I first met Nicholas over the phone in 1997. Nicholas was then Art Director of The New York Times Op-Ed page and he was calling to see if I was interested in doing an illustration. I had recently opened my own practice in Baltimore, where I was designing mostly book covers. When I told him I had no illustration experience whatsoever, he replied, “Good!” I have since done hundreds of illustrations for him over the years, following him around at his various art director positions at The Times, from Op-Ed to Week in Review, then to the Book Review. And most recently to The New Yorker, where he is creative director.
So, I can tell you with some authority that Nicholas is a great art director.
He has an impeccable eye, is even tempered, and often understands the work before the illustrator does. But what makes him great is all of the other things he is: illustrator, publisher, activist, teacher, author, lecturer and advocate.
As the son of the great R.O. Blechman (a member of the Society’s Hall of Fame), Nicholas was weaned on comics and illustration. After college he took up the family business and became an in-demand, award-winning illustrator himself, with work in publications such as GQ, Travel + Leisure, Wired and The New York Times. Since 1990 he has published, edited and designed his own award-winning political underground magazine NOZONE, which was featured in the Smithsonian Institution’s Design Triennial. Blechman has co-authored, with Christoph Niemann, a series of limited edition illustration books, One Hundred Percent, and he’s written and illustrated his own children’s book, Night Light.
He has taught design at the School of Visual Arts in New York and illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art. An advocate of illustration as an international lecturer, he is a member of Alliance Graphique International and a former board member of the New York Chapter of the AIGA.
All of these things inform his art direction, and engender a sense of trust with the illustrators who work with him. I trust him to fight for my ideas, and to do the right thing with my work. It is only fitting that Nicholas Blechman, my friend and longtime collaborator, should be the recipient of the 2017 Richard Gangel Art Director Award.
– Paul Sahre, Graphic designer