3/4 of 2015

My year was bookended by wrangling a newborn and ten months later, a new job. On the occasions that Oona powered down to sleep and offered up some oxygen to her beginner parents, the smart thing to have done would have been to sleep when she slept.

I was not smart.

I stayed up well past my bedtime more often than I should have and opted instead to test the elasticity of the universe’s long proven maxim that there really can be too much of a good thing. I’m grateful that most of this was legitimately fun. Here is everything I’ve been meaning to post from as far back as April and as recently as December:


Scribner / 2016

A collection of linked stories deploying magical realism from Jewish folklore intertwining with true life monsters of Nazi-occupied Poland. Thank you Jaya Miceli.



W.W. Norton / 2016

The former governor of the Bank of England taking the longview of financial crises through the decades up to and including the most recent one which he was in part responsible for steadying in the UK.

ADs: Chin-Yee Lai & Eleen Cheung


Polity / 2015

…and a wholly separate book about crises from the UK, this one by the noted sociologist and UNESCO chair in gender research. The book looks at the particulars of economic collapse through a wider view of risk and catastrophe through history. Vivé la unyieldingly grim difference.



Soft Skull / 2016

A collection of linked stories surrounding a cast of down-and-outers, recovering addicts and desperate, though dignified, delusional people. One such recovering addict is tricked into stealing a tiger. Before reading this, (and setting aside The Hangover), stealing a tiger struck me as something that one really ought to be fully cognizant of between the planning and the endgame. The sole agent of predictability in the event of a tiger-napping is that the tiger will dependably go “full tiger” if feeling threatened (as one might) in the middle of such a thing. Mitigating circumstances be damned.

The writing offers a clever persuasion that tiger theft is totally something that could happen by chance. And that all participants need not be completely lucid.

AD: Kelly Winton



Verso / 2016

For Andy Pressman at Verso. A survey of China’s last century pooled in the interest of determining what’s realistically needed for the country to become legitimately democratic. The design depended upon the type doubling as a barrier to an open, unobstructed view of Shanghai with the gaps in the type serving to suggest possibilities of a more open future.



FSG / 2016

In which growing distrust of antidepressants is countered point for point. For Rodrigo Corral at FSG.



Penguin / 2016

Hopefully, the cover tells you everything you need to know without defaulting to any tropes requiring fingertips or fingerprints (although alas, a hand).

AD: Roseanne Serra.



The Atlantic / Don’t Overthink It

An illustration for The Atlantic’s book review looking at Matthew Crawford’s debunking of the Enlightenment. The critic was unmoved.

AD: Lauren Giordano



Psychology Today / The Science of Ending Conflict

For a lengthy scientific exploration which takes a molecular approach to how violence and the impulse to cause harm, could possibly, maybe be unwoven out of humans’ DNA provided that the conditions were pretty close to perfect. I wouldn’t expect a universal peace accord anytime soon but still, some optimism here.

AD: Ed Levine



A mind-melding with Gail Bichler and Caleb Bennett for the NYT Magazine’s Spring cover on digital imperialism. This was printed with metallic silver and fluorescent red inks either to simulate the day-glo constancy of life on the internet or as a print-based rebuke to its expanding dominance depending on who you ask.



Maxim / The Vanishing Act

A type construction for a David Copperfield essay exploring the substance and power of making something disappear using the sum of the man’s own words. It’s easier to read (albeit less fun) if you look at it here.

AD: David Zamdmer



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In which I could truthfully end a phone call by using the words: “I need to go. I have a conference call with Terry Gross.”

Fresh Air‘s producers Molly Seavy-Nesper & Danny Miller contacted me a week prior to the end of my paternity leave in February asking if I was available to attempt a re-imagining of their logo. After a handful of said aforementioned conference calls and conversations about the show’s mission coupled with what they were certain that they didn’t want to use to represent them, we approached the mark with the intent of representing, as simply as possible, the kind of two-way exchange of ideas and perspectives that are heard and expected regularly on the show. The show is obviously grounded in talk and as a result, the typography aimed to honor that back-and-forth that she so expertly keeps conversational without ever tipping over into confessional. Months after it was approved, they shared with me that this was the only Fresh Air rebrand that they had taken to completion and executed in the show’s history since their original logo.


This was an honor in every respect.



“Nail Biter #1″

I drew this one afternoon this past summer as the sun was going down to avoid biting my nails while trying to close the op/ed page on time. It was late and I was waiting on final art from an illustrator and pestering them about a deadline that they were already well aware of seemed counterproductive for me and unsupportive to the artist. And fighting that nail biting impulse is difficult.



NYT Op/Ed / Pluto Comes Into Focus

This illustration exists because of peculiar circumstances lining up together in the span of a few hours.

In my last year ADing the op/ed page, I had deliberately backed off from illustrating anything for the page as my feelings about the church/state-like separation between it and the assigning art director started to calcify more clearly in my personal approach to art direction than it had in previous years.

Also, Oona was, at this point in the year, maybe only 8 months old and I was sleeping about as well as one might suspect someone living with an 8 month old to be sleeping and relying on my brain to solve problems like an op/ed illustration on short notice (even for the person who sees what’s coming down the pike first) began to feel like a tall order which, if miscalculated, could backfire in all manner of spectacular ruin.

This became an exception because of the following circumstances:

1. The artist who’s interpretation of this historic moment with Pluto I wanted to see more than anyone else’s was unavailable that day.


2. I had to pick Oona up from day care that afternoon at 5:00 by any means necessary. Traditionally this is hardly ever the case. (I drop her off in the morning if that’s considered important).


3. Because Pluto.

On the subway on my way into the office I drew this very quickly and, having no other thoughts that matched that one in drama or directness, assembled it as swiftly as I could upon getting into the building and laid it at my editors’ feet begging them to love it.


There’s an unforgivably corny dad quip to be made about moving Heaven, Earth and Pluto in order to pick up a baby from day care on time without incident but it will not be written down here.



NYT Magazine / How ‘Rockstar’ Became a Business Buzzword / The Unwelcome Return of ‘Illegals’ / ‘Moment’ is Having a Moment

In August, one of my favorite living illustrators went on vacation and consequently paused in his regular weekly post visualizing the First Words column of the NYT Magazine and they were stuck with me filling in for three weeks. In that time, my tasks included: a consideration of how the word ‘rockstar’ had been co-opted to refer to anybody who excelled in corporate performance—basically the antithesis of an actual rockstar…


…Also how the casual use of the word ‘illegals’ on the campaign trail and elsewhere casually dehumanizes whole cultures and casually isolates the USA further still in the eyes of everyone else.


…and also how the term ‘moment’ is in itself experiencing a period of raised public profile (which modern English has somehow made synonymous with ‘moment’).

AD: Jason Sfetko



The New Yorker / Fiction: Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1 by Alejandro Zambra

For New Yorker’s fiction slot done over the summer. I loved reading this and it still stands as the only surrealist work focusing on test cheating I’ve encountered. Thank you Chris Curry.



The New Yorker / Malcolm Gladwell: What Social Scientists Learned from Katrina

If there is an upside to be found in Hurricane Katrina’s fallout, Malcolm Gladwell has better-than-average odds of elucidating it persuasively. On Katrina’s anniversary this past summer, he wrote about how the lives of many of the families depopulated by Katrina really did land upon better circumstances for themselves because of Katrina; Although there’s an equally compelling reminder to be made about exceptions, rules, their essential differences, etc. Thanks once more, Chris Curry.




The Upshot (NYT) / Americans Are Finally Eating Less

A twofer for The Upshot about how Americans are eating less fast food now than in recent decades, but that the decrease wasn’t offset with eating more healthy alternatives as a counterweight.

AD: Nicholas Blechman



NYT Book Review / The Law of the Land

A Book Review cover rounding up three monster tomes on either the Supreme Court or significant Supreme Court cases or significant Supreme Court justices. This was assembled entirely with cut paper.

“A few weeks later I moved my desk a whole 15 feet and began art directing the section itself which, given its legacy of stewards, was neither intimidating nor inspired any internal mania or self-imposed pressure whatsoever,” he lied.

Thank you Jolene Cuyler.



Playboy / Fiction: Crow County Moses by Callan Wink

In which a grown adult, via his trade, motivates his own mother to pick up a copy of Playboy—in the interest of reading one of the articles, no less. Here is a just finished illustration for Playboy‘s 12/2015 fiction by Callan Wink about a forced, less-than-comfortable father and son fishing trip and the stream of conscious memories of the son he rifles through as they get lost on the road.

AD: Paul Lussier.

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And now I will pause.

The Future is Full of D**k Pics


Art direction: Caleb Bennett / Sign construction: Matt Rainwaters/Roadhouse Relics

For Wired’s sex issue: an embrace of internet nudity and a refutation of the shame that accompanies having your nude photos hacked from your phone and flaunted all over the internet. Having zero experience in the way of neon sign building or arc welding, my pitch for this image was rendered by the far less tactile means of the Adobe Creative suite. When the idea was approved, Caleb wisely seized the chance to have my drawing physically build by Matt Rainwaters of Roadhouse Relics in Texas. Very satisfying to have an idea taken to such a logical, physical conclusion—particularly considering the argument in play.

There was a brief, brief conversation in post as to whether or not I’d be interested in buying the sign back and keeping it in my home. I thought about hanging it in my daughter’s room for about 0.00000001 seconds before remembering that she is 4 months old and is also my daughter.

Brutal Territory


AD: Nicholas Blechman

Ghettoside is an accounting of the scores and scores and scores and scores of unresolved homicides of predominantly black men in southern California. Lest anyone close out their day with a trickle of optimism about the state of the universe, here is a reminder that evil is still winning.


NYT Magazine – Down Time


This feature about Marissa Mayer’s struggles to right the ship at Yahoo will draw true pity for her out from within your depths and will make those less familiar (like me) appreciate how achingly, fantastically difficult it is to draw a profit on the internet and thrive in a culture that demands constant innovation.

But then you will remember the dollar amount quoted as her salary.


ADs: Gail Bichler and Ben Grandgennett

2014, Condensed.

I tried to post more frequently this year. I failed. Pretty quickly.

It isn’t that I don’t love the internet, I just cultivate a suspicion that any reason to devote time and attention anywhere else is probably healthier. Consequently, nearly 8 months slingshotted past and in considering the average lifespan of an editorial piece or a book cover, half of the “new” work I have is already approaching its teens. Contrarily, I don’t feel great about that; So to honor a stolen moment at the end of 2014, here are some (non birth-related) things that I was grateful to have happen this year:

The SAT is Fair - ADs: Gail Bichler / Kim Sutherland, Photo by Jens Mortensen


From early March: A cover collaboration between myself, Gail Bichler, Kim Sutherland and photographer Jens Mortensen on the re-writing of the SATs. Occasionally when taking a photographic approach to an illustration on my own, I’ll shoot something and if it’s focused and clear and the white balance is on point, I’ll allow myself to be pleased with the quality of the image for two or three minutes. I was on hand at Jens’ studio with Kim and Gail on the day he shot this and had the pleasure of watching him work. I am not a photographer. Jens is.


Consciousness and the Brain — AD: Roseanne Serra


A neuroscience cover for Penguin in which I ripped myself off by repurposing a NYT Science illustration I had done the year before. I gave a few talks this year and at each one I showed this cover next to my original image and asked the audience if they thought that counted as cheating. The responses were mostly mumbles.

Pinkerton’s Great Detective - AD: Paul Buckley


A book about the early national detective agency and their foremost badass detective who infiltrated the Molly Maguires, chased Butch Cassidy and tore after the Wild Bunch. It is difficult to argue with history—particularly when it’s as exhaustively researched and accounted for as it is here—but Sam Peckinpah’s glorious and perfect Wild Bunch film is so etched into my pleasure center that as a human I found it very, very, very difficult to root for anyone other than the Wild Bunch in this scenario, true-life barbarism and historical certainties notwithstanding.


NPR: Serial





I am not the first, third or hundredth person commonly considered for logo projects so it was no small honor to be commissioned to produce this one for WBEZ Chicago and the This American Life crew on the occasion of their freakishly addictive new podcast. The rabid enthusiasm that the podcast rightfully earned upon its release has been amazing. And pretty damn deserved.

My process in working with the Serial team played out in an eerily similar way as one of the show’s episodes. We talked, we kicked some questions around, we extrapolated some ideas based upon those questions and chased down a mark without any preconceived impression of where it should land. These producers are comfortable in all respects with letting the territory draw the map, which bodes well for the show’s future.

UPDATE: This item prompted a lot of interest and some incredibly kind words of appreciation. I shared few more details about how this project came together over at WIRED.


No Stopping Train


For Soft Skull Press—a cover for the posthumous final novel of the underground Hungarian author Les Plesko. Just below it was an alternate that I swore at the time was a lock to be chosen. I’m rarely right about anything.



Your Band Sucks — AD: Paul Buckley


Jon Fine played in Bitch Magnet—a band I discovered far too late—in the mid ’90s. Sooyoung Park, one of his bandmates in Bitch Magnet, later went on to form Seam, a band I had on regular rotation through college. Generally, I bristle at the suspicion that I get pigeonholed for certain kinds of projects but if I have to be the guy to work on punk and hardcore chronicles from the ’70s through the mid-90′s, I’m relatively confident that I’ll find a way to live with it.


The Professor in the Cage — AD: Darren Haggar


In which the author—a bookish, self-professed academic professorial type—decides to submit full tilt to the culture and unforgiving training regimen of MMA and documents the whole thing. You wake each day and practice your trade in the interest of finding a higher grace until the fates task you with producing a skull getting punched by an invisible, theoretical fist. Thus continuing my year of black book covers.


The Atlantic: Ukraine — AD: Elisa Glass


An illustration for The Atlantic done in the early days of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine which argued the perceived threat was bigger than it actually is. Dissent is encouraged.


Esquire — Stephen Marche on Government


A quick one for Esquire done over the summer for Stephen Marche’s column about the US government’s ongoing downward functionality.


The Atlantic: Law School Scamming — AD: Darhil Crooks




A suite of images for a feature in the Atlantic exploring how a for-profit law school in Florida scammed its students with a sub-par curriculum which left them ill-prepared to take the bar exam and then shafted them with outsized debts. Further supporting an unscientific, unfounded hypothesis that theft is the only remaining pathway to wealth in the US.


NYT Mag: Major Threat — ADs: Gail Bichler, Kim Sutherland


In which it became clear (very quickly) that pissing off a punk rock purist is a thousand times easier than pissing off a democrat or a Republican or even a Libertarian like Rand Paul would ever be. This took over our lives for 72 hours and was initiated and completed in whatever stray seconds and minutes I could spare when I wasn’t strapped to the op/ed page that week. And even after being given copies for posterity, I still can’t believe this actually exists. A fair amount of coverage was given to this at the time of its release over the summer and most of the practical questions regarding how it was made are addressed here and here.

Some remnants from the construction:


…and here’s the other something I’ll only ever be able to get away with once.



The New Yorker: Friends of Israel — ADs: Chris Curry & Chris Mueller


A feature illustration for the New Yorker for a monster piece about AIPAC’s overly aggressive lobbying in Washington.


Wired: I Can’t Let You Do That, Dave — AD: Victor Krummenacher



Two spots for a WIRED piece by Cory Doctorow about the legal and humanistic slippery slope that comes along with self-aware computers. Or to a more tangible extent: a company which can surreptitiously drop a U2 album into millions and millions of iPhones without consent of the owner.


NYT Book Review: Man Down — AD: Nicholas Blechman


Pure tragedy. A young pot dealer who worked his way out of poverty by sheer force of will and some lucky breaks is accepted at Yale, majors in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, graduates, resumes dealing and is ultimately shot in a basement over either drugs or money or probably both. There is a bitter argument in play that all the money and social programs and institutional assistance in the world can’t divorce a person from the perspectives, practices and codes of their youth.


So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed — AD: Helen Yentus


For Jon Ronson’s new book, a mountain disguised as a question: What does public shame look like without finger pointing?

The book needed a cover which bore connective DNA to his previous two jackets, and as both Ronson’s queries and his conclusions never reveal themselves at the end of a linear path, the logical considerations of what public shaming looks like (finger pointing, dunce caps, stockades, etc.), were gratefully set aside. This was the proven victor—the actual, tangible version of which will clash as loudly as possible with silver and fluorescent pink.


Black Hole

My kingdom for some strange. More than the movies or music or an honest-to-goodness vacation, fiction was the great personal palliative of 2014. Regardless of whatever level of realism anything I read on the subway this year may have been, having the comfort in knowing that it was all made up gave my brain a license to puke back up some of the true life op/ed horrors I worked on during the day. It helped.

Anyway, I made this cover for this book about a Bay area local who does a lot of drugs on the regular and what happens to him when he samples the everlasting gobstopper of hallucinogens. For my eternal gratitude, things get dark, weird and physically impossible.

This was an alternate:


We continue toward whatever is next. Happy new year.

Waiting Game

Oona was due to be born on November 10th. She didn’t settle on an exit strategy until the evening of November 17th. This left an idle waiting window.

In order to quell an already innate tendency to fidget in anticipation of a great big epic thing, I grabbed a sharp object and a stack of magazines and spent my personal limbo collaging. Some dudes lift weights. Anyway, these weren’t baby-centric insofar as I meant for any of these to reveal any subconscious feelings about impending fatherhood. I just wanted an active, physical distraction away from a computer that I could complete quickly without overthinking them or, conversely, reminding me that a very small person was going to manifest him/herself in our lives sometime either in the next few hours or the next few days. When I say “this mostly worked”, I mean that when I have an X-Acto in my hand and my wrist is sturdy and turning slowly, it’s only slightly easier to quiet the enormity of knowing that I’m having a kid than it would have been with a more passive activity. But the kid still trumped this. Substantially.

Now that she’s here, I look at these things the way someone looks back at something that they drew the night before when they were stoned.















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