Nextbook’s swank new pad

Tablet Magazine home page, June 9, 2009

My erstwhile coworkers have been toiling their little hearts out for months, rethinking and rebuilding Nextbook’s online magazine, the former The shiny new publication, which launched today, is called Tablet, and it was designed by Prem Krishnamurthy and Rob Giampietro. Tablet‘s Liel Leibovitz has posted a little slideshow in which the designers talk about what they did: Our New Look.

The new site has a WordPress backend (the old one ran on some weird Perl CMS), which the firm Hard Candy Shell set up and filled with all the previous magazine’s content.

Go visit, and tell them what you think of the new digs. If you don’t know what the old site looked like, you can find some screenshots in my Flickr collection.

(I made no contribution to the redesign myself, having [mostly] resigned from my post in January so that I could concentrate on school. The fabulous Abigail Miller, assistant art director, held the fort on her own all spring, while Alana Newhouse, editor in chief, dealt with the designers and developers directly. Nextbook’s new art director, as of about three weeks ago, is the mighty Len Small.)

Maira Kalman’s Tel Aviv

detail of an illustration by Maira Kalman - bookstore in Tel Aviv

This here, my friends, is art direction at its finest: I ask an artist I’m all fawny over if she wants to draw something for us, she very kindly says yes, and then I don’t lift another finger (well, except to digitize five gouache paintings, which was a nontrivial task given their size, my mediocre scanner, and the fact that the text was written on separate tracing paper overlays). If only I could get paid for doing this.

Oh, wait . . .

Go see “My Tel Aviv” by Maira Kalman. As one of our senior editors just opined, it “KICKS ASS!”

The Week in Pictures

thumbnails of four illustrations

I’ve been on vacation since last Thursday, so I forgot to take screenshots of the glory until yesterday, but for nearly every day in the past week, has been running stories garnished by illustrations I commissioned. Two are by artists you’ve seen here before—Samantha Hahn and Vanessa Davis—and two are by new! people!—Jonathon Rosen and Leela Corman.

You can see the pretty pictures at the following links (I’d do an image map on the banner above, but won’t let me):

Yay, illustrators!

Who you gonna call? home page, February 19,  2008: Brother’s Keeper

I’ve been swooning over Matthew Woodson’s work at for months, so when a story landed on my desk that actually involved a ghost, I knew whom I wanted to ask to illustrate it.

I love the simultaneous attacking/comforting embrace of this ghost, as well as the little details like the texture of his hair and the pattern of the living boy’s sweater vest. In fact, I like it so much that I printed it out large and stuck it on the wall behind my desk. You can see an uncropped, larger version of the image on the story page: Brother’s Keeper (scroll to the bottom).

I’ve already asked Matthew to do another drawing for us, so watch this space . . .

My friend, the Wizard

DVD covers art directed by Eric Skillman

My friend and fellow club member Eric Skillman, an associate art director at the Criterion Collection, has been interviewed over at They’re rather in need of a proofreader, but Eric’s intelligence and charm nevertheless come through.

For example I’m looking over the DVD’s on my desk —[Aikira Kurosawa’s] “Drunken Angel”, which is one we did with Jock (The Losers, Green Arrow: Year One, Faker). There’s a scene towards the end of the film where the characters are wresting around and the Matsunaga character knocks over into some cans of paint, and the paint spills in an artful kind of way and what was his black suit gets covered in white paint, so its a sort of a transformative moment where he’s rebelling against the Yakuza influence, which is represented by the snazzy black suit that he’s been wearing and he becomes purified in that scene. We took that and said that sort of scene and idea is what we want to riff off of. We took that to Jock, along with this idea that there’s this sump thing in the middle of the town that’s full of mud and its like this sucking hole that the center of town is being sucked down by the Yakuza influence, so we said maybe give us a backdrop of this muddy, crappy, sumpy grossness then a slosh of white paint with the character sort of crawling through it, and then he took that and abstracted it one step further and did his thing and then that became the cover.

Do freelance artists usually get notes like that?


The Wizard Q&A: Eric Skillman, by David Paggi, posted 2/11/2008.

To see more of Eric’s work (other than at your local video store) and to read a lot more about his design process, see his fine, upstanding blog: Cozy Lummox.

A window into our world

Women at Work

On Monday my bossfriend, Joanna Smith-Rakoff, explained to Bookslut what it is that we do all day at the mysterious place where we work.

What would you say a normal day at Nextbook is like?

Our days vary somewhat greatly and they’re different for different members of the staff. Let’s see: In the morning, we generally spend some time making sure that the day’s feature is ready to go, which means coordinating with our art director, India Amos, to see if art is ready. Having someone give the story a final proofread. Perhaps asking one of our assistants to add links into the story. Sometimes we’re running behind and desperately trying to come up with a hed and dek (or heds and deks, if we’re doing a package, or running more than one story); so we’ll email a few choices around, or gather at someone’s desk to brainstorm. At the same time, our assistants will be surfing the Web, choosing stories for that day’s Filter, then checking in with Sara Ivry, the senior editor who oversees it, about those stories. They’ll then write up the Filter and sit down with Sara to edit it.

On Tuesdays, we have our story meetings at lunchtime—we order lunch in, which is nice—during which we check in about various pieces in the works, bat around new ideas, suggest new writers, present pitches from writers, and sometimes discuss larger plans and initiatives. Often these meetings are long—two hours, sometimes more—because we really help each other shape story ideas (which is necessary, being that we never just say, “Okay, let’s do a review of the new Philip Roth novel”).

Hey! That’s me!
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