- Inducted in 1994
- Advertising, Design
Rochelle Udell got her Bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and her Masters from Pratt Institute in the sixties, but that’s as conventional as she’s ever been in her career. This baker’s daughter has been a high school art teacher, a magazine art director, advertising creative director, mother, and associate editorial director. Most recently, she has become vice-president of creative marketing specializing in new media for Condé Nast Publications.
A loaf of bread complete with braided handle, kneaded by hand in her father’s Brooklyn bakery, was her presentation for a school packaging assignment—her instructor was Milton Glaser. Her solution and his opinion eventually led to her jobs as Assistant Art Director of New York Magazine and founding designer of Ms. magazine.
She worked as the art director of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Esquire and design director of House & Garden and Self.
“A magazine,” she passionately explains, “a good magazine that is, steps in where society steps out, provoking questions and helping shape a reader’s lifelong values, ideas and goals. These are a few of the convictions and hopes which propelled me from early days of sewing props for the cover of New York Magazine, to later life living inside the pages of Esquire Fortnightly (it died quickly), Harper’s Bazaar (where I died quickly), GQ, Vogue, House & Garden, The New Yorker et al.”
While she was at Vogue, she began doing advertising projects for Calvin Klein. By 1981, she was opening his in-house agency as its president and creative director.
She returned to magazines for a short time as the design director of GQ before advertising lured her once again into the position of Senior Vice-President and Creative Director of Della Fernina, Travisano & Partners.
Her philosophical attitude about advertising is that good advertising “is the product and the expression of that experience, that keen pursuit of both truth and dreams. As such, it continues to fascinate, repel, challenge, enthrall, and every once in a while, even infuriate me.”
In 1992, Udell returned to Condé Nast as the Vice-President of Creative Marketing. Last year, she was appointed Vice-President of Creative Marketing/New Media for Condé Nast Publications, advising individual magazines and corporate departments on the feasibility of new media proposals and developing her own ideas regarding the incorporation of computer on-line services, multimedia CD-ROM, interactive TV, and other non-traditional communications media. According to chairman S.I. Newhouse, ”I’m delighted to have as a guide an executive who combines an all-around background in magazines with an established interest in emerging communication technologies.”
She was also the driving force behind a number of marketing and promotion projects including the GQ Japan partnership. At the end of September 1994, Udell expanded her responsibilities by joining The Condé Nast Group, a newly expanded corporate sales and marketing division.
“It’s ironic,” Udell admits. ” I’ve spent literally years in publishing. Yet I have never believed in working ‘by the book.’ This is probably because, as a baker’s daughter, I spent my youth helping out in a family business. In a small family business the essential things are innately understood. There is no need for the so-called ‘book’ to explain or enforce executive rules and roles.
“As for the titles attached to my name, I consider them important only in as much as they help the outside world understand who I am and what I do. My fear is that, like ‘the book,’ they often do more to confine rather than define one’s creative possibilities.
As Udell herself admits, “Fortunately, I’ve been privileged and lucky enough in my professional life to have encountered others who believe as I do. Namely, that the structure behind every good business organization should first encourage those possibilities. For me personally, that means identifying with and making that vital connection with the human being who is the reader or consumer. Only then can one hope to successfully serve the creative spirit and develop a product powerful and imaginative enough to contain the future.”