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Star Time Inc. Designer Defects for ESPN

John Korpics will oversee print, digital design
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John Korpics, a big name in Time Inc. magazine design, has jumped ship from Fortune for ESPN, where he was given an über-design role for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.

The two-time National Magazine Award winner has dipped in and out of Time Inc. over the years, working on InStyle and Entertainment Weekly in addition to Fortune. He also consulted on Money's redesign. Separately, he's worked at Esquire and GQ.

“It’s been a bittersweet time for me," he told Adweek. "I’ve kind of grown up at this company. If it hadn’t been this job and this opportunity, I’d still be at Fortune.”

Korpics leaves Fortune at a time when it faces stiffer competition from a revived and well-funded Bloomberg Businessweek. Fortune dropped its frequency to 18 from 25 issues with a 2010 redesign that Korpics oversaw. Single copy sales have sagged so far this year (when the magazine is competing with a strong year-ago first half), while ad pages were down 1 percent in the first half. A replacement at Fortune hasn’t been named. A rep said, “We’re exploring options.”

At ESPN, Korpics will have the newly created title of vice president, creative director of print and digital media in a new structure that combines print and digital under senior vice president Rob King, to whom Korpics will report. His hire in part fills a role left vacant a few months ago when ESPN relocated its New York office to Bristol, Conn., which led many staffers to leave rather than make the move. Among them was the magazine’s former creative director, Siung Tjia, who joined Bloomberg Markets.

King said Korpics will start Sept. 6 and that his imprint on the 2.1 million circulation magazine will be felt as early as October.

“We certainly want to make our magazine as vibrant in the digital space as it is in the print form,” King said. “We definitely want to make the magazine stickier among readers.”

King said ESPN executives John Skipper and John Walsh have wanted to hire Korpics for a long time, but noted that he might not get a completely warm welcome from everyone.

“I think it’ll get him in some trouble in Bristol, but he is a Yankees fan,” King said of Korpics. “When you walk in wearing pinstripes, you’re going to find your competition very quickly.”