Darhil Crooks Discusses The Atlantic’s Evolving Look

Darhil Crooks, the creative director for The Atlantic, is just getting started. The November issue is the first to feature Crooks’ designs, but he told FishbowlNY that he has big plans for the title as he makes his imprint felt.

Crooks is highly respected in the magazine design world. During his time at Esquire the magazine received a nomination from the Society of Publication Designers for 2007 Magazine of the Year, and his revamp of Ebony — the first in its history — had readers excited about the brand. Now with The Atlantic, Crooks said it is time to up the ante.

“My main goal [for the magazine] is to step our game up visually by improving the way we present the ideas in the magazine and creating a more reader-friendly experience,” explained Crooks, via email. “I want The Atlantic to be bolder and riskier.”

Crooks has begun to change the Atlantic by altering its “features” presentation. He felt that the magazine placed too much emphasis on a template, and thus tended to downplay the significance of the issue’s longer pieces.

“Templates are useful from a production standpoint, but it was important to me that the features took on their own personality. Some of it was as simple as adding some color here or a thick line there, but some of it was more involved. Look at the Brave Thinkers package [in the November issue], for example. The editors and I tried to present the information differently from how it was done in years past. I started there, but it will evolve with each issue.”

Despite wanting to shake things up at The Atlantic, Crooks understands that the key to a good magazine is for the editorial and the design to have equal footing. He explained that The Atlantic is “an editor’s magazine,” but that doesn’t mean that should be all it is. “I never think that the look of a magazine should be secondary,” said Crooks. “Nor do I think that The Atlantic should or will be a magazine that people come to only for design. Obviously, it’s an editor’s magazine, where it’s about the story, the writing, the ideas. But the two have to work together; they have to balance each other out and I want the visuals to be as thoughtful as the writing.”

As one might expect, Crooks confessed to being a “print junkie.” He said that there are plenty of good magazines out there that have inspired him and that he considers worth a look. “My friends at Esquire continue to do great things,” said Crooks. “BusinessweekGQNYT MagazineNew York Mag, ESPNWiredVanity FairPopular Mechanics. These are still the standard bearers of publication design in my opinion… and I will crush them all. Kidding.” Or is he? The magazine world is no doubt paying attention to what is happening at The Atlantic, and should Crooks have his way, each month the magazine will improve.

“We’re going to look at the magazine from a structural standpoint, fonts, templates, etc., see what we can do to maximize our pages and build from there. That will happen over the next few months. I also plan on pushing the visuals themselves by collaborating with photographers and illustrators that I’ve worked with in the past, as well as people who I’ve never worked with before. I’m always looking for fresh perspectives. I want readers to anticipate not just a well written magazine, but a great looking magazine when they pick up The Atlantic.”