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Style & Substance

“You ever hear what they listen to?” asked a photographer, attempting to explain why the graphic design for a particular reissue recording was overwrought, emphasizing style over substance. “They’re listening to just about everything but jazz and that explains a lot,” he said with not a little exasperation. But for CD designers and art directors, appreciation of jazz is not necessarily in the job description. What counts is the look.

For a magazine, the look is more than important, it’s essential. The design, after all, largely defines the magazine. We expect our magazine to be elegant, sophisticated, witty, clever, creative, original and, don’t forget, readable-the achilles heel of many an art director. Not surprisingly, we’ve been very hard on our art directors. Our current one, Glenn Pierce, is our fifth in seven years! And although each of his predecessors has improved the magazine incrementally, Glenn is our first art director who has a sincere appreciation for the music. And, in just one year with us, he’s already won two design awards for his work with JT-an Ozzie for his typography on a Vincent Herring story; and an Art Director’s Club of Washington award for his design of a Wynton Marsalis spread. Both, incidentally, feature the photography of Jacques Lowe.

Amazingly, Glenn, who works with us under the auspices of The Magazine Group, does more than design features for JT. During the course of a month, he’ll work on as many as four magazines, plus some book covers and a redesign or two. Although he says he’s been designing magazines full-time for about 10 years, Glenn has a hard time remembering when he didn’t work with publications. “Yes, I’vehad a lifelong interest in publications. I’ve always been fascinated by the combination of pictures and type.”

And, he adds, he was lucky to get into magazine design during the age of desktop publishing. “Technology has opened the door to translate the imagery in your head onto the page. It allows you to manipulate images or to create images out of your imagination.” He points to the cover for the December 1997 issue on the future of jazz as the cover design he’s proudest of, not only because of its technical sophistication, but also because it utilized an image based on an idea, rather than simply a photograph of a musician.

What’s his vision for JazzTimes? “Jazz is really based on improvisation and I’m looking to get that same sense of experimentation in the type.”

Glenn agrees that art directors can do more with a subject familiar to them, but he stops short of saying that he listens to jazz while he works on our spreads. “Oh no, that would be too distracting. I would find it impossible to concentrate on my work while listening to creative music like jazz.” Good answer. We think we’ll keep him for awhile.

Originally Published