White Thumbs. Not all of my media consulting is spent with digital and print magazines. Often, companies with all sorts of pursuits want to team up. That's why I am so honored to now have the elite estate container garden company of the Obama White House, Pennoyer Newman, as a new client and collaborator. After my years at Garden Design and Landscape Architecture magazines I'm very excited about all we will do.—N.B.
TV Times. What could be more fun than developing a new television show? Developing a digital one for eBay with Laine Conklin. And that's just what I did. The challenge was, "How do we create something that people will care about, like and be a balance of what the company stands for?"
Our answer, "Think news magazine."
I divided the purview of subject matter they presented into five TV segments, beginining with the broadest issues, in this case breaking news across an amalgam of topics, and ending with the most narrow ones.
Therefore, breaking news segues into a segment addressing issues that challenged the company. Follwing that, I introduced a short docuseries-style feature story. And because eBay has 47 different international markets, I created a Charlie Rose-esque interview-style talk show where the CEO and CFO can take live quesitons from Twitter, as well as interview guests they host.
Finally, the show ended with a short docuseries-style segment that focuses on one person. So, from the broadest issues of a company that spands the world—to the smallest, but arguablly in the eyes of eBay and mine—the most important.
Over all, this has been one of the most exciting projects we've taken on (but I say that about all of my projects.)—N.B.
Story Time. All I can say friends is stay tuned.—N.B.
You may be a fashionista, but are you an Imagista. I've launched or relaunched 34 publications thus far in my career—and each new one ends up being my favorite. Now on deck? Imagista, the magazine I recently co-launched with Vogue photographer Michael Williams. How could yet another digital magazine be of interest to the world? By presenting great writing, indelible images and short documentaries so that readers can also be viewers of the fine artists, photographers and fashion designers they have always admired. More >
Among the many other things you read about that I am up to—I am also a part of a new foundation called The Save the Bees Fund. It means a great deal to me—in fact, I will be writing a book about bees and honey this Summer. As you all may have read recently, bees are dying off at an alarming rate—threatening, yep, human life. Sound a bit too dramatic? It's not when you are reminded that the work of our bees provide one out of every three bites of food on our plates. 30% of bee populations gone here, 50% there. Seriously, unlike other animals—when we see that National Geographic or Discovery Channel special about how these insects are "extinct" or near to being, we will be a civilization very much in trouble. I hope you will have a look through this Save the Bees Fund we helped create. It's the first of its kind. There you can learn something that's priceless—the no-fail ways even you can help stem the tide of this crisis.—N.B.
What an honor it is that Zeke Freeman and I are now under contract with Abrams for our very first (of many) Bee Raw Honey books!—N.B.
My launch of HeroinLife (a site that has assisted 104 mostly young people with locating and getting into detoxes and rehabs, as well as providing original Q&As, news, testimonials and tips about staying clean) called "brilliant" by National Magazine Award-winning publication New York? How generous of the magazine I consider the best on the newsstand.—N.B.
Wursts & Words. What do I do after living through the insanity of redesigning The National Enquirer? (It was nominated for a Pulitzer after that). How do I top working with Microsoft? Is there anything that could satisfy me after jetting all over the country consulting on newspapers like The LA Times, or after EICing several magazines like Men's Fitness? And how on earth could my twice annual front row Milan fashion week years possibly be surpassed?
The answer is twofold. One, with food, like the falafel from my New York neighborhood pictured above, and the Cuban food five blocks away, and the authentic German wursts four blocks away, and the brick oven pizza from downstairs. I could go on. But food is something I was exploring as a child travelling to over 52 different nations when I grew up abroad and went to boarding school in Italian Switzerland. And because of that, food is my solace.
But my second solace is writing. Clearly, I love redesigning and reshaping the editorial direction of publications, as well as editing—but nothing is more grounding to me than exploring for new restaurants and tastes to write about. The Edible series (top) has been a wonderful place for some of my discoveries, like Mazzat's handmade falafel dough (above).
Truth is, because I live in New York City, and rarely leave her much anymore, I don't have far to go for great epicurean discoveries. Some of them I make in my own kitchen. Those I don't write about. As for the piece I authored above, all I had to do was cross the very little street I live on.—N.B.
Time of my Life. This special Oscars edition I did for Life magazine may well be my all time favorite magazine launch ever for several reasons. One, I got the opportunity to live in a giant conference room surrounded by stacks of vintage Life prints taken from decades of Oscar nights by some of Life's greatest contributors. Second, I got the chance to work with veteran photo editor Barbara Baker Buroughs, the tour de force of a women who has led some of the most memorable issues of the magazine since the mid 1960s. And finally, I got the chance to see the classic and glamorous side of Oscar history—the one I decided to showcase in an issued I called Life Goes to the Oscars.
Several people helped me produce this special edition of Life, the most memorable of whom was the very talented Howard Greenberg who took my choice of two simple type classics, Bembo and Franklin Gothic, and created a design as classic as the photography I filled the issue with.—N.B.
BastardLife is a magazine I founded as an experiment to disprove the theory that heterosexual men would never subscribe to an entity that also addressed the interests of LGBT readers. I first got the idea when I was Editor In Chief of Men's Fitness. A study had been conducted there that revealed upwards of 48% of its readers identified as bisexual or gay; despite that, the owners squirmed at the idea of addressing bi or gay interests for fear that the straight readers would stop buying or subscribing to the publication. To my delight, BastardLife has completed five years in business with a readership that continues to grow by about 8% a day and exceeds 4.6 million (updated 01/12/13) annual readers—of whom 31% identify as heterosexual men and 41% who identify as bisexual or gay men. In total, our numbers are greater than the number of newsstand copies sold by most of the men's magazines I used to compete with in my print days.—Neal Boulton
Still Thriving. After I completed the launch and design of The LA Times Outdoors section for DaniloBlack, the firm asked me to work on the relaunch of Hearst's most profitable newspaper The Houston Chronicle. Then new Editor In Chief Jeff Cohen had established a small internal redesign and relaunch team on the third floor consisting of the paper's then Art Director and one of the Editors from the sports section. The redesign had been underway, but without much progress. To speed up the momentum I practically relocated to Houston, residing there for ten days at a time each month to immerse myself within the staff. I attended page one meetings, insinuated myself in every department and got to know just about every section editor as well as I could.
Understanding the culture of a newspaper staff, especially one as successful as The Chronicle, was key in understanding how the paper's redesign and relaunch should be managed. Newspaper people are nothing like magazine people and the staffs are three and four times the size often with major tenure behind them. Waltzing in with your new design and issuing edicts is the stuff of mutinies if you are new to newspaper redesigns.
To get this relaunch right, I also immersed myself in the topic of the publication, which in this case was Houston itself. The redesign team showed me everything there was to see of their hometown. I ate local foods, drank in local watering holes, and I experienced their live venues and museums. I went to special events and met with council members. I also took a long look back at both the history of the editorial of The Houston Chronicle as well as the history of its design.
What did I learn? Yeah, don't mess with Texas, as in this was neither a city nor a paper that would benefit from one of those newspaper redesigns that pretended to be a magazine—that was so modern that it threw away decades of trust among its readers. DaniloBlack agreed, so we began by introducing the one visual device that would immediately signal authenticity and journalistic reliability: a new, heartier Jensen typeface specifically drawn and designed for the paper by the brilliant Christian Schwartz.
Back on the third floor, I oversaw the redesign of the new Chronicle logo. The Art Director would stay late into the night crafting iteration after iteration until she landed on something I loved (top left, before our relaunch; right, after with new design, typeography and logo).
Were we a success? Well, in the toughest time ever for an American newspaper to survive, The Houston Chronicle is still thriving as the largest and most profitable daily paper owned and operated by the Hearst Corporation. I was honored to be a part of it.—N.B.
If you've read that the music industry is a tough business then you've read correctly. But that industry appears mild compared to the exclusivity found in the country music industry, where newcomers are more than just underdogs, they are, well, nothing until proven something. And to be something you need a hit.
So how to relaunch their industry rag Country Weekly (top left, before our redesign)? I knew nothing about country music. I didn't even think I liked country music.
Before we put pen to paper, we enlisted insiders like Jerry Holthouse, a designer and writer and Nashville country artist, to show us the town. I'd learned from my relaunch of Jazz Times that one must immerse oneself in the subject matter of a magazine before commencing a successful relaunch.
After two weeks, and a crash course in country music that included seeing three live bands a night and drinking too much whiskey, we were ready. I learned the reality about country music in Nashville is that it is Nashville. It's the larger than life force that guides the spirit of the city. But more than just a tourist attraction, country music had gravitas—being the one American music form that relies on storytelling, not just melody or charismatic stars in rhinestone cowboy clothing.
It's the music form of both great pride and humility combined.
Thus, the relaunch of Country Weekly required a tasteful design with a larger than life presence. Perhaps we got lucky (top right and subsequent interior pages after the redesign), but the new look was a hit in Nashville. Sales and advertising rose by 43%, and where once the top charting stars would not grant interviews, after the relaunch, all of them did. Why? We refined our editorial voice to be more consumer magazine and less trade publication, and with the help of the smart design work of Jerry Holthouse, we could trade on our good looks, too. Thank you Jerry, without you we would have just been another boring ballad. You made us a hit.—N.B.
Logo Land. It may only be digital, but there is no good reason not to brand it like a magazine. I've had great fun designing the logos for these online periodicals above. Does your digital magazine have a good logo?—N.B.
I am so proud to be working with Made Collection, the one and only online magazine that celebrates American made paragons of food, style and fashion.–N.B.
Carefully Considered. Three years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Bee Raw Honey, Tea and Coffee CEO Zeke Freeman for a biographical article. I was eager to learn more about him given we had become great friends—and I admired his delicious varietal honey lines. I knew he was a surfer, a skier and a rugged outdoorsman. That he was a great guy.
What I didn't know was why the company Bee Raw.
I interviewed Zeke over several days and uncovered the DNA of a man who carefully considers every floral source and region for every honey that he cultivates. Who is studious about the estates from which he sources his teas. Someone who doesn't flinch at a trip to Honduras to find the perfect bean for his organic free trade coffees.
When I write that I uncovered DNA—it wasn't in jest. Yes, Zeke hailed from a family who had their own candy shop in a small Pennsylvania town. Yes, he was well versed in marketing and retail during his years as head buyer for the acclaimed Dean & Deluca. And yes, it is impressive that he studied and cooked with such luminaries as Alain Ducasse in arguably the finest restaurant in Monaco.
But I believe that none of those attributes influenced his inherent desire to bring to his customers an eduction in how small but powerful organic ingredients often overlooked in the pantry can change the way we eat.
No, this was a DNA born during summers working alongside his Grandfather popping peas out of their husks and tasting ingredients right out of the Earth on their family farm.
A DNA that grew out of the Earth.
Before my interview was finished, I knew I wanted to write more about Zeke and his products. Over a year ago I got that chance when a year after our interview we both sat down and joined forces to bring more of Zeke's story and philosophy to every aspect of his marketing message.
Since we've teamed up we have a Bee Raw book underway, and we have gratefully been celebrated by some of the very magazines I used to work with like Saveur and Food & Wine. Most recently The New York Times also celebrated our work. Oprah, too. And Martha Stewart Living several times.
That's all fine and well, but if we're talking marketing I know what the question really is: What can story driven marketing do for a company other than enrich its editorial aura? Well, in the case of our collaboration with Bee Raw, and through the efforts of the entire team, the year over year profits have doubled and continue to climb. New products are being planned as I write this—and Zeke Freeman continues to lead with the DNA of a man who carefully considers every ingredient, source and product he invites his customers to bring to their tables.—N.B.
After the elation of garnering my third Editor in Chief role faded, a new problem to solve came in to focus: who will I get to be my Design Director? As anyone who has ever been an EIC knows—hire the wrong one and you could lose your job just about as fast as they will because creating a visually competitive magazine is key.
Adding to the urgency was that along with this third EIC promotion came another: the promotion about a day later to oversee the cover lines, cover design, and redesign of more than ten other magazines. At the time I was concurrently Editor in Chief of Men's Fitness and Sly magazines when I got the assignment to EIC Muscle & Fitness Hers (pictured above). I was ready to EIC a third concurrently running magazine, but I needed a good designer.
My close friend and Design Director of Men's Fitness John Gilman sat me down with some advice, "If you like what I am doing for you here at Men's Fitness you will love Wilbert Gutierrez for the work you have coming up. Trust me."
Gilman called him in for a portfolio review. There wasn't tons of work to review at the time but what I saw I loved. More than that however—I trusted Gilman's instincts and hired Gutierrez as a part time freelancer.
Within about a week I could see that Gilman was right: Wilbert was quiet, focused and hard working. In fact, he rarely said much of anything or even got up from his desk. He just sat there and designed stunning after stunning page.
It didn't take me long before I handed him every new design assignment I had: The National Enquirer redesign I was asked to lead, Muscle & Fitness Hers and Sly that I EIC'd, a special section for Men's Fitness, a magazine prototype for Dana White's UFC, Country Weekly, Genre and Jazz Times when the owner called me and asked me for some design help.
But beauty wasn't the only thing Gutierrez delivered for us. Newsstand and ad sale success followed as well. So did a great friendship.
Wilbert Guitierrez: brilliant.—N.B.
When the National Enquirer hired then new Editor In Chief David Perel the title was failing on the newsstand, selling at times as few as 650K copies a week—an all time low. Shortly into his tenure, Mr. Perel asked me to relaunch the title for him. He made it very clear, "We're the Coca Cola of tabloids, but before they hired me they pulled a 'New Coke' relaunch that's tanking. I want you to bring the classic Coke back." To that end, I had his team find issues from the paper's heyday. We redrew the 1950s logo (top left), then ever so slightly gave it sharper edges (top right) and a tiny bit of movement. Our relaunch brought sales up fast—from 650K to 980K.—Neal Boulton
I'd been clean and sober for nearly 11 years. But then I relapsed and spent quite some time trying to get back into recovery. When I finally did, I looked for something online or in print about recovery that I could relate to. I found nothing—that I liked. There was plenty of recovery journalism out there, usually with useful data about addiction supplied by renowned researchers, and best practices in staying clean yielded from obscure clinical trials. Then there was that mountain of celebrity recovery and serial relapse reporting. A bit frustrated, I founded HeroinLife as a forum for shares from everyday people from across the country who I knew had a lot to say about how they were staying clean. Joan from Iowa City, Jeremy from New York, Theresa from Seattle—and hopefully you from your town.
The truth is, after six rehabs I had witnessed how the Ph.D.s served as terrific moderators to those of us sharing our experience, strength and hope, but it was what the folks who had lived through my struggle had to say—and what they said about how they stayed clean—that mattered to me most. The good news is that since it's launch two years ago, HeroinLife has a monthly readership of 583,076 (updated 03/04/13) that grows by nearly 103 readers per day.
But best of all, through our volunteer efforts, our 1-800 rehab finder, and the rehab and detox listings we provide, HeroinLife has assisted over 103 people with placement into rehab and detox facilities, and even free rehabs.—Neal Boulton
When Danilo Black asked me to work with The Los Angeles Times their redesign of the paper was nearly complete. One section about the great outdoors remained, and DB assigned me the mission of creating and designing it. I loved the idea, partly because I'd get the chance to collaborate with the paper's then Design Director Joe Hutchinson, easily the nicest guy in publishing and one of the smartest. Together Hutchinson and I mapped out an editorial direction for the new section and named it simply Outdoors. The design I created for Hutchinson was simple: A giant window to the world so that whether you were on your couch in Hermosa Beach or at a cafe in West Hollywood you felt like you were with The Los Angeles Times on a hiking trail on Mt. McKinley.—Neal Boulton