When Emily Kimbro started her career, the world was much simpler. She worked for eight years helping to design the excellent in-flight magazine of Southwest Airlines. Then she joined Texas Monthly in 2015, at a time when most of our resources were devoted to our award-winning print publication. Today, as we approach our fiftieth anniversary, we still take great pride in our original product. But we’re also deeply invested in telling stories on other platforms, including on our fast-growing website and in videos, podcasts, books, newsletters, and live events.
The creation of engaging photography, illustrations, and graphic design is integral to each of these mediums. It’s a Texas-size task to oversee this sprawling artistic effort, and Emily, our creative director, excels at it. “I love working on our magazine, but I haven’t touched a print story in two and a half weeks,” she told me—just seven days before we sent the issue you’re holding to the printer. “I’ve been focused on our next podcast, our next book, and several website projects.”
Emily oversees a full-time team of four, and their work has been recognized with a record-setting trove of national awards. She recently became the first Texas resident to be elected president of the Society of Publication Designers, the nation’s most prestigious organization for visual storytellers, based in New York City.
SPD was launched in 1965, and it has grown to include newspapers, magazines, digital-only publications, video production shops, social media channels, and editorial divisions of brands such as Netflix. Through her service on the SPD board, Emily has observed that her scrappy staff has “taken on the multiplatform challenge as eagerly” as any of the larger staffs at national publications. “That’s partly out of necessity,” she says, “but also out of curiosity.”
Members of our art team have dressed up our new website hubs on topics such as recipes, travel, and true crime. They’ve created album art for our renowned podcasts. And they’ve helped design hardcover books, such as the Big Texas Cookbook that we published last month. Associate art director Jenn Tompkins said conceiving of the animated backdrops for our Texas Monthly Live events has been “one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done.” Our art folks have even contributed to pitch presentations that have helped us sell stories for adaptation into Hollywood movies and streaming series. Emily’s team, she observes, “touches every story that TM publishes on any platform. That’s a point of pride for us.”
When we tell big stories, we increasingly do so across some combination of print, audio, digital, and video. Emily’s favorite example is “Tom Brown’s Body,” a Skip Hollandsworth tale about a mysterious death in the Panhandle town of Canadian. That piece appeared two years ago across three print issues, starting with a cover story. It rolled out simultaneously as eight podcast episodes with eight corresponding web installments. “When you read Skip’s words in print, you want to see photos of the relevant scenes,” Emily says. “But for the podcast, one photo wouldn’t capture the story. So we worked with an illustrator to evoke the narrative arc with one atmospheric scene. For the web, we animated some of the illustrations. But we used the same typeface and mood to carry the brand of that story across all the platforms.”
That’s but a small glimpse into the care and artistry that goes into the visual treatment of every Texas Monthly story. I hope you enjoy the articles, and the artistic presentation of them, in this issue.