Behind the scenes with IB’s new creative director

The days quickly blur. Staff is busy compiling IB’s special March issue wherein “40 Under 40” meets “7 Over 70” and I expect an attention-grabbing, creative cover and inside photo spread to do it justice. Newly hired creative director Alan Sanderfoot is up for a challenge, but it’s the most difficult layout of the year.

While he’s a magazine veteran, it’s nonetheless baptism by fire during his first week working at IB. Alan’s job board calls for 47 photographs to be taken for this single feature story, and he is to provide art direction to a photographer he has never met. He reads the story copy and then presents his ideas to the feature writer (me); we agree that he might showcase people’s passions rather than their professions. But how to breathe life into static profile shots? He has a few ideas ….

The next day, he is excited to report that he’s secured a perfect site for the cover photography. Day three, the host site calls to apologize for an unavoidable scheduling conflict. He reschedules a dozen or so people, pushing everything back a few days, redirecting them to a studio he has never seen. Without time to vet it, he admits to becoming a bit apprehensive. The next workday, the photographer has an unexpected, emergency surgery and will be hospitalized a couple days, requiring another schedule adjustment.

On the morning of the shoot (finally!) Alan arrives early … to find no one at the studio. The photographer, still recuperating, is running late, and though he arrives about the same time as the first subjects do, he forgot his camera and leaves to retrieve it.

Alan needs photos of excited, passionate people; the “40 Under 40” honorees are understandably nervous and stiff, so he clowns around with them, posing them in funny positions to lighten things up a bit. (Improvisation skills are a plus in this business.) A man standing on a snowboard needs the impression of motion, so Alan ties twine to the man’s tie to make it “fly” behind him. Another person shows up in jungle attire brandishing a machete, and Alan quickly slings some bananas over the blade, lending the subject the look of a hunter/gatherer vs. crazed stalker. Not everything can be changed in Photoshop ….

The white cover backdrop for the photos becomes footprint-soiled as subjects come and go, which translates into extra hours touching up photos. Then Alan will add shadows for consistency and depth. Although he can outsource work as needed to best manage his department’s workflow, he personally wants to create his first IB cover himself – every detail, every shadow. He’ll work nights and weekends until he gets the desired results. As he learns new systems, equipment, and software, he’ll later sort out what to keep in house and what to outsource.

Meanwhile, there are print ads to design, many more stories to illustrate, some magazine redesign work he wants to do, and the Web also needs art for two stories. An idea surfaces of having a chimpanzee photographed with the jungle advocate for the magazine’s cover photo – would he check to see if the zoo might accommodate that? Yes, yes, I know we also promised to feature the baker with cupcakes, and a marathon runner. “Can you make all of that work together somehow?”

Welcome to the In Business shuffle, Alan. It’s a different intricate dance every month and your teammates are lining up to punch your dance card. You’ll soon learn (if you haven’t already) that we all need something done “when you get a minute or two” and we’re mighty glad to have you.

Is there really a monkey on Alan’s first cover?

Watch for the March 2012 issue, where you’ll also find out who made our annual list of “40 Under 40” and our new list of “7 Over 70” honorees!

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