Getting Motown Down on Paper

What does an art director do when he’s not creating ads for Rolling Stone and Levi’s? He works some more! John Hobbs of Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York gave up his downtime for the better part of a year to help create the latest issue of Big, an arts and culture magazine based in New York that features a different focus (often a country or a city) and a different editorial design team each issue. The new issue has a Detroit theme—perfect for Hobbs, who grew up there and once aspired to be a car designer. He won the job (strictly a volunteer position) by submitting a proposal to publisher Marcelo Jünemann that suggested the issue “shouldn’t be too overproduced” and should be “loosely” designed to mirror the geography of Detroit. Hobbs then set about designing the magazine on nights and weekends; it features photographs of Detroit and articles by and about artists from the city.

“We got in touch with a bunch of artists, musicians and architects, and mainly let people in Detroit do the issue,” says Hobbs, 36.

Revisiting his hometown appealed to him. “It’s not this cookie-cutter, mall-ified city like a lot of other cities,” he says. “We mirrored the abandonment of the city with white space and used no grids, to let it meander from subject matter to subject matter.”

Hobbs is pleased with the result—for the most part. “To be honest, I feel like it’s maybe a little too clean in its design, being from Detroit,” he says. “But to me it rings pretty true. I’m happy with it.”

Will he do more work like this? “I have a full-time job that keeps me plenty busy,” he says. “I think I need a break to get my life back together.”