Quotes honoring Tom Bodkin of the NYT — SND Lifetime Achievement Award winner

EDITOR’S NOTE: On April 11, at the conclusion of the SNDDC Workshop, The New York Times’ Creative Director Tom Bodkin was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award, SND’s highest honor.

The following are unedited quotes solicited to help honor Bodkin (some were edited and used for the presentation.) Related: Q&A with Tom Bodkin and a recap of the presentation.


Chairman of The New York Times Company and Publisher of The New York Times

“As someone who has had the privilege of working with Tom Bodkin for 35 years — not to mention motorcycling with throughout the Catskills with him — I can tell you that Tom has been continually improving The New York Times since 1980. Tom is THE master of his craft whose deft handiwork is visible on every page of The Times, and across every platform.”


Executive Editor, The New York Times

“Tom is a historic figure in American journalism. He taught us all that design is journalism.”


Assistant Editor and Graphics Director, The New York Times

“The design standards that Tom Bodkin has established and maintained at The New York Times sit comfortably alongside the most outstanding design achievements anywhere over the last 50 years. Tom never delivered a stylebook or list of rules to my desk. It was his work, his day-to-day judgments and the quality of his ideas that established the height of the bar for all of the design at The Times. His assumption has always been that design is a part of the journalism and should similarly rise to meet the same expectations for excellence.”


SND Past President (who made the nomination)

“The New York Times today is such a beacon for all information designers that it’s hard to remember that it was gray and, OK, dowdy when Tom Bodkin and a pod of other talented visual folk arrived there in the early 80s. Through his leadership and discipline the paper has harnessed successive waves of new technology to grow a range of presentation vehicles, becoming in the process indispensable across multiple platforms. There is no aspect of the “look” of the Times — in print, on the web, on your phone — that he has not shaped in some way. We are all lucky he’s provided such a robust model to observe and learn from. Congratulations, Tom!!”


Art Director/Sports, The New York Times

“Thanks to Tom’s “system,” The Times still looks like The Times even as the times have changed dramatically. One of the first things Tom told me when I started at The Times was: “I don’t know much about sports. I’ll trust you.” Tom, though, does have the ability to direct when to throw the bomb or swing for the fences to visually emphasize – not distort – news value. Playing within his system, like Vince Lombardi’s or Scotty Bowman’s, chances are, you will succeed more often than not. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to be on Coach Bodkin’s bench, following his trusty playbook, for all of these seasons. Tom is a champion for news design, and is deserving of SND’s highest honor.”


Type Designer

“I congratulate Tom Bodkin on this Lifetime Achievement Award, and I congratulate the Society for News Design on honoring such an outstandingly deserving recipient.

From his position as Creative Director, next in seniority on the masthead only to the Executive Editor, Tom has guided the design of the The New York Times through a revolutionary period of its illustrious history. He has maintained a legacy of design standards, while creating (as his title makes clear) new and exciting directions.

I’m proud to have worked with Tom for a long time. We have the ideal relationship for a type-designer with a client: I expect him to tell me clearly what he wants, and he expects me to do it. This mutual confidence, which sounds straightforward but is a lot rarer than you might think, has gotten us happily through the Cheltenhams (19 at last count, each with its own particular function in the headline dress), the Imperials for text, plus sundry Stymies, Karnaks, Franklins, nameplates and logos.

I look at The New York Times as much or more than I read it — a kind of professional deformation to which type-designers are prone — because I’m always interested to see how the content is handled typographically. I haven’t taken this habit as far as the British typographer and consultant to The Times of London, Stanley Morison, who would buy a newspaper in the street, look at the layout of the front page and throw it away unread, but I find the interplay between consistency and variety in the application of an overall design policy to be fascinating. I also enjoy the typographic subtleties of the online version of the paper in which Chelt and Georgia make an oddly effective couple.

I feel that the timing of this SND award is perfect, both in terms of Tom’s own achievement and in the life of the newspaper he has so brilliantly served. They were never better.”


Assistant Managing Editor, Los Angeles Times

“The Times doesn’t follow trends, they don’t try gimmicks, they have never had skyboxes. Tom knows the wardrobe and they wear the clothes that fit.”


Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co founder of Kidpost; former Design Director, The New York Times Online

The prevailing wisdom during my tenure at The Times was that the print side of the business had so much to learn from digital newcomers. However, I learned far, far more from Tom Bodkin —about being a designer, being a journalist, and being a person— than I could ever hope to teach him or anyone else. I’m tremendously indebted to him.


Graphic Artist

“Like all great design, (the NYT’s design) is timeless and deceptively simple. An elegant and sophisticated approach that is the perfect compliment to the content. Clear, assured, and credible. The mission: let the journalism do the talking. Tom has set the bar for news design.”


Consultant; former Director, Editorial Art, at the Times

“Tom has been such a quiet, steady presence at The New York Times that he hasn’t gotten credit for the great work he has done—until now! I worked at the paper trying to follow in the footsteps of the great Lou Silverstein, and I know how hard that job is.

I met Tom in 1982 when he was doing the Home section, and immediately understood he’s a great designer. In the 30 years since, he has shown that he is also a great leader, a fine judge of talent, and an alert adaptor to change.

The careful work Tom has done in print and in the digital media to build the visual brand of The New York Times was based on its great history. And I hope it will last a long time after its current readers are gone. But a lot of news designers dropped the ball during this challenging time. Tom picked it up and ran with it! The standard of visual content that Tom Bodkin has cherished—and grew—is truly a Lifetime Achievement.”


Former Art Director and Creative Director, The New York Times Magazine

“Tom is the brains behind the most dramatic changes in this wonderful newspaper’s graphic history — from double-page info-graphics to front-page color, from Magazine supplements to The Times on my phone. Tom understands and encourages great news design better than anyone on the planet.”


Former Art Director, The New York Times

“Tom Bodkin is a news design giant. He has transformed the New York Times and rebranded the International New York Times. He turned one section upside down and made a dateline (1/1/2000) into a banner headline. He devotes his life to both radically altering and subtly refining everything from the typeface to the interface. He is arguably the quintessential news designer.”


Deputy Design Director, The New York Times

“Tom is one of those rare people who is able to see the big picture and act on that high level of vision, while at the same time care deeply about all the details that go into making something, whether it’s a newspaper, website or mobile app, a beautiful user experience.  He has strong opinions about what makes a good experience that he can convey to others while remaining open to the ideas of colleagues where their expertise, both practical and strategic can improve what we do. Tom has a deep curiosity and truly enjoys understanding how things (and people) work. He is the first designer in the history of The Times to wear the corporate hat of Chief Creative Officer and hold the newsroom masthead position of Creative Director. Tom loves The Times. He is a great boss and a good friend. He is a persuasive leader who also makes time for whimsical pleasures like showing my young son Dylan how to shoot a Nerf gun – which he just happened to have in his office – to the chagrin of my wife and Dylan’s delight!”


Founder and Principal, We Media and iFOCOS

“As design editor — both words of that job should be emphasized — Tom Bodkin has survived decades of management shuffles and agendas at the newspaper that starts every  conversation about journalism. That’s a feat in itself.  But beyond his survival instincts, Bodkin navigates the powerful pull of gravitational forces: the gravity of tradition at “The Old Gray Lady,” the gravity of desktop design and publishing, and the gravity of disruption that made newspapers feel like satellites falling out of orbit.

With Tom at the controls, The Times has managed to stay in orbit. Wisdom, talent and values are the heart of it. The Times may have arrived late at the design party, but when it introduced color, or tweaked typography, or emphasized documentary photojournalism or created infographics, it did so carefully with precision and purpose.

When other newspapers were hiring celebrity consultants to decorate news products with the trendy designs of the day, Tom championed continuous change that honored the values of journalism, narrative and visual. He continues to move the mission forward without fanfare or by calling attention to himself.  The New York Times stands as a vital instrument for knowing. That’s Tom Bodkin’s great achievement.”


Sports Graphics Editor, The New York Times

“Tom has the patience to teach, the skills to lead and the will to fight for the people and ideas he believes are best for The New York Times.”


Art Director, The New York Times

“Never content with the status quo, Tom Bodkin pushes on, constantly refining and designing for the future. He’s innovated and pushed for the highest design standards across all platforms. He will accept nothing less than the best and most user friendly design, all the while maintaining the sophisticated and classic look of the New York Times that readers love.”

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