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New York Magazine Interview, afterwards | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

New York Magazine Interview, afterwards

New York Magazine

New York Magazine Interview

A couple months ago I received a call from New York Magazine asking me if I wanted to take part in a new feature that would have designers going around the city taking photos of things that interested them in terms of culture outside, in subways, on storefront windows etc. If I said yes, this would be the first of its kind for the magazine. That was probably the second most memorable phone call related to anything New York. For me the first was actually getting the design job I wanted about a year ago. I was extremely excited but also reserved. I told a couple people I knew about the article, but until I saw it published you just never know if it’s going to happen.

Emma Pearse who I was going to work with emailed me a short brief and I was off running around NYC. For about a week I would go after work and spend a couple hours walking around photographing anything that I found interesting. I’m still relatively new to NYC so it gave me a great opportunity to explore a lot of areas. After that week I sent Emma the photos and she interviewed me over the phone. A couple days later she came back and asked me to take some more photos. It went back and fourth like that for a couple weeks. Eventually we meet in person, walked around SoHo together and gathered what would eventually be most of the photographs that were used. Then we talked, and talked more and then even more. I’ll be honest, it was slightly exhausting for me to describe the same thing four or five different ways – though I’m sure Emma felt the same way wondering if I was going to say anything clearly. The biggest problem was that I was talking to her as a designer, not as civilian.

A lot of the images had a reaction/reaction to it. I’d see something on the street and then a slightly different version used in a commercial sense. But there was a lot of overlapping visuals too. One example would be the stick man + cafe grumpy icon = image from Beastie Boys poster. Obviously the poster wasn’t created like that, but the visuals kind of show how things were merging on the street. A lot of the vibrandt colors that are out there aren’t entirely new, but if you wanted to dissect it, nurave as a scene could be suggested that it’s been grabbing hyper colors and mixing it to their own purposes. There was this street art image that couldn’t reflect this better than not even a block down I saw these guys and their shoes that had the same color pallet as the wall. This was the way my conversations with Emma would go – and though I couldn’t see her through the phone or IM, I’m sure there were times when she was pulling out her hair.

After some of these conversations I still wondered if it would make the cut. I just tried to keep a level head and work the best way I could. Once we started talking about my blog and bio information, and talking with a photo editor I knew things were close. I could almost start to relax. A couple more days passed and once I saw the final text I started letting more people I know that the article was happening and it was coming out soon. So this morning when I got a Google Alert with my name and the url sending me to New York Magazine I could finally sigh a breath of relief and jump up and down. I haven’t seen the August 20, 2007 Issue in print, but soon as I do it will feel pretty good to see something that a lot of people worked really hard on. Here’s the url if you want to read it yourself:

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  • Brian Branch

    Nice work again Michael! Can’t wait to go back to NYC!

  • Sameer Vasta

    Congrats! Looks like quite the fascinating project, and I’ll definitely make it a point to try and find a copy of the magazine up here in Toronto when it’s out.

  • Callie

    Wow! That’s so cool! Hmmmm, if you hear of journalists wanting to do the same thing with designers in Seattle or DC (after January), let me know.

    Congrats! Must be cool to see your name in print like that…

  • Tom Cannon

    Congratulations! It is great seeing New York through your eyes.

  • litherland

    I picked up my hard copy Tuesday night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Good on NY Mag for dreaming up this feature, and for choosing you to kick it off. I know of few people who appreciate the city more than you do, Michael, and you read it well.

    Thanks, too, for this behind-the-scenes elucidation. I was kind of wondering how that had gone. As a somewhat regular interlocutor of yours, I’m aware that you’re very good on your feet and capable of making sometimes surprising associations quite quickly (which is why I always love talking design with you). But reading this, somehow, I was having a hard time imagining you simply spewing out these interpretations. Now I see that these questions were asked, answered, circled around, re-asked, which makes for a certain density in the finished product.

    One thing I might question: I’m not so sure that SoHo is the best gauge of the state of political art in the city. Around the time this country initiated its war of choice against Iraq, and again around the time of the RNC, I saw no shortage of (often blunt and angry) political visuals around the city. The vivid, solipsistic and ultimately apolitical images culled from SoHo don’t necessarily strike me as being representative of a larger trend (though I certainly could be wrong); I have to wonder if other neighborhoods wouldn’t reflect a different political story.

  • Sameer Vasta

    Holding a copy of the magazine right now, just came out on newsstands today here in Toronto. Congrats! I was telling everyone in the bookstore that I knew someone in the magazine! =)