T.J. became the Art Director in 2003. T.J.’s presentation style was open, honest, soft-spoken (with a slight Austin accent), intelligent, sensitive, funny, and spot-on brilliant. He spent quite a bit of time discussing how he has gently evolved the logo of the magazine, which respected the heritage of the brand, yet added a fresh and contemporary feel.
He also shared with the audience how he went about a complete redesign of the magazine in 2012, spending considerable time discussing the “family of fonts” that he has in his “arsenal.” The art directors in the crowd were lapping it up. John Macfarlane, Canada’s answer to Clay Felker, was also impressed, as he an I exchanged knowing glances.
But for me, the most quotable and memorable moment came when T.J. shared a personal story that happened his first day as the newly minted art director.
“I was paid a visit by the editor, who told me, ‘T.J., we have just 3 rules here. 1) Sell magazines. 2) See rule #1. 3) Sell fucking magazines.’”
The audience laughed. But T.J. was serious. He gets it.
Coming from such an incredibly talented, intelligent, creative and award-winning art director, it was an extremely poignant moment. Clearly, T.J. has a respectable budget to work with, as he cranks out 88 pages of editorial an issue, and obviously he is given an enormous amount of latitude, and well-earned respect, to do what he does so well. But he obviously took that advice from the editor to heart, as his covers are not only stunning, but are designed to help sell copies.
“I like to strip it (an idea) down and get to the heart of it,” he said.
His first cover with the redesign was the September 2012 issue, which sold over 27,000 copies and a 51% sell-through.
The October 2012 issue did pretty nice numbers too, selling over 25,000 copies at a 45% sell-through. The December 2012 cover featuring Willie Nelson (9 time cover boy at Texas Monthly, and with a nod to the great George Lois and Esquire’s Sonny Liston cover) sold 30,200 copies at a 45% sell-through.
But the November 2012 issue sold 34,000 copies at a 58% sell-through. Those are some impressive results! It’s sure evidence that fabulous magazines, art directed beautifully, with an eye to three important rules, can and do sell.
If you haven’t taken the Texas Monthly Cover Quiz (featuring classic Texas Monthly covers from the past). See how many of the 10 questions you get right (30 covers in all). Click below:
Note to readers: some of Bullock's posts may refer to his clients.