Behind the World’s Best Designed: The Grid

From the start, we set out to create a hybrid between a magazine and a newspaper — something that looked and read like a magazine but physically was more akin to a newspaper. Therefore our production cycle is very similar to that of a magazine. We all come from magazine backgrounds so that’s what feels natural to us. The editorial department and art department work very closely on every element in the book. I’ve been extremely lucky to have an editorial team that is constantly thinking visually and coming up with new ways of storytelling.

This enables me to give the photography and design the room it needs to breathe. It is a very intensive, organic process in which no two days look alike.

The art team consists of myself, two designers and a photo editor. It’s very a small team given the ambitious packaging, infographics and attention to detail we aim to pull off each week. Basically our week begins on Thursday and we go to print on the following Wednesday afternoon. Then we begin all over again.

Each morning I read and answer my emails, troll the internet and blogs and, of course, pour my first coffee of the day before I even leave the house. Most of us get into the office around 9:30 a.m. Below is a rough timeline of one week in the life of The Grid’s art department.

Thursday

  • Art and editorial convene for an extended production meeting. We discuss the next two issues in detail and make sure that everything is on schedule and anticipate any problems.
  • Every second week we have story meetings to brainstorm new concepts/pitches. These rarely last less than an hour. The one thing that never ceases to surprise me is the number of amazing and creative ideas that come out of everyone.
  • Do a page-by-page post-mortem of the new issue: what worked best, what didn’t, etc.
  • Catch up on the huge pile of magazines that come into the office each week. As a team, we are always looking for inspiration and watching what’s happening in the industry. Whether it is getting lost in Bloomberg Bizweek and their amazing infographics and beautiful design or the fun packaging of New York mag. The pile grows much faster than we can read them.
  • Most of our photo shoots happen Friday to Sunday. All final planning for these shoots is done today.
  • Interview potential photography and design interns, as well as emerging photographers.
  • Design begins on a few pages. Along with the editorial team, we develop concepts developed for our large infographic page.

Friday

  • Production meeting.
  • Art meeting, where we discuss who is responsible for designing each page.
  • Discuss any photoshoots that have come in and order hi-res.
  • Have initial discussions with the sales team on ad counts and get a flatplan drawn up.
  • Design continues. Large packages are roughed in and any additional images are ordered.

Saturday and Sunday

  • Since a lot is shooting over the weekends we are often in constant contact with photographers: putting out fires, approving shoots and scouting locations for cover shoots if necessary.

Monday

  • Production meeting.
  • Art meeting.
  • Download all shoots and make selections.
  • We select images for all of our section openers as a team. These pages are meant to be moments in time throughout the city. They are time stamped and mapped to where the event occurred. This helps with our mandate of keeping everything street level.
  • New flat plan is drawn
  • After pages are designed, they are read by muliple editors then cleaned up, printed again and read by the senior editors.
  • I meet with Shelbie, our photo editor, to discuss all of the shoots for the following issue. Early on we came up with a photographic vision using primarily magazine-quality, documentarystyle photography. Shelbie then cultivated a huge roster of talent—people who are very exciting to work with and believe in what we are doing.

Tuesday

  • This is our busiest day. All pages need to be designed and edited, and all image correction completed. The day starts at 9:30 a.m. and can go as late as 3–4 a.m.
  • Production meeting.
  • Art meeting.
  • All hi-res images should be in by now. Order anything outstanding.
  • Design continues at lightning speed.
  • Nothing is impossible, regardless of the deadline, or apparent lack thereof.
  • The cover story is often the final thing to move.
  • Dinner arrives! Usually pizza or burritos. The whole editorial and art team is here.
  • We do all of the small illustrations in-house, as well as close cropping, etc. Our large images are sent to a colour house for correction. They have worked extensively with the printers so we get the best possible results when printed on our not-so-nice paper.
  • Cover lines are written and cover design begins.
  • Go home very late.

Wednesday

  • All pages are re-read and checked by both editorial and art. Outstanding images and illustrations are completed.
  • Cover is designed. This is a group effort. I’ll have a design in place then the editor, publisher and my designers all discuss any changes/suggestions. We may start in one place and change directions completely by the end. One of our major goals from the beginning was to rethink the role of the cover. Going the traditional route of a magazine — where one large image represents the must-read in the issue — wasn’t going to work for us. Neither was a newspaper approach where you start stories on the cover and throw inside. So we decided to be flexible and make each cover different: We segment out sections of varying sizes and have multiple sells on each cover.
  • The whole issue must be sent to the printer by 1–2 p.m.
  • By 2:30, we are meeting again to discuss the next few covers. Again, this happens with both editorial and art. All the crazy ideas you can think of are thrown on the table. It is a very organic process that is usually very quick (although sometimes agonizingly long, depending on the scale of the idea).
  • Last production meeting of the week before beginning again. In addition, we are occasionally asked to speak at universities, conduct portfolio reviews for final year, attend photo events, gallery openings, contest judging…anything to scout new talent and create a presence for The Grid in the photo community
  • .

At least two coffee breaks a day to keep us going. The occasional impromptu Friday afternoon wine tasting in the art department, courtesy of The Wine Ponce, our staff wine expert, doesn’t hurt.

Vanessa Wyse is the Creative Director of the Grid. You can follow her on Twitter here.