New York, NY

SPY Magazine

A dream job Before starting our firm, Alex served as the Art Director of the smart, fun, funny, fearless — and influential and much-missed — Spy magazine.

“It’s pretty safe to say that Spy was the most influential magazine of the 1980s. It might have remade New York’s cultural landscape; it definitely changed the whole tone of magazine journalism. It was cruel, brilliant, beautifully written and perfectly designed, and feared by all. There’s no magazine I know of that’s so continually referenced, held up as a benchmark, and whose demise is so lamented.”
— Dave Eggers

“It’s a piece of garbage
— Donald Trump

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For an April Fool’s issue, we used a double cover; the second cover fell apart. A hint of things to come?

Spy was designed on a tight budget; a lot of each issue was printed using only two colors, and we had to rely on the use of stock and paparazzi photographs for imagery. As a result, the designs relied heavily on typography to help advance the narrative.

We had to call in a lot of favors to create our covers. Supermodel Carol Alt posed free. The rats cost $300.
"Spy presaged the Web in terms of the multiple entry points and levels of information… [b]ut what ultimately makes Spy memorable, and missed, was its sense of humor eloquently expressed through its graphic presentation. Nothing, especially in print, has replaced it." — Design Historian Steven Heller

Life highlights? Getting to meet both Grampa and Uncle Miltie. Neither disappointed.

 

Art Director
Alexander Isley

Designers
Alexander Knowlton
Sonda Andersson-Pappan
Deborah DeSteffan
Catherine Gilmore-Barnes
Michael Hoffman

Recognition
Gold and Silver Medals,
Society of Publication Designers

 

 

Collections
The Herb Lubalin Study Center
of Design and Typography

Special Collections Research Center
NC State University Libraries

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Smithsonian Institution

Museum of Modern Art Library