Edel Rodriguez
Goodbye TIME
A small selection of covers I art directed. Clockwise from top left: Marshall Arisman on criminal cops in Latin America, Brad Holland paints Hugo Chavez, Douglas Fraser on Canadian leaders, Luba Lukova on piracy in the rain forests, Matt Mahurin on people being jailed overseas, and Scott Menchin on NIKE's downturn.

For the past 13 years, I’ve been a designer and art director at TIME magazine.  Friday was my last day on the job.   I made the decision to leave the magazine so I could spend more time with my family and devote more of my energy to the various art projects that I’ve been involved with for many years—editorial illustration, posters, writing children’s books, work for galleries, animation, etc.  Part of my home studio will continue to take on some design and art direction projects, but I hope to visually integrate those more with the rest of my work. 

I thought I’d write about working for TIME magazine because it might be of help to students that are trying to figure out what to do when leaving art school.  I went to Pratt Institute in the early 90’s and was part of the Fine Arts program there, my major was painting.  I quickly noted that the job prospects for a painter were not very good, so at the beginning of my Sophomore year, I got a job working at the college paper as a graphic designer.  The paper was just switching to working on Macintosh computers at the time and I had to quickly learn Quark, Photoshop, etc., mostly by reading manuals.  The deadlines at the paper were very intense, usually went late into the night, but I Iearned so much about editorial design from my friends on the staff.  I always had an interest in design going back to high school, and read a lot on the subject as well.

I continued with my painting, sculpture, and photography interests at Pratt, and tried out a few internships, one at MTV and another at a Penguin Books.  During my senior year of college, I applied for and got an internship with Spy Magazine’s art department.  I had a great time interning at Spy,  and decided that working at a magazine was the kind of day job I wanted to have when I got out of college.  After graduating, I worked at Spy for a few months, and looked for jobs in other magazines, all the while showing my illustration portfolio to whomever would look at it.  I was able to get a meeting for a design job with Steve Conley, an art director at TIME magazine.  He looked at my design portfolio, and gave me an entry level job at TIME.

Within a few months, I was working with some of the top illustrators in the business (many of them here at Drawger now), and I was very happy.  I got a great education as an illustrator just by working at TIME.  I was able to see how all these illustrators solved problems through their sketches, how they presented and promoted their work, how they did their billing, etc—things one could never learn at school.  I continued to show my own illustration work around NYC and began to get some regular work from a variety of newspapers and magazines.  I was also slowly working towards an MFA in painting from Hunter college, more on that another day.

In 1997, I was promoted to art director for the Latin American and Canadian editions of TIME, based in NYC.  This was a great opportunity given to me by Arthur Hochstein, the main art director at TIME.  I was only 26 at the time, but I was itching to work on covers and bigger projects, and Arthur trusted me to get the job done.  I was at the position from 1997 until 2006, when I joined the U.S. magazine again.   I worked with three editors during my time as AD of the foreign editions—George Russell, Michael Elliott, and Adi Ignatius.  They were all fans of illustration and gave me a lot of room to do some very cool things on the covers.   During those years, I art directed hundreds of covers for the magazine.  My style of art directing was to try and choose the best person for the job and let them roll with it.  I usually didn't describe what I wanted ahead of time.  I always wanted to see what artists would come up with in their sketches.  I would make suggestions when I thought something would help make the work stand out or when I wanted the art and typography to communicate more cohesively.  The best part of the job was working with terrific artists and giving work to artists that were just starting out.  I took a page from Steve Heller’s book, and decided to meet with any artist that would call me or dropped by the office.  It was always great to meet new people and see some fresh work.  In the future, I’ll post more of the illustrated covers that I worked on and write about the artist’s work, why I hired them, etc.

I wanted to thank all the illustrators that worked with me throughout the years.  Besides the covers, I must have assigned over a thousand spots, half pages, spreads, etc.  Working for a weekly can be very intense, but everyone always came through for me.  I really appreciate that. My one regret is not having been able to work with so many illustrators whose work I really admire.  I will likely take on some small design projects through my studio, so we may meet down the road again.  Some of my upcoming projects include writing and illustrating a second children’s book for Little Brown(due in April), finishing a number of editorial illustration projects, and designing a website that organizes all of my endeavors into something that makes sense.

So, that’s it, I’m a freelancer!  I will now grow a beard, work in my pajamas, and watch bad daytime television.  And I will walk my daughter to school. 
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