• Inducted in 2006
  • Design

Janet Froelich

To me, Janet Froelich isn’t a magazine art director. Don’t get me wrong: she is an art director, and a great one (having won more than 60 gold and silver awards from graphic design organizations, for one thing), and I have known my share of art directors, and let’s leave it at that. But Janet—who officially is the creative director of the New York Times Magazine, overseeing the look of not only the weekly magazine, but of T, our new style magazine and Play, our even newer sports magazine—she’s something else, in so many ways, but most crucially in this one way: she’s a journalist.

She starts the day like a journalist, and has for the twenty years she has worked at the Times, reading the paper, really reading the paper. She works like a journalist, understanding that every decision is a bit of a group decision, and thus not Art. (She trained as a painter, and began her career as a painter, so she knows what it is to make Art, and how making a magazine is something not quite Art). She has the temperament of a journalist, that combustible admixture of curiosity, impatience, righteousness and a keen desire to get things right and true. And like a journalist she sees the world—absorbs the world, laments the world, marvels at the world—through stories.

A story: One airliner, and then another, are piloted into the Trade Center towers. The lamentable world is raining ash and bodies on the marvelous world of lower Manhattan (where Janet has happened to live since her Artist days), and within hours, we in the magazine offices on the 8th floor of the Times Building are completely ripping up an issue set to close in seventy-two hours and beginning to plan instead, or beginning to imagine if we can plan—amid panicked calls to spouses and kids and friends and what not—a 9/11 issue. Amid the many other riddles of that terrible day, our riddle: How to conceive a cover that will not be conceived by every other magazine doing approximately what we are doing, a cover that will memorialize the event but somehow get beyond it, a cover that will tell a story—a story not just of the awful event but of our feelings about it? In meetings, and there were many meetings that day, Janet listened, questioned, jotted, interrupted, noted (she’s a journalist). Then while my colleagues and I on the editorial side talked to writers, she talked to artists downtown. Among the artists were two, Paul Myoda and Julian LaVerdiere, who had been working in a studio on the 91st floor of the north tower, conceiving a light sculpture for the building. The cover she coaxed out of them so quickly, a simple and not so simple digital manipulation of a photograph by Times photographer Fred Conrad, is called “The Phantom Towers,” and became not only an icon of the tragic attack but inspired a real-world, scaled-up doppelganger: actual lights projected upwards, ghost-limb-like, from Ground Zero, just like our cover. Our most memorable cover. Ever.

A journalist, doing with concepts and photographers and illustrations and type treatment what we editors do with words: that’s how I have always thought of Janet. A rarity, but maybe not forever. So many young designers have passed through our art department in the years we have worked together, and so much has rubbed off on them. Janet mentors like a journalist, too. Among those she has mentored, along with so many young art directors around town, is me. She’s taught me how to think and edit visually. Now the two of us—the art director who’s a journalist, the journalist who’s learned to think like an art director—now we are able to speak a common language. How many editors can say that about their magazine’s art director?

– Gerald Marzorati
Editor-in-Chief, The New York Times Magazine

Please note: Content of biography is presented here as it was published in 2006.