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Q&A with Carrie Gee

Senior art director at TIME magazine

Hello! I'm Carrie Gee and I'm a Senior Art Director at TIME magazine.

How did you get started in design? What is a turning point in your professional career?

I was actually a writer to begin with when I started out at my college paper. A writer who did a lot of drawing, painting and lettering (before I knew what lettering was) on the side. I was majoring in journalism, and at one point I had the opportunity to try my hand at designing pages for the paper. It was a big ah-ha! moment for me to find out that I could tell stories visually, combining my two great loves of journalism and art.

Professionally, I continued on with newspapers. I moved all over the country for internships and jobs I wanted. When I left my job at The Oregonian and moved into magazines was a big turning point for me. I am forever grateful to The Boston Globe as the newspaper that gave me my first proper art direction job at Fashion Boston. Getting to go on photoshoots and work on glossy paper was a game changer.

Also, working for a type foundry was another turning point for me. I think it's something that sets me apart from other art directors, and really circles back to my initial love for words. Everything I learned from my time working alongside type designers at Font Bureau gives me a unique perspective on how I approach type professionally.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work in your design studio all day long or mix a few activities?

I've worked in a newsroom, a collective studio, a home studio, and in magazine offices. I'm currently working in the Time & Life building where I have my own office and a common area for meeting, project review and general art department camaraderie. This arrangement is the best I've ever had, and allows for a healthy balance of productivity and communication (with a little bit of socializing). We all put in our hours, but we break for lunch, people take off early if they need to…it's a very healthy and happy environment that brings out the best in everyone.

Where does your work inspiration come from? (Do you believe in 'inspiration' at all)?

That depends. This question makes me think of that Chuck Close quote: "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work." I think that has some merit to it depending on what you think "inspiration" is. I believe in inspiration if it's getting outside of yourself and taking in experiences and ideas that can inform your work. I don't believe that inspiration comes to you.

My favorite resources are walking around New York City with a film camera and capturing colors, shapes, moments that I experience. I have a Mini Diana camera that I love for this — every picture looks magical, ideal. It speaks to my creative vision. I also love grabbing a coffee and sitting down with The New York Times and a stack of magazines. I like seeing what people are doing and getting excited about new design approaches. I never steal, but do let things I see spark new ideas. Little things that inspire me are books about female rockstars (truly amazing stories make you want to write your own), my cats (anything that makes you laugh makes you better), and doughnuts (colorful treats are important in life).

Where are your favorite places in your city or outside?

My favorite places are little caf?s in big cities in the early morning when it's quiet. I like to read the paper, drink strong coffee, eat something simple and breathe. Nice to have this little haven you can just pack up and take with you. I think it comes from the fact that I've lived so many places. Tip: Early weekend mornings are the best for the big cities like New York, Paris and Barcelona. Everyone is still asleep, and you feel like the world is yours for a moment.

Second to this is probably The Met. The Temple of Dendur, in particular, is serene in a way that no other space comes close to. And you can look out on another favorite place of mine: Central Park.

Who are the designers you admire most?

This is a tough question… I guess the creatives I admire most are brilliant, but humble. In no particular order: Paula Scher, Louise Fili, George Lois, Milton Glaser, Saul Bass, Janet Froelich, Tobias Frere-Jones, and Ray Eames. They have all affected my career goals and design style in some way, at some point. If you're not familiar — definitely check them out. They are all amazing.