Feb 14, 2013

Robert Newman: Pinning in the Right Direction

[Originally published on the Pinterest blog on July 30, 2012]

When we first saw Robert Newman’s boards, his colorful pins drew us in immediately and we knew an interview with the Creative Director of Reader’s Digest just couldn’t be passed up.

As we spent more time exploring his interests and getting a visual education on magazine covers, graphic design from the 50s and 60s, and general “Newmanology,” we also found out he’s had a hand in lot of our other favorite publications, like Real Simple!

We hope you’ll enjoy this pinterview as much as we did and thank you Robert for sharing your amazing boards.

Hi Robert! First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m the creative director at Reader’s Digest. I work on the magazine, books, tablet apps, website, and all kinds of other media. I’ve worked at magazines and publications in New York City since the late 80s. Before Reader’s Digest I headed up the design and creative direction at Real Simple, Fortune, Entertainment Weekly, New York, Details, Vibe, and The Village Voice.

As a kid I always loved graphic design. I made little magazines and posters in high school, and then went to work as a printer. I always collected printed stuff obsessively….I have a giant storage space packed with magazines, posters, and books. That’s one reason I love Pinterest, because it eliminates the need to physically save everything, while still satisfying my urge for obsessive collecting and cataloging.

One of the big appeals for me about working in magazines is the ability to reach huge numbers of people, in an immediate way. As social media has grown and developed I’ve been attracted to that for the same reason, only in some ways it’s better than printed magazines because you can interact much more immediately with the people who are looking at your work. I’ve got a Tumblr page and a Twitter feed and also a page on Facebook and they all feed into each other.

It should be obvious to anyone who looks at my Pinterest page that I love vintage graphic design of all kinds, from all decades. I have a particular love for the 1960s, because that’s when I grew up, and it’s the aesthetic that informs a lot of my own work, but I’m constantly finding design and illustration from other eras that amazes and inspires me.

BN PinterestWe love your collections of different illustrations. What do you think makes a good book cover, poster, or advertisement?

A good poster or cover should engage on both an emotional and intellectual level. It should delight, amaze, and inspire; be original and distinctive. I always think of things in terms of “will they tear it out and stick it on their walls?” Now of course, it’s “will they pin it on Pinterest?”

In your opinion, which decade has the best design and form of advertising?

I think the content always determines what is the best design for me. When I look at magazines, posters, and advertising from the 1950s, I’m not that excited by the content. But the form is amazing. It’s almost like those guys compensated for the lack of interesting material by creating extra-inspired work. The Fortune covers of Leo Lionni and Walter Allner, the work of Henry Wolf and Alexei Brodovitch, anything by Saul Bass…I love the bold simplicity of that era, and the way the art directors seemed to have total control (I’m sure they didn’t, but it seems that way now) of their products. But when I look at design from the 60s, I get excited by the content as well as the art. And unlike the 50s, there’s a strong sense of social consciousness and provocativeness in the best design and advertising.

For me, the best design captures that 60s sense of it’s artful, and it’s going to change the world. That said, there’s an awful lot of great stuff going on now in graphic design and especially in publication design. I’m constantly inspired by covers from The New Yorker and Bloomberg Businessweek, just to name two.

How is your board “Cool Stuff” different than your other boards?

Initially my Cool Stuff board was just things that didn’t fit into any other category, plus stuff that I just couldn’t figure out what it was, but I liked it anyway. Now I imagine it’s like that room I wish I had in my apartment, where I put all the coolest items I own on display: posters, toys, books, LPs, and I can show them off to everyone who visits. Of course in reality I live in a tiny apartment with my two daughters, and the only things on display are their toys and art supplies and homework. I’ve been letting my daughters pick some of the Cool Stuff, but so far I’ve kept out all the funny cat photos.

What’s great about Pinterest for me is that it works on multiple levels. On one hand, it’s a super collection of graphic and visual inspiration that informs my work. I’ve always been a stylist in my design sensibilities, drawing on other work, especially vintage, for direction and ideas. I’ve always been a student of graphic design from the past, but I’ve never had so much easy access and easy collectability.

I also like to share work, and with Pinterest there’s a huge community of like-minded (and not-so-like-minded) folks constantly pinning visual treats. If there’s a downside, it’s that there’s almost too much, and I wish there were some more finely-tuned curated boards. I’m as much a culprit in this area as anyone, and lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to edit the huge mass of images that I pin, putting them into more defined boards. I think the next step is to put together some kind of greatest hits or best-of pin collection, so that folks can follow just one board and get the very best of what you’re pinning.

Are there other magazines you follow on Pinterest?

I follow a number of magazines on Pinterest. I really like TV Guide… they’ve got a great collection of their covers. Vanity Fair is doing some nice stuff, and of course Reader’s Digest has some great cartoons and recipes. I think the womens’ magazines are all doing a lot, but the newsmagazines and general interest publications haven’t quite figured it out yet. What I’m waiting for is the first Pinterest-only magazine!

Thanks again for the pinterview, Robert! You’ll be the first to know if we ever publish a Pinterest-only magazine and we appreciate all your suggestions. Happy pinning!