it’s morphing constantly They’re struggling to come up with new business models all of the time.

And the same thing with movies. Every two years, I’d say, there is a Variety or Hollywood Reporter headline that says, the studio system as we know it has collapsed. (Laughs) It’s all changing. And I don’t know what business doesn’t do that. But with the case of the long-form motion picture industry, with the kind of consolidation they’ve done and those huge franchises they’ve built, they’ve figured out how to make money, so there is a business model there.

Not so much with magazines. I believe that’s the real problem and that’s the second part of what we’re going to talk about at this conference, what do we do; how do we recreate the magazine experience in the digital era? And how do we do it digitally? I will be the first to admit that I have not succeeded in figuring out digital formats for magazines that have the same compelling feeling, the same attraction, the same experience where you sit down with a good print magazine and you enjoy it. And then you get to a finish; you feel like you’ve completed it and you put it down.

And that’s not true with the websites or the apps. They’re never finished. And it’s a very tangential and short experience. You dive in and read part of an article and you’re gone. You don’t even know where the article came from some of the time.

Samir Husni: Maybe that’s something that’s good. Maybe we should reconsider and say that if it’s not ink on paper, it’s not a magazine. You can call it anything you want, but it’s not a magazine.

Roger Black: Yes, I agree. It isn’t a magazine. I think that the apps, some of the news apps, particularly Financial Times and to some degree, The New York Times; the Financial Times actually still has an edition concept, you can look at live news or the edition, which is interesting. I guess the Brits are a little more conservative than we are. I can spend time in the morning with The New York Times’ app, I can spend 20 minutes without changing it, but the tendency nowadays is to immediately go to the Washington Post or the Financial Times or the L.A. Times or The Guardian; all have the same reading experience. Maybe some of us used to get five daily papers every morning, I remember at one time I got three at least. And I used to read The Wall Street Journal too.

So, there was some of that, but with a magazine, Esquire and The Atlantic, and at one moment in time, New York Magazine, there have been quite a few where you felt like when you needed something to do, you could just sit down and read the magazine. And that experience, the edition experience is unique.

Samir Husni: I’ve always had this question in the back of my mind, was there a difference in culture, design-wise, for Rolling Stone when it moved to the east coast from the west coast? Did that impact the design or the brand, or was it looked at as just a different location?

Roger Black: It’s difficult for me to sort out how much of it was because of New York and how much of it was because of the change in the business, because if you remember, that move coincided with the magazine’s heyday. That was a time when it was filled with ads and had everyone’s attention. It was very important at that moment. It was also past the 10-year mark and it was beginning to institutionalize; it was beginning to settle into patterns. If you look at, say, Fortune magazine, it was very experimental and very interesting from a design point of view in the early days. But then by the 50s it became almost formulaic, and I think Rolling Stone was settling into a formula, into its formula. Three features and one of them would be rock and roll, one would be personality and one would be politics, the front of the book and the back of the book. And a certain number of pages.

Now, from a design point of view, that was the year that the new design appeared, which was really a consolidation of what we had been working on for the last couple of years. There were particular typefaces and that morphed frequently, but it was still very recognizable and it’s still recognizable, if you look at the news section in the front of Rolling Stone, there’s a resemblance to what it did 40 years ago.

However, we did have access to a much bigger pool of talent visually. Annie (Leibovitz), at that time, was beginning to pull away from the magazine. She took a year’s leave and went off with the Rolling Stones band. And we had to find people who could do that kind of work. And Jann loved the kind of social side, so he got Richard Avedon to do that big issue, “The Family.” And he got Avedon’s old buddy, Hiro, the famous still-life photographer; he hired him and pretty much made his own assignment to cover the space shuttle series that Ed Zuckerman wrote. He took that picture that you later saw everywhere, it was a clothing rack with spacesuits hanging on it, so it was like ready-to-wear spacesuits, which was a symbol of the shuttle. Famous picture, and that was something that Annie never would have taken. She didn’t think that way.

We began to see a lot of other photography. We would send photojournalists like Nancy Moran to Panama with Jan Morris, things like that. So, it became much more big-time. Anybody would answer the phone. And that was a change from when I started in 1975; you’d call somebody in New York from San Francisco and they’d say, I don’t know, what are you going to pay? (Laughs) By 1977, you’d call New York and they’d seen all of the publicity and parties; we had an architectural review in The New York Times of our office, it was becoming very big-time, so you’d call somebody up then and they’d say yes before they heard any of the details. That was a big difference.

The other thing is, one of the big upsides of the early days of Rolling Stone was that it took a lot of risks and it wasn’t afraid of failure. It was actually part of the culture, sort of like a Silicon Valley culture, where you aim high and sometimes you fall flat on your face. But because we had a limited budget, we would just go ahead and print it. (Laughs) And by the time we got to New York, we started to understand that there was a kind of bottom, a threshold that we had to get over. We couldn’t print failures, we had to have a certain level of sophistication at the bottom. And that’s a difference.

So, if you look back at Mike Salisbury’s or my early magazines, there were things that seemed like a good idea at the time, and then two months later we’d ask, what were we thinking? (Laughs) And that also allowed the most extraordinarily wonderful layouts to appear.

And Jann was doing the same thing, his interest in space was very interesting. It was almost like he had become an Arthur C. Clarke fan. What was Rolling Stone covering space for? We did an astronomy piece called “The Odyssey and The Ecstasy” about Mars. And I did the “2001” look for that, very elegant and minimal. And that was a great layout. In a more formatted magazine, you would have to use all of the same typefaces for all of the stories, which is sort of the pattern today, but we were able to create things that were very individual.

Rolling Stone was big enough that you had a kind of “Rolling Stone World or Universe,” it was like a theme park. And you could have quite a lot of variety within that and you were still New York and Rolling Stone. Today, in publishing and in the media, particularly in digital media, the theme park is the whole Internet, it isn’t one brand. And so individual brands have to strive for consistency. I’ve heard designers criticize The New York Times for using different fonts in their magazine, so you’re going through the website and sort of randomly, you come up on a magazine article and because you’re not holding the magazine, people say that it doesn’t go with the brand. Give me a break, come on, why does everything have to be exactly the same? (Laughs)

And I think that was beginning to be lost in New York. It became more institutionalized, more establishment, more self-conscious. But nevertheless, look at what Fred Woodward did in his era. That was some of the most wonderful layouts in 20th century magazines. And that was quite a few years later.

Samir Husni: You are bringing all of these people together on May 25th. Is it going to be the Clash of the Titans? Are they going to check their egos outside the door before they come in? (Laughs)

Roger Black: (Laughs too). One thing that I’m trying to do, and we’ll see how successful I am, is to get everybody to focus, not so much on their portfolios, because with people like Fred Woodward, we know his portfolio. And we don’t need to see the history of Annie Leibovitz’s photographs again. It’s like going to a Picasso show, okay that’s the Blue Period, I get it. (Laughs) I want to get them to tell some of their funny stories, because they all have hilarious anecdotes. But I really want to find out what they learned.

We also have the three big photo editors. They were big in the industry, Karen Mullarkey, who I brought in. And then Laurie Kratochvil, who I had known from the 70s, and was photo editor for 15 years or so. And she hired Jodi Peckman, who has been there ever since. So, there is a 40-year span of photo editors that are going to be there too.

And what I want to ask everyone is what they learned. What was the point? What is the value that we can impart? If you had a young designer today, what would you say to them? Or a young photography editor, what are the main guidelines? What is the meaning of Rolling Stone? What is the end result of all of this? And try to push that into not just an oral history, but actual analysis. And that’ll be fun to do. Andy Cowles, who was one of the designers who shook things up, who burned the brush, he is going to try and talk about how the brand was built and what that means now. And for the new owner, that may be what he paid for, the brand. What can you do with that?

Samir Husni: As you talk about the integration of the design, the photography, the writers, you name it; don’t you think that’s what differentiates the creation of a magazine from any website? Anybody who thinks they can create a blog and they can have some magazine online, with the same person doing the writing and the editing, while you rarely find in the history of magazines, any of them done by one person. It’s always that collective art.

Roger Black: Yes, and that’s the fun part too, I think. We do have one session on the team at Rolling Stone, and none of the top art directors are there, but all of the people who are on the panel have gone on to become art directors. We’ve had more people who have become art directors from the 70s than anything else. Some of them went into advertising, there is Rich Silverstein in San Francisco, but there are people like Mick Stevens, The New Yorker cartoonist, he was a paste-up artist.

At the time they were there, they were part of a team. It was the hippie radical culture, a lot of people were doing the whole women’s movement that’s going on now; what was it like then, did women have equal pay and were they treated equally? Near as I can tell, we never even asked that question. If somebody was an art director, they all got the same pay. It wasn’t much, we weren’t paid a lot, but there was never any thought that you would pay a woman less. That didn’t make any sense.

In fact, we probably got better women at each grade because they were scrambling. They were willing to work for less. But I think if you look at the editorial department, it was all women. Harriet Fier, who just died this year, was a managing editor during that time. Sarah Lazin, who has gone on to become a fairly big-time book agent and Marianne Partridge were there. There was an enormous group of very great, very talented and wonderful editors who were all women. And that was interesting to me in the current context. It was the interaction between the team, now sometimes we had huge fights between editors and art directors, mostly over space. Jann actually agreed at one time that in the feature well, we do the following allocation, 50/50 solid text and everything else. So, art and white space, whatever you want to do with it. (Laughs)

But it was on the average of an issue, it wasn’t every article. So, we could have one very texty piece. But the idea of what the headlines were; how the actual picture worked within the sequence of the story, or the way the captions, how much spacing for captions; that was all done in a collaborative effort. And it was quite fun; it was a really great group.

We had moved on in that generation, the first 10 years of Rolling Stone, even though there were people like Mike or Tony, who were already fairly big-time art directors before they got there, unlike me, who nobody had ever heard of. There was never a feeling of the great master, there was none of that. We didn’t hand down sketches as art directors to a staff who implemented them. We sat down as a team and decided what would be best to do and who should do it.

By the time I got there, it wasn’t one art director designing everything, everybody in the art department, all of the designers anyway, contributed. They did layouts; they did covers. The job of the art director was to corral that group and get them to work together harder.

There is a fellow who will be at the conference on the team panel, Vincent Winter, who lived in Paris and is mostly a photographer now; we worked together subsequently on many projects. He had this brilliant idea of the way the typography should work at that moment in time, which was use modern construction, modern architecture, and use old-style typefaces. And it gave an enormous charge to the magazine. It became much more electric than previously. He went in and worked with Robert Priest at Esquire. In that early 80s period, Esquire got really exciting under Robert Priest. And I credit Vincent, maybe in the same way that we worked together, it was like he would challenge me and I would challenge him. And that created something that might have been better than you could create on your own.

And that was the wonderful thing about it. And I feel like they had that same camaraderie among the writers. It was an amazing group.

Samir Husni: You’ve worked on so many magazines, but from talking to you many times, I’ve always felt that you have a soft spot for Rolling Stone. Why?

Roger Black: Well, I owe a lot to Rolling Stone. It taught me, because I never went to design school. I had already done some newspapers, tabloids. I had been the art director of a weekly in L.A. and then I had done some freelance work. I recently found the first issues of Cycle News that I did in 1973 or 1974. (Laughs) And they looked pretty good. And that was before Rolling Stone. So, I had learned a few things along the way, but Rolling Stone was a much more challenging environment. I had a year before I had to be the art director, so that was great training. And Jann had to be the most, he is a completely compulsive lunatic, but he’s a genius. He would come up with something in a split second that would electrify you and you’d have to move as fast as you could to keep up with him. And that was a wonderful experience.

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some great editors. Terry McDonell, who did Smart and then we did Esquire together, that was really fun. He is going to be a moderator at this thing, so that’ll be nice. And of course, Abe Rosenthal at The New York Times, there is no greater New York Times editor in its history. And I got to be his art director and that was pretty amazing.

Before Rolling Stone, as I said, no one had ever heard of me. I had never done anything nationally, and then I was. And it was huge success. And we won all of the awards. That was a great moment in my life. For many, many years, I tried to push back and people would say he’s the guy who did Rolling Stone and I would say that I had done other things. (Laughs) But still, it was very important to me and it was a great moment in time, so I’m happy to use that as the center of my resume. (Laughs again)

I think there’s a whole other conversation, which we touched on, which is that experience online. I did this thing called Tree Saver, which was a web app for turning pages. And we never had a matching business model, so we could never really make that idea work. We did quite a few of them, but they never made us a business success from it.

The same thing with the PDF magazines that Condé Nast got so excited about. And I remember at the time being skeptical. I’m working on my own book and I found a quote that said, “The iPad is not a magic pony.” That’s something that I said in a trade paper.

But there are people at Condé Nast and elsewhere who thought that they had solved the digital magazine problem. Just take the PDF’s and cast them into that format and that’s it. We ended up with Texture, which I think Apple bought. But Texture itself promotes individual articles for their magazines. And it’s not even a really good experience. It certainly doesn’t work on an iPhone. It’s okay. I subscribe to Texture. I can read The New Yorker on Texture if I don’t have my copy. And that’s good, I like that. I can go to The New Yorker app too, it’s very convenient. There are things that I don’t subscribe to, that I don’t get in there.

So, how can we work on this experience? If we can find a business model, I think we can recreate some of these. There are some things working. I’m doing TYPE magazine, for example, which is now in its second issue. It’s very much for love and not money. But we’re getting support and it’s kind of a tripod of members, advertisers and patrons holding it up.

Then there’s the billionaire magazine, Alta, which is quite good. And if we can find a benefactor, maybe we can hold on long enough until we can find an actual business model. I keep finding people who love the printed magazine.

That’s the conversation: how do we keep it going? Whether it’s things that you can create online, and as you pointed out, that’s not a magazine, but what could it be?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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