Few British designers have made as strong an impact in America as Luke Hayman. The Central St Martins College of Art and Design alumnus has resculpted the look of many US magazines and is now set to reform the venerable Time. What next for the Manhattan-based designer, asks Sarah Verdone
‘I never believed that I could actually get a job in graphic design. It’s so competitive,’ Luke Hayman confides. ‘I thought, I’ll see if I get in to art school, then I’ll see if I can get a job after that.’ He laughs, raises his eyebrows and says, ‘It’s been good!’
In the 15 years he has lived in the US, Hayman has redesigned eight magazines, including Travel and Leisure, ID Magazine, Brill’s Content and Architecture. Most recently, New York magazine won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Excellence in Design thanks to his direction. The 40-year-old graphic designer’s latest move is a double whammy. He has joined Pentagram as a partner and his first project is to redesign the iconic Time magazine with partner Paula Scher. The pair pitched against four other consultancies and Hayman now spearheads the project.
So what does a man performing open-heart surgery on one of the oldest weekly news magazine in the US foresee as the future of print?
‘There are still millions of people who prefer print. And these people have purchasing power,’ Hayman says. He can’t imagine ‘fashion being presented on the Web as well as it can be in W magazine,’ at least not for the next ten to 15 years. ‘The trouble is the youth,’ he says laughing and tapping the table, driving his point home. ‘People in their twenties haven’t grown up with print, so they don’t miss it.’ So what if e-paper prevails some day? Hayman takes the notion in his stride. ‘It’ll be a good thing once we get the hang of it,’ he says. ‘At least we won’t be cutting down trees.’
Hayman is looking forward to exploring new terrain. ‘I want to design everything’ he confesses. The one redesign he would like to get his hands on is the New York Times. ‘It’s the most frustrating newspaper and it deserves to be the best-designed in the world,’ he says, rolling his eyes. He rattles off the paper’s pluses. ‘The content, the photography, the choice of art directors, like Nicholas Blechman. The real estate section is fantastic, the style section is always great and the business section is really rocking,’ Hayman says, beaming. The problem is that it models itself on a 50-year-old version of The Guardian, which, he adds, ‘just keeps getting better’.
The only person who seems surprised by his current success is Hayman. Adam Moss, the editor in chief of New York magazine, says, ‘Luke deserves a huge part of the credit for our success’. He adds, ‘He was a delight to work with.’ A delight in publishing? In New York City? Chee Pearlman concurs. The former editor of ID Magazine was so impressed by Hayman she hired him twice. ‘He’s not a rock star graphic designer,’ Pearlman says, ‘He’s more of a quiet superstar.’ Hayman begs to differ. ‘A back-up singer or a session musician, maybe,’ he scoffs.
I can’t picture him in the recording studio or on the red carpet with his button-down, tattersall shirt neatly ironed and tucked. We’re sipping ice water in one of the spacious conference rooms at Pentagram’s New York office. The five-storey building occupies a plum spot on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street. Housed in a former bank and nightclub, it overlooks the recently spiffed up Madison Square Park just north of the neighbourhood’s namesake, the Flatiron building. Hayman is rarely here to enjoy it though, as he now spends 80 per cent of his week uptown at the offices of Time.
In his youth, Hayman’s family moved from England to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, and then to Dallas, Texas. By the time they moved back to East Anglia, the cult soap opera Dallas was airing and Hayman had a Texas drawl. ‘We were huge fans,’ he says without a trace of the Lone Star state in his voice. He loved art class, and cemented his future in visual arts when he bought his first issue of Design Week’s sister title Creative Review at 13 years old and his father gave him a subscription.
But this now father of two claims that he and wife, Pamela, have other plans for their sons – aged seven and nine. ‘I want them to work at Goldman Sachs,’ he deadpans, referring to the massive bonuses the investment house recently doled out. ‘I put the Wall Street Journal in front of them every morning.’
Big bucks is what distinguishes the US from the UK publishing world, as Hayman tells it. Art departments are better staffed than their British counterparts. And since US magazines rely more on advertising revenue than actual sales, they are less focused on entry points, Hayman says. Rolling Stone’s Andy Cowles synthesised the different approaches admirably. ‘He had the impossible job of following Fred Woodward. It’s an amazing example of American design influenced by a British philosophy,’ he says.
US magazines are branching out, according to Hayman. Real Simple, a hefty glossy of helpful hints to rival Martha Stewart Living, is now peddling its own products. ‘Gael Towey has her own radio show,’ he says in disbelief, referring to the chief creative officer of Martha Stewart Omnimedia. New York magazine’s website was so successful it had to turn away advertisers, Hayman says.
A voice announces ‘Lunch is served’ over the intercom. The delicious smells of Italian food wafts into the room, although Hayman hasn’t eaten family-style with his office mates yet. ‘I’m never here,’ he laments. We take the back stairs to avoid the crowd. ‘I’m still finding my way around,’ he says as he opens a door to the second floor. ‘Partners row,’ he murmurs in mock solemnity as we walk past desk after desk. Clearly, though, Hayman has already found his way.
Luke Hayman CV
2006 Pentagram partner
2004 to 2006 New York magazine, Design director
2002 to 2004 Travel and Leisure, Creative director
2001 to 2002 Media Central, Creative director
2000 to 2001 Brill Media and Contentville, Creative director
1999 to 2000 Ogilvy & Mather New York, Brand integration group, Associate creative director and senior partner
1997 to 1999 ID Magazine, Design director
1995 to 1997 Design Writing Research, Senior designer
1993 to 1995 ID Magazine, Associate art director
1988 BA (Hons) Graphic Design, Central St Martins College of Art and Design, London