Dispatch 008

Radhika Jones, left, and Lena Waithe. Photo: Vanity Fair

“A lot of magic can happen when you give yourself the space to be playful.”

—Tina Roth Eisenberg, in the new issue of Live Magazine

On Editing and Design

In late October, we participated in RGD’s DesignThinkers conference here in Toronto. We were there to make the second issue of Live Magazine, our printed compendium of the people, conversations, and ideas that make such events so stimulating. And there was a lot to cover at RGD’s biannual gathering, with speakers from across North America and Europe, engaging workshops, and two thousand fellow attendees trading insight and gossip.

The quote above, from keynote speaker Tina Roth Eisenberg, is drawn from our interview with her, which appears in the magazine. Can’t wait to read it? The conversation is also the latest episode of our First Things First podcast.

To learn more about Live Magazine, click here. You can preorder the new issue, which ships later this month, right here. Because we have been commissioning, writing, proofing, and laying out the magazine, here are some notes on editing and design.

Paul Ford on Process

“In media and in software, a ship date can inspire a fear of failure. After a while, it can also become a test: Can I make this thing I’m doing (writing, editing, coding) really good—even great—knowing that no deadline extension is possible? And how will I pull it off?”

Paul Ford, the technology writer and Postlight co-founder, was once on the editorial staff of Harper’s. In this article for Increment, he asks what engineering teams—and, by extension we think, design teams—can learn from the editorial process. The answer is a lot: “I still know, deep in my heart, that the editorial process at a well-run media organization is better than any software process I’ve ever seen.”

On Managing Files

A managing editor, like a product manager, constantly moves pieces of information around, corralling everyone’s efforts and ensuring goals and deadlines are met. New tools constantly claim to ease this work—we use Airtable heavily—but only in the last few years has there been a larger paradigm shift: the demotion of files as discrete entities.

Two months ago, Simon Pitt, head of corporate digital efforts at the BBC, lamented this change, noting, “The unit of creation has moved from the file to the database entry.” This, he argues, devalues the content in files, undermining their sense of authority.

But, as the editors of UXdesign.cc note in their 2020 trend report, this development is spreading—and has arrived in the world of design tools. It is, they argue, a good thing: “The main reason we design something is to be able to share it with our business stakeholders, product managers, developers, and users. Designing is sharing.”

Some Wonderful Editors

We’d be remiss in not mentioning a few editors whose work inspires us. Radhika Jones has led Vanity Fair for eighteen months. She wasted no time changing the complexion of the magazine, making it more reflective of the world we live in, and has spoken candidly and thoughtfully about that work—particularly in this episode of the Longform podcast.

Brigid Hughes, who briefly served as editor of the Paris Review and was later written out of its history, went on to found A Public Space, a wonderful and under-recognized literary quarterly and book publisher. “The writers working away from the mainstream are often the most exciting ones," she says—and we agree.