Jamey Fry, Washington Business Journal

The Society for News Design is excited to announce that Jamey Fry is joining our lineup of speakers for the SND Charlotte workshop on April 19-21 in Charlotte, N.C.

Fry has been Creative Director at the Washington Business Journal for five years. Prior to that he was art director at CQ Roll Call, Boeing and the Chicago Sun-Times. Fry led the redesign of the WBJ three years ago and his work has been honored in SND’s annual Best of News Design design competition each of the last three years.

SND.org’s Chloe Meister chatted with Fry about his role as Creative Director, where and how he gets his creativity, and how he broke into the industry.

TELL ME A BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO AT THE WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL. I’m responsible for everything visual that goes out the door. My primary focus is the editorial product, but I also oversee branding, advertising, marketing and collateral materials. I have one senior designer in my department and another designer (in our Events department) who I mentor.

Our printed publication is a weekly, tab-sized paper covering the local business community, and I treat it like a news weekly magazine (like Time or Newsweek). The most important thing for me each week is our cover, which receives the most attention and planning.

But we also have several opportunities in our features/departments well and our cover story for high-impact visuals. So my main goal each week is to make sure we take advantage of each of those opportunities so that each of our issues is full of vibrant storytelling.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE FIELD OF NEWS DESIGN AND HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY CHANGED SINCE YOU GOT INVOLVED? I started as a reporter with a small weekly chain in the western Chicago suburbs (Press-Republican Newspapers in St. Charles, Ill.) and then moved into a city editor spot. At such a small paper, each person was responsible for each town’s local paper. So you write stories, copy edit, assign and shoot some of your own photos, and then lay out your own local section. I had one class in newspaper design at the University of Illinois, which taught me the basic principles. But the practical experience there (and the guidance of our design director Jordan Dziura) allowed me to quickly realize a natural knack for presentation. At the crossroads of pursuing journalism in a writing or visual capacity, I followed the latter when Ron Reason hired me at the Chicago Sun-Times.

I think a lot of what I experienced in that first small newsroom still applies to journalists today. The multidisciplinary mindset in convergence journalism and the breadth of knowledge and abilities I see from the young journalists in our newsroom echoes that do-it-all necessity from my first job. This, I believe, just speaks further to the importance of our roles in the newsroom. Designers are the ones who see the big picture. We confer and collaborate with all the different parts of our organizations, and we are the ones who can synthesize the components and put that vision together for a compelling final product.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO FIND INSPIRATION WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE HIT A WALL? Does bourbon count? [laughs] … The spark of inspiration is always there. It’s just a matter of finding it. Or letting it find you. It might hit you in the shower or while driving. Or you might finally see it after having stared at that Excel spreadsheet for an hour. But just having the confidence that the solution is there somewhere makes it easier to break through the wall. Sometimes you see the whole thing clearly all at once and sometimes you just see the first step that leads you the right way. But the trick is finding that trigger in your brain, flipping the switch, then going after it. When it hits you, grab the idea and be passionate about bringing it on home.

ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR DESIGNERS, PUBLICATIONS OR WEBSITES THAT YOU LOOK AT REGULARLY? I’m lucky to have The Washington Post delivered to my door every morning, so I have a high-level baseline of the visual presentation I count on each day to inspire me and to compete against. But I also have loved and been guided by Time and Esquire throughout my career.

WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU KNEW WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER? I wish I was quicker to prioritize finding a job in an environment where I just naturally fit. You can go through a million questions before deciding between jobs or leaving one job for another. Often it’s simply money or promotion. But finding the spot where you can flourish is more important. Money and promotion will follow. Just make sure you develop yourself.

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About SND Charlotte

• Don’t miss your chance to UNITE & REBEL, register today: Register
• Book your hotel room (before they run out!): Use the SND discount link
• Check out the lineup of speakers we’ve announced for the workshop. What a team!
• Don’t miss the Think Before You Make pre-conference day at the U.S. National Whitewater Center