SPD Q&A: Nathalie Kirsheh

SPD Q&A: Nathalie Kirsheh

The December issue of Details will be its last, and that's a terrible thing. Not only terrible for the print industry, but especially bad for the style-deprived men that depend on its scent-filled pages. 

For the last five years, Nathalie Kirsheh has stretched the visual bedrock of Rockwell Harwood into something remarkable. Anyone who's serious about publication design knows Nathaile's work. Her design is some of the most inspirational, forward-thinking, delicate, violent, head-scratching, how'd-she-come-up-with-that type of design that we've all tried to copy at one time or another.  

In the days following the announcement of the demise of Details, we asked Kirsheh a couple of questions about her past and her future. This is what she had to say. 

(By the way check out Nathalie's website, it's pretty great: nathaliekirsheh.com)

Did the end of Details come as a shock to you or was this something that you anticipated? 

Despite the rumors circulating over the past few months regarding Details possibly coming to an end--because let's be honest, I can count on both hands the number of times these rumors have circulated over the past fifteen years--it still took me by surprise. I truly thought at most we would adjust the frequency of print and have it accent the digital portion of the brand. I think many of us in print can possibly anticipate the worst, but I guess I tend to have a glass-half-full outlook on these type of situations. Vive la print!

If you did anticipate the end, was there anything that you did design/illustration or photo wise that maybe you wouldn't have done under different circumstances?

Provocation creates challenge and that can lead to elevating something. Just the idea that the rumors existed was enough reason to light a fire under our rear ends.

The team had worked on business as usual keeping in mind that Condé Nast was transforming into a broad platform-based media powerhouse. We began creating methods to extend our social media presence, which recently had been growing rapidly. For example, posting animated feature opening designs as a way to lead the viewer to the story in print or online, and hopefully enticing the viewer to come back for more. I was also on the brink of presenting a new visual approach for the front-of-book, ironically the day we were shuttered!

Is there something you wish you did?

Possibly pushing up that presentation meeting. :\


What was it like to work on a men's publication after years in the women's category? Would you work at another men's title again?
Besides the difference in genre and fashion content, the transition was pretty seamless. Each of the creative leaders of both brands that I was trained under (Details and W) are among the best design practitioners in the this industry--Rockwell Harwood and Edward Leida. They both carry an extraordinary creative sense that fortunately has shaped my visual process. Whether it's curating the foundation of a book typographically, or conceptualizing a storyline photographically, I've become accustomed to exercising similar explorations regardless of the genre. As a matter of fact, they (along with Dennis Freedman) were the original team I assisted the relaunch of Details back in 2000.

Editor in Chief of Details Dan Peres also allowed me the opportunity to explore doing something different, and although at times the options may have been a bit too out of the box for him, it was great that he was always open to it. This was similar to my experience under W's editorial leadership (Patrick McCarthy) at the time.

As long as there is an opportunity to push the envelope in the visual approach with an underpinning of quality, I would work for just about any genre. At the end of the day, a product is a product, and it requires a unique presence to thrive. 

Would you work on another magazine title again?
Although I'm interested in exploring other areas in creative direction, if another magazine brand excited me, sure thing.

What do you feel like doing after the last issue?

I'm not sure. I've moved immediately from job to job since graduating school. That being said, I think I'll take my boys to the park that Monday morning. ;)


What was the most satisfying editorial component of Details? Something you always looked forward to?
The clever stories. It made my job more fun to be a part of envisioning these story lines. Also, I can't get through this response without mentioning <cue Taps melody> our infamous typographic Know & Tell pages. Those were the pages that first defined the reincarnation of Details for a long time and surely set the bar high, so it's sad that it no longer exists.

What was the worst editorial component of Details? Something you absolutely despised each month?
That darn indicia on the table of contents. No, seriously. I swear that thing got longer by the month. 

As far as editorial content, I wouldn't say I despised this, but it was certainly a challenge to avoid having an auto page not feel repetitive visually month to month. It's tough to make existing art sing without feeling like an ad.

Proudest moment at Details?

Two years ago, getting the call when we were nominated as an ASME design finalist. Also being along side Rockwell and Dan when we had won a few of those nods in the past.

Mention some of the best times and people that you really enjoyed working with. 

Rockwell, hands down. He gave me my first full-time opportunity in this industry and I owe him a great deal for everything he's taught me about design and image creativity as a whole. It's incredible how he would visualize an off-the-wall concept that would make me think, "how the hell did he come up with that, and why didn't I think of it??" It goes without saying that he's played one of the biggest roles in shaping me into the visual thinker I am today, and luckily I gained a great friend out of it as well. It was a special partnership that will be the hardest loss for me in all of this.

Another equally important element that I will miss is our art team in general. We were like a family. As with most of us in this line of work can say, I saw them more than I saw my own family. I had two of the most talented [designers] I've worked with on the team: Deputy Art Director, Justin Patrick Long and Senior Designer, Sarah Madeline Olin. They both have their distinctive designing strengths that made a great combination for our design process.

At times you would find us playing design ping-pong matches where we'd be all-hands-on-deck coming up with solutions and sending screen grabs to one another. It was like design boot camp. Whether it was our inner geek chatting about typefaces and design elements, or enjoying our monthly lunch outings, or banter in the office about soccer, urban dictionary terms (or invented them ourselves), we meshed really well, and I'll miss that dearly. I know Justin and Sarah will surely move on to do amazing things and probably by the time I've answered this question, will have already been snatched up to join something great. I can only dream to possibly work with these people again some day.

We had a fantastic production team that kept Details running like a well-oiled machine: William Pelkey (the renaissance man) and our secret weapon, John Markic. John was our go-to guy for just about ANYTHING we needed whether it was a video to be filmed, or animation created and worked on the task at hand with his whole heart. 

From the incredibly talented fashion crew to the persevering copy and research folks, just about every department has left a permanent positive mark in my mind because of how special a group we made together. 

Fortunately, I have so many great memories with pretty much every editor and designer I've worked with under that roof since the relaunch of Details 15 years ago, that to describe them I could go on for days. Many have gone on to do great things and that says a lot about what this place did for us all, and for that, I am pretty damn grateful.

  • marshall

    You and the team are a credit to your craft Nathalie. I'm gonna miss those fresh-ass designs, killer photos and illustrations....but definitely not those g.damn indicias!!! And thanks for the tunes yo.

blog comments powered by Disqus