Friends and colleagues sing the praises of Rob Covey

The Society for News Design recognized Rob Covey with its Lifetime Achievement Award on the final evening of its 37th Annual Workshop in San Francisco. Presenting Covey his award was SND past president David Kordalski.

Kordalski used these words to describe Covey: Leader. Coach. Talent scout. Innovator. Advocate.

Here are highlights of what others who know Covey had to say.

Nanette Bisher:

You deserve the Lifetime Achievement Award. I just want you to know that I tried to talk them out of the usual thing they present. Lord knows my crystal globe bowl has been perfect for holding accumulated SND mementos. But you deserve more. I suggested a Sea Turtle Sculpture. But you know SND. Do they ever listen?

Rob it was a pleasure working with you at US NEWS & WORLD REPORT magazine. How handsome you made the magazine. And what a great team of people. Getting there was not easy on you. I remember after a tough conversation with a difficult person you would looked exhausted and say, “All I could think of was the tricycle I rode as a child.”

It was also a pleasure working with you on the executive committee of SND. Starting with your hosting the competition in Seattle to your Workshop in Fort Lauderdale. And all those Board meetings in between.

Love to you and your family. BTW — We still want to adopt Charles.

Greg Harris:

Rob has been a mentor, colleague and friend for nearly two decades and is one of the greatest designers that I’ve been fortunate to work with. He is a creative genius in every aspect of envisioning content experiences that resonate across every medium. He implements exquisite designs and conjures up user experiences that are timely and timeless. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with several of the most talented journalists in the industry due to Rob’s incredible knack of team building and leadership. I’m grateful to have worked with a man who has an impeccable eye for detail and unmatched passion for design and typography.

Tim Appenzeller:

Rob does so many things so brilliantly that it might be easier to say what he doesn’t excel at. He brings elegance and taste to print, invention and excitement to online. He loves a great story as much as he loves great design. He has a rare understanding of how technology can help stories and design build an audience. And he is a generous and joyful collaborator. I feel lucky to have worked with him.

Mike Ruby, executive editor then co-editor, U.S. News & World Report, 1986-96:

The wildcard in “news design” seems implicit in the title itself: Getting the mix of craft and art in news design just right challenges even its most accomplished practitioners. The best of them ace the test nearly every time out. I’ve worked with two enormously skilled recipients of SND’s lifetime achievement award, Roger Black and Nanette Bisher. SND’s choice for 2016, Rob Covey, certainly belongs in such rarified company. Rob’s blend of talent and temperament makes him an editor’s dream. He is a journalist, art director, page designer, conceptual magazine maker, confidant and more. At U.S. News, Rob made miracles on a weekly basis, helping to transform a magazine that desperately needed to be reinvented. In short, we couldn’t have done it without him. He is, quite simply, one of the best.

Bryan Monroe:

OMG! That is excellent for Rob! Most deserving! And I can safely say I would not be where I am today without Rob Covey!

Michael Keegan:

In the post hot-metal days of the 70s and 80s, when designers were just beginning to influence how newspapers presented the news, Rob Covey’s work in Seattle was watched closely by all of us. The Seattle Times was one of the leaders in visual presentation and its impact permeated throughout the SND community. It was a goal of many a young designer to work in Seattle for Rob Covey.

One of Rob’s great strengths has always been his ability to create an environment that allows innovative design to take place. He did this at the Seattle Times, US News & World Report, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and now at the journal Science. Rob built strong teams and directed them with skill and encouragement that consistently produced excellent work.

Phillip Ritzenberg:

My second year as SND president, the young Rob Covey, then in Seattle, had bravely volunteered to chair the competition. It was only our second, almost as tough as the first one invented by Johnny Maupin. But he put together a really nice competition — without executive director, student slaves, army of volunteers. Five judges (yes, five). And hardly any money.

If you have the annual you can see Rob’s generous intro and the marvelous panel of judges we managed to assemble, especially as an organization that nobody ever heard of.

Walter Bernard:

I remember Rob as an extraordinary art director at USN&WR, who had the task of designing a major national newsweekly while dealing with a constantly changing editorial bureaucracy. He “stayed calm and carried on” producing quality pages with innovative infographics, photography and illustration. (and he’s not even British!)

Congratulations to Rob.

Jeff Glick:

We created some wonderful explanatory graphics at USN&WR, often besting colleagues at our two competitors and it was all because Rob was fantastic at getting us pumped up, setting us in the right direction and then letting us go.

Jerry Sealy:

What a smart, eloquent, generous, graceful, creative, man.

He made me a better designer. He taught me to think like an editor. He’s the boss.

And no one wears a bow tie better than Rob Covey.

Richard Curtis:

I well remember many terrific moments with Rob at the first newspaper design seminar at the American Press Institute in Reston, Va. in 1978. There were many late-night sessions at the Sheraton Reston hotel when the seeds of SND were first sown.

As I remember from that summer, a bunch of SND founders stayed up late into the night while killing a number of bottles of Crown Royal. We discussed many things, from the merits and demerits of newspaper design to — for you and me specifically — the joys of recent fatherhood. I believe we wound up agreeing that your Alexis and my Tyler were just about the two finest one-year-olds in the land!

Subsequently, we worked under Rob’s guidance at the first SND design contest. I even remember the hotel you chose for us in Seattle: a beautiful place called the Alexis (it’s still there!). I have always thought you chose it because it had the same name as your daughter!

Rob and I always seem to meet in the backs of conference rooms at SND workshops. We would stand in the back and make our “observations and comments” quietly to each other. We had such great fun.

Rob has a terrific sense of humor. He has been an avid bicyclist, attempting the RAGBAI across Iowa several times with his cohort in cycling, former Washington Post art director Michael Keegan.

Keegan, Covey and Curtis for years while working at separate publications in Washington D.C. would meet for lunch telling our editors that we were at meetings of the Washington Art Directors Club. Which consisted of, yes, Keegan, Covey and Curtis. We held our most recent one March, and we had a quorum. No business was discussed.

Rob is an excellent illlustrator/artist. He stills paints, most recently with watercolors and has a beautiful studio at his Bethesda, Md. home. He is married to the wonderful Carla Brandt, and they have two children, Alexis and Charles.

Roger Black:

Here is a leader who has proven extraordinary talent in both design and team-building—at newspapers (the Seattle Times), digital media (Discovery), and magazines (National Geographic). I got to work with him on the first web site for Discovery, and experienced his delightful mix of strong challenge and warm encouragement. Congratulations, Rob Covey!

Lynn Staley:

I’m so pleased Rob is getting this award. The re-definition of news along visual lines was a fierce mission for those of us who found ourselves in the dusty back rooms of large newspapers in the 70s and 80s. It’s hard to imagine now what contortions were required to get a simple pie chart displayed on the front page of a paper like the Post in those days. Rob was a leader in the fight and a treasured ally as we all set to work redrafting the meaning of journalism to include presentation in all its forms. Without his efforts much of what the industry now takes for granted would never have been made visible. Congrats to you, Rob!

Chris Johns:

A few weeks after Mount Saint Helens erupted I stepped into the Seattle Time newsroom to begin a new job in my native Pacific Northwest.  My first day at the paper I met Rob Covey and immediately knew I’d love working with him. He was everything I value as a colleague: talented, energetic, full of ideas, bold, positive, driven by excellence and a wonderful team player and collaborator.

Years later we both ended up in Washington and got together for lunch.  As we have for years, we were discussing the power and importance of great journalism and evolving digital opportunities.  Thankfully, I talked Rob into coming to National Geographic.  Rob got us on track by hiring superbly talented people and moving forward quickly in smart innovative ways.  It was great fun and one of the most rewarding and productive collaborations of my career.

I congratulate Rob on this much deserved tribute tonight.

Rob, you have been an inspiration since the day I met you!