Seven Questions for Arem Duplessis, Design Director of The New York Times Magazines (All of Them!)

Among our first priorities on any Saturday is opening the door to UnBeige HQ and locating our freshly delivered copy of The New York Times, bloated with all manner of colorful weekend inserts. We shuffle furiously through the Best Buy circulars and Macy’s coupons to find The New York Times Magazine (and, if we’ve been especially good that week, T: The New York Times Style Magazine as well), and it’s distinctive cover has a way of setting the tone for the weekend, whether with exploding produce, a gilded manhole cover, a killer sugar cube, or most recently, conjoined twins that may share a mind. Meanwhile, the creative mind behind all of the New York Times magazines is award-winning design director Arem Duplessis, a veteran of Spin, GQ, and Blaze. He made time to answer our seven questions, and we detected a pleasing ocean/aquatic theme to his answers, which include mentions of drowning and sharks!

1. You’ll be presenting at next week’s ABSTRACT Conference in Portland, Maine. Can you give us a sneak preview of your talk?
I’ll be discussing our new content and our most recent redesign. How we approach design problems, and more importantly how we solve them.

2. What is your greatest graphic design or publication design pet peeve?
Magazines that are so clearly design derivatives of other magazines. A successful magazine/brand has an immediate identity that belongs to them. We all “borrow” from time to time but when it’s so bad that you cannot even tell which magazine you are in, there’s a real problem.

3. What is your best or most memorable design-related encounter?
A decade ago, I was on a shoot and was accused by an overbearing publicist of trying to “drown” her client. Literally. It wasn’t the best moment, but certainly the most memorable.

4. What is your proudest design moment?
I once designed a poster for my wife for an anniversary present. It had some personal writing in it, and it made her cry and laugh all at the same time. Sappy I know, but I’m keeping it real here.

5. What’s on your summer reading list?
I’m three-fourths of the way through The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks by Juliet Eilperin
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

6. Last film you saw?
Adrift, which is fantastic. And just to be clear, the Portuguese film starring Vincent Cassel and Laura Neiva, not the shark movie…although I did see that one as well.

7. You have just received $100,000 that must be used for a single dream project. How would you spend it?
The appropriate answer would be that I would design a revolutionary iPad app that would make the world wonderful and happy but in reality…I’d buy a plot of land somewhere warm, right on the ocean, and spend the rest of my time dreaming about the day I can move there, build a little house and fish and dive all day. Selfish, I know.

Motion graphics by Erick Fletes