At Work With: Chris Dixon, Vanity Fair


Chris Dixon was part of the team behind the influential 2005 redesign of New York magazine. In late 2011 he joined Vanity Fair and has spent the last 18 months quietly reinventing the look of that magazine. He looks forward to his week ahead and shares a rare favourite magazine.

Where are you today?
I am at my office in New York, in Times Square, the Condé Nast building.

What can you see from your window?
We are on the 22nd floor, and I have a very nice view of the Empire State Building. There is also a new building being built that is slowly rising up just to the left of our building. My staff comes in from time to time to watch the progress through my window. There are 30-40 workers on it at a time, amazing how fast it goes up.


What is your favorite magazine this morning?

I was looking through my bookshelves this morning, came across a bunch of issues I had saved of a Canadian magazine called Saturday Night, which had been published monthly for many decades. Around 2000 it was relaunched as a large-format weekly and was included as part of the National Post newspaper. Leanne Shapton was the new art director, and Paul Sahre had gone to Toronto to work on the redesign.  They did a great job on that project. It still looks beautiful and smart today – great covers, clever illustration, and bold, simple type and design, sort of like David Hillman’s Nova. So, Saturday Night is my favorite magazine this morning.


How many emails are waiting in your inbox?

Pretty manageable today, maybe 10.


What has been the highlight of your first year and a half at Vanity Fair?

I loved working on our Comedy Issue we did in January. Judd Apatow was the guest editor, and I am a huge fan of his movies, and comedy in general! It was great to collaborate with him and photographer Mark Seliger, who shot most of the issue. We did 3 separate group covers (above), with 12 people total, all comic icons.


Another issue that was a real highlight for me was this years’ Hollywood Issue. Bruce Weber shot the whole thing, and Marion Deuchars did all the hand-lettering (above). Collaborating with these two artists was real thrill. And one more bright spot this year, we just won the gold medal for our new Vanities section design at the SPD awards last week!  Nice to get recognition for work that the designers have been doing here over the last year.


You’ve been redesigning the magazine section by section. Which single design change/point made you think ‘yes, this is my magazine now.’

I think when we finished the September issue last year, everything sort of clicked. We had finished the redesign of the Fanfair section (above), Vanities was done, and we also had redesigned all the basic structural elements,  the ToCs, the contributors pages, the columns, back-page, the color palettes etc. Suddenly the overall look shifted slightly, and it became noticeable that it was evolving. Which is what we wanted, not a abrupt, drastic change visually, but a freshening-up overall.

Do you get to attend the famed Vanity Fair Oscars after party?
Yes! I have been very fortunate to attend the party for the last 2 years at the Sunset Tower Hotel in LA. It is a lovely weekend, and a really magical party. It is an incredible amount of work to prepare and orchestrate that party. I am in awe of the Special Projects department here at Vanity Fair, it’s such a complex undertaking for them to create that event.

What was the last thing your editor said to you?
He looked at the next issues ToC designs and said ‘Glorious’. He loves to look at and talk about design.

What are you looking forward to this week?
We are just finishing an issue, so I enjoy putting all the final touches on things, doing color corrections, fine-tuning the type. Also am working on some new design elements for our website, having a series of black and white portraits illustrated that are coming out nicely. And having lunch with photographer Jonathan Becker tomorrow.

What are you least looking forward to this week?

I think it all looks pretty sunny so far. I am sure something will come up though!

What are you doing after this chat?
I will get another coffee from the cafeteria, go to a design/photo production meeting to review all the stories for this issue and the next. And then Christian Schwartz from Commercial Type is coming in to go over work he is doing for us, and to discuss a couple of new projects.

Read Jeremy Leslie’s ‘Reputations’ interview with Chris Dixon in the upcoming 85th issue of Eye magazine.

 

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