Maggie Murphy, art director, Guardian Weekend
Saturdays have become the week’s best-selling day for UK newspapers, leading to an ever-growing array of supplements and sections. The Guardian has a particularly strong offering, led by the Guardian Weekend magazine. We start the week with the magazine’s Maggie Murphy, awarded art director of the year at the BSME Awards earlier this month.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I’m an early riser, and my journey starts on the 6.24am train from Surrey into Waterloo. I usually have copy to read for the week ahead – the big features, interviews and long reads – and will start roughing out ideas in my sketch book. I might read a couple of pages of Private Eye.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
I like to start each day with a tidy desk and sharp pencils. Most days I don’t get out for lunch, so it’s great to have a view: my desk looks west over Regents Canal, Granary Square and St Pancras Station, so I get lots of light, weather and sunsets. The sun is just coming up as I type this – 7.45am.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Oh, this would have to be Jackie. My older sister use to buy it, because her name is Jackie. She used to stick all the covers up on her wall.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
I love so many magazines and find it very difficult to throw any away, but my two favourites are California Sunday Magazine and Metropoli. I love their covers: they seem to nail it every time.
Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Curious, surprising, fun.
Your schedule is dictated by your Saturday publication date. Describe the weekly turnaround.
We work on two issues at once: the regular, back of book pages are designed two weeks in advance, and then the features are worked on a week ahead. Most of the magazine goes to press by the end of Friday, with the cover, last columns, final tweaks to features and headlines, done on a Monday before Saturday publication. Then we’re straight onto the next one. It can be frenetic - there have been many times we’ve had to turn a feature around in a day, rather than the week or more you’d want on a magazine feature. Being part of a newspaper keeps us light on our feet.
How do you judge the success or otherwise of an issue when it’s not selling directly on the newsstand?
We know much more about how an issue does online: our inhouse analytics software tells us who is reading what where, what they said about it on social media, and we look at reader comments on the website. But that kind of feedback is much more focused on the words than the design – and obviously articles tend to be far more templated online.
I have a weekly catchup with the magazine’s editor, deputy editor and picture editors to discuss upcoming commissions and stories, and we might talk about what’s worked or hasn’t in recent issues and covers. Of course, when we post the covers and spreads on instagram we do get some feedback, mostly from the design community. We tend to talk more about the issue while we’re working on it, and the ones coming up. There isn’t a huge amount of time to debrief. We should probably do more!
Earlier this year we spoke with you and your editor Melissa Denes about the magazine’s collaboration with gal-dem. What longterm effects have been caused by that one-off special edition?
The gal-dem takeover was a fantastic opportunity for us all to consider who we’re commissioning, and to work with a host of exciting young talent (writers, photographers, illustrators). Not only have we re-commissioned many of them, I think we’ve also continued to be inspired by what we made together with the gal-dem team an issue bursting with energy and fresh perspective. We miss having their team in the office.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
This weekend is our ‘Conversations ’issue - now the fourth time we’ve devoted a whole magazine to celebrating the art of a good chinwag. We bring together people we admire for frank exchanges. With an annual issue, my job is to keep it looking bold and fresh. I look forward to everyone seeing the cover – it’s a very different approach from the previous three. We get to see the printed issues on a Thursday – I have a quick look, but I still get a bit nervous every week, and usually don’t look too closely until Saturday morning.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Sending the issue to press, probably after a couple of disagreements with my Editor.