This is a story about a kid who liked to draw. He’s twelve years old and killing time at the Callahan County courthouse, in Baird, where his mom is the secretary for the district attorney. After football practice, he waits for her there before they head back to the ranch ten miles southeast of town. He’s grown up on the ranch. That’s where he learned to draw, filling up empty hours with a pencil and paper, sketching cowboys and Indians, spaceships and sharks, looking for things to copy out of his granddad’s magazine collection. His granddad lives on a hill about a hundred yards from the main house. He has a lot of magazines. National Geographic. Scientific American. Texas Monthly. Time. He keeps them in order, on a shelf in his office. In the evening, after the chores are through, the kid goes up and sits at his granddad’s desk, tracing pages from the magazines.
One day in 1989 the kid is sitting in the library at the courthouse waiting for his mom. He picks up the new Texas Monthly. On the cover is a Comanche Indian, wearing a ceremonial roach and breastplate, his face half obscured by a feather fan. The kid is taken with the image. He hasn’t seen this particular issue in his granddad’s collection yet, so he asks the librarian if he can borrow the magazine. That night he carefully traces the whole cover, right down to the Texas Monthly logo, the date and price ($1.95), even the bar code in the lower right-hand corner.
Twenty-three years later, that kid is the creative director of Texas Monthly. T.J. Tucker took over the art department in 2006—at the ripe old age of 28—and since then he has put out some of the best-looking issues in our history (he’s also, to my knowledge, the only creative director in the country who can often be found herding cattle on the weekends with his dad). Over the past six months, with assistance from his exceptionally talented team—deputy art director Andi Beierman, associate art director Brian Johnson, photography editor Leslie Baldwin, and art assistant Nicki Longoria— T.J. has been working on a top-to-bottom redesign of these pages. The issue you hold in your hands is the result of that long effort. The kid who used to trace the magazine has completely reimagined its look and feel, from the logo on the cover to the page numbers to the type in the Dining Guide (for an explanation of all the changes, see Behind the Lines).
Good design creates a useful ambience. The best way I can describe the mood that T.J. has created is to say that it’s the mood of Texas at its best—bold, independent, and genuine; a blend of modern and traditional; completely original; Western but not old-fashioned; unpretentious but not unsophisticated; full of pride and a sense of place; futuristic and rootsy all at once. Welcome to the new Texas Monthly, brought to you,