My father, who supervised several hundred machinists at a big shipyard in Mississippi, used to say to his craftsmen (and to me): “Don’t do what I tell you. Do what needs to be done.” Dad died two decades ago, but I smile to think how much he would have admired Emily Kimbro, who leads our five-member art department at Texas Monthly. Emily and her team conjure up visual magic not only in our print magazine but also wherever else photography, illustrations, and design are needed: on and in our apps, books, live events, newsletters, podcasts, social-media posts, special issues, and videos. In grateful acknowledgment of those efforts, I’m pleased to announce Emily’s promotion to the new position of creative director, across all our storytelling platforms. 

A native Texan, Emily grew up in Slaton, a small farming community about a half hour southeast of Lubbock, where she recalls thumbing through back issues of TM that her dad kept stacked in his office. Her mom had been an art major at Texas Tech University, and Emily also became a Red Raider. She worked for the in-flight magazine of Southwest Airlines before coming to TM in 2015. 

With Emily’s rise to creative director, I’m also delighted to announce the promotion of her talented deputy, Victoria Millner, to design director. “I solicit her advice on pretty much everything,” says Emily. Victoria grew up in Austin and studied journalism at the University of Missouri. She worked for San Antonio Magazine before coming to TM six years ago. A highlight of her tenure so far? Working on our November barbecue issue. Victoria pitched in to sample ’cue at eleven joints and enjoyed “coordinating with the photo team to shoot twenty-three locations and designing the thirty-page feature package—the largest we’ve done during my time here.” 

The art team’s handiwork has often been honored by its peers in national competitions. In 2021 alone, the Society of Publication Designers awarded our team its gold medal for Best of Genre in the city/regional category and named it a finalist for Brand of the Year, the group’s highest honor. The American Society of Magazine Editors recognized TM  for Best Service and Lifestyle Photograph and named it a finalist in three other categories. In the City and Regional Magazine Association’s awards, we won the top prize in five design-related categories. 

Some publications strain to appeal to awards juries with work that, while boldly original, doesn’t much relate to the story at hand and often frustrates readers with hard-to-decipher treatments of display type. Our team doesn’t do that, but instead seeks creative new approaches to photography and illustration and design, always in service of the reader—evoking the spirit of a story and signaling clearly what it’s about. 

Emily and Victoria are quick to share credit with other members of the art staff, which includes photo editor Claire Hogan, associate art director Jenn Tompkins, and art producer Darice Chavira (whom we shamelessly poached from our business staff back in June). Contractors Kayla Miracle and Kim Thwaits have helped us meet surging demand for design and photo editing, including for stories that we published in print between 1973 and 2012 but have only recently digitized and are gradually making available on the “TM Classics” section of our website.

I hope you’ll check out those classic stories and that you’ll enjoy the art department’s work in this issue of Texas Monthly.

This article originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Creative Natives.” Subscribe today.