NYU Alumni Magazine has had some work done. For a start, it is no longer NYU; now it’s New York University Alumni Magazine. New creative director Nathaniel Kilcer led the redesign. Editor Robin Sayers says, “Nathaniel did new cover treatments, and in some he used NYU, and others New York University. We just kept gravitating toward the longer version for eye and ear reasons: We liked the look of it and liked the sound of it. Much here, naturally, is branded as NYU, and it’s obviously easier to say three letters as opposed to three words. I think we just liked that in a sea of stuff featuring the abbreviation, that the magazine would go to the trouble of spelling it out, and that a reader would sound it out in his or her head.”
Sayers reports that Kilcer did the entire redesign himself evenings and weekends. “He’s a morning person and a night owl and in fact I don’t think he sleeps,” she says.
In the briefest of editor’s notes—five lines!—there is this: “We lengthened our name and shortened most stories.” Says Sayers, “In general we all thought that most FOB and BOB pieces would be as good, or stronger, at a shorter length. What really sealed the deal though was our desire to highlight all of the university’s schools and institutes at least once in the front and once in the back. There are, depending on how you count, about 20 schools now. So in order to showcase each at least twice in the magazine, the pieces needed to come down in word count. This approach though can only succeed if the features are allowed to go on as long as necessary.” In the first of the new issues, the story “MCMXIV” (that’s “1914” for those who do not have the Roman Numeral iPhone app) subsumes the entire XIV-page feature well.
Okay, okay, but here’s the coolest move. Near and dear to the NYU campus is Washington Square Park. In addition to bad musicians and Allen Ginsburg lookalikes, the park is populated by an array of furry and feathered creatures. Sayers commissioned from Eric Chase Anderson a hand-drawn map of the park dominated by portraits of 14 of the wild and not-so-wild animal denizens, including the Norway rat, the rock dove (that’s a pigeon to you and me), the downy woodpecker, the cedar waxwing, the domestic dog (some kind of black terrier, I think—I’m a cat guy), and Homo sapiens. The latter a female of the species in black jeans, ankle boots, and fashionable scarf, clutching a soda can and looking harried. Or repelled by the rat. (Or the terrier.) The map has been folded in fourths and glued into the magazine just inside the cover, where it can be folded out or detached. (Click on the image to have a good look.)
Explains Sayers, “I’m a huge fan of Eric’s work, and for years I’ve been wanting to do a truly special project with him. The redesign seemed like the ideal opportunity, and because of his passion for mapmaking (he wrote and illustrated a book called Chuck Dugan Is AWOL: A Novel — with Maps and he created a map of the Rushmore Academy when Criterion released their special edition of the film Rushmore), that seemed like a good fit. A happy coincidence was that Nathaniel is friends with Eric. The three of us brainstormed our way to the final map, and thanks to Jason [Hollander, the magazine’s previous editor, now editorial director at NYU] we were able to pull the trigger money-wise. The entire endeavor started in April and didn’t end until early December.
“Next time, it’ll be much, much easier, but none of us had ever done something quite like that. Every time we’d figure one part out, another detail would come along to try to thwart our efforts. Every spec seemed to affect every other spec: paper quality, postal charges, glue weight. Our printer doesn’t do this sort of thing, so they had to work with an outside vendor, which added another wrinkle. So yes, it was a pain in the ass, but only because it was—as the Russians like to say—a ‘first pancake.’ If we did it again, it’d be a relative cakewalk. I only had one day where I said, “Screw it, we’re not doing it.” But Nathaniel convinced me that the idea needed more than a mere spread and that we’d figure everything out, and I’m glad he did because I’m very happy with the way it turned out. In a perfect world, the paper would be thicker and glossier, and the placement would have been opposite the feature-well opener. But the compromises we needed to make were insignificant in the end when compared to what I hope others find a fun, but truly beautiful and informative, keepsake.”
There’s one last great bit in the magazine. NYU alum Rick Rubin, the record producer, figures in the editorial content. Rubin has a distinctive visage, mostly due to grey hair and a beard that make him look like an aging veteran of Antietam. The inside back cover is given over to a hand-drawn portrait of Rubin by Elizabeth Carpenter—to see it bigger click Rick—and in the portrait Rubin’s hair and beard form a maze. Also embedded there is a hidden message (hint: it refers to Rubin’s class and graduation year). And…and…the musical notation that forms the portrait’s border is from the Rubin-produced Aerosmith-Run DMC version of “Walk This Way.”
Now, try to get that song out of your ear.