Each of our 2019 Ascenders spoke with us about their design inspirations and work. Here is our interview with typeface designer and art director Ben Grandgenett.
What schools did you attend?
The School of Visual Arts.
Did you have a teacher, past employer, client, or colleague who was instrumental in your career?
Gail Bichler, Matt Willey, Arem Duplessis, and Carin Goldberg.
Did they have any specific advice/words of wisdom that you remember?
“The final design/idea might be the first thing you come up with or the last.” — Gail Bichler
“Don’t worry so much.” – Carin Goldberg
Where do you work now? In a studio, independent, other? What’s a typical workday like?
The New York Times Magazine. The magazine is published weekly and it can be a relentless pace. Each day of the week is a little different but generally involves checking emails, reading drafts, and conceptualizing art for upcoming articles, art directing illustrators, overseeing our front of book columns, attending meetings on future stories or issues, and, of course, designing.
Which of your design projects are your favorites? Why?
Special themed issue designs at The New York Times Magazine are often some of my favorite projects. They present an opportunity to create a unique visual language for a specific theme of content. I enjoy the ability to create a system and then work to push the boundaries of that system. Some of my favorite past special issue designs include the 2019 New York Issue and the 2018 Music Issue.
What’s your worst design experience and project? Why?
Right out of college, I was working on a freelance editorial project while working my day job at The New York Times Magazine. I was new to editorial and admittedly didn’t quite know how to finish a project yet. At that time, I had to work five times harder for my designs to be at a place I was satisfied with. So, I had a lot of nights working until the early hours of the morning. In the end, it didn’t work out (a.k.a. I was fired) and I had to hand it off to another designer to meet the deadline.
I still have a bit of regret over not being able to follow through with it, but it was a valuable lesson in not overextending myself and that I still had a lot to learn.
What are your hobbies besides typography or design?
I enjoy cooking, drawing, and walking around the city. To me, all of the above are not only therapeutic but also allow me to be inspired and be creative in other ways I don’t get to on a 9-to-5 schedule.
Do you know any of the other Ascenders personally? If yes, whom ?
Professionally, yes. Personally, no.
Do you have any favorite designers and/or artists? Who are they?
So many. At the moment, Sister Corita Kent, Henri Matisse, Josef Muller-Brockmann, John Baldessari, Geoff McFetridge, Saul Steinberg, Otl Aicher, Paul Rand, Karel Martens, Ed Rushca, and on and on and on.
Do you think you have a design philosophy or methodology? If yes or no what is it?
Don’t be fixated on the idea of what a design “should be”; let the process guide you. And iteration, iteration, iteration.
Now that you have had some time to think about it, what does the award mean to you?
It’s an honor to be recognized within the typographic community. The award presents an opportunity to share my work and engage in conversation with new people.
To see the work and bios of all the 2019 Ascenders, click here.