At work with: Matt Curtis, Sunday Times Magazine

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The Sunday Times Magazine was launched in 1962 as a vehicle for colour advertising, then unavailable in newspapers. It quickly earned a reputation for smart photography and art direction, recording London’s swinging sixties. In recent years it had lost its way but last year a redesign sought to reintroduce the values of its heyday. We start the week with art director Matt Curtis, who moved from the Times’ award-winning science mag Eureka to oversee the redesign.

Office
Where are you today?
The Times HQ, the mini Shard on floor nine (above). It’s like working an eighth of the way up the Shard.

Window
What can you see from the window?

Trains going into London Bridge, the Walkie-Talkie, the Gerkin, the occasional flying plastic bag and a parcel tape height chart.

Are you a morning or evening person?
Coffee or beer make either of them good.

LeTiss
What was the first magazine you remember enjoying?
The first magazine I subscribed to was Shoot, a football magazine. Only for the posters of Saints players: Jason Dodd, Franny Benali and Le Tiss (above). Whoever put Carlton Palmer doing a sliding tackle across a double page spread was a graphic genius.

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What’s your favourite newspaper supplement this morning?

The New York Times Magazine sets the standard. Their covers stand out. It’s not just from a visual perspective – it seems they have editors that think in terms of cover stories. Ziet Magazin is also beautiful.

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Was your 2014 redesign a conscious attempt to take the magazine back to its roots in photography and spare design?
Yes. The magazine had really lost its identity, and it looked like a section of the newspaper – which wasn’t a good thing. We wanted to be bolder with our use of photography.

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I also wanted the magazine to respond to the content, so in others areas the design changes pace and sometimes gets more playful.

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How has the magazine developed since that redesign?
My favourite things we try are large double page spread openers. We did it with three openers that recapped the MH17 plane story (above). The main feature was a personal story of people coping with the loss of love ones. We also had an infographic of where our case studies sat on the plane (below).

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We’ve recently seen several newspaper magazines revamped (yours, NYTimes, Guardian); do you see a healthy future for this form of magazine?

You get to make interesting magazines at newspapers as the covers don’t have the same commercial pressure. It’s a bit of a cliché but a magazine is only as good as its stories and you get to work with great journalists at newspapers. That’s the attraction for me. On the flip side you can get editors that are used to bashing out newspapers and they can be quite old school in their approach.

What are you most looking forward to this week?
The weekend, I’m doing my annual Isle of Wight cycle ride with my Dad.

What are you least looking forward to this week?
We put the magazine together on a PCs, and after a year and a half I have no idea how to use it.

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What will you be doing after this chat?
Trying to figure out how to find my D drive.

thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Magazine

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