Design Inspirations: Richard Baker

During the ’90s, US magazine was one of the many magazine titles that inspired me as a young art director. US magazine is not the same title that US Weekly is currently. Today it exists as just another gossip rag. No real design, no real photography—just an assembly line of pages. US magazine during the 1990s was a well designed, informative and creative publishing force. The innovative photography and clever typographic pages each month filled me with immense joy and energy that motivated me to strive to its creative level. As each new issue hit the newsstands, I felt so fortunate to be part of the publishing game because of titles like US. I felt even greater pride when I learned that its Art Director was Richard Baker, who happened to be African-American.

Richard Baker art directed US with such innovation, energy and boundless imagination. The way he played with type in his feature spreads worked so harmoniously with the photography and illustration that created such emotional connections between its readers and subjects. His work made the readers understand the personalities of the celebrities featured. He approaches seemed simple in construction but were actually complex in its smart use of connecting the heart of the story with its readers. His work was a staple in the Society of Publication Designers’ annuals. Richard Baker’s work really pushed me in my role as Art Director while working on a business title owned by Essence Communications. With his fantastic magazine work, adding the fact that Richard Baker happened to be African-American really lifted my spirit as I’d come across so few magazine designers that look like me. Eventually, he moved on from US magazine and went to Premiere, another one of my favorite titles during the ‘90s.

Richard Baker brought that same creative innovation to Premiere and really elevated the title to new heights where I still saw his pages in the SPD annuals. I lost track of him after he moved on from Premiere but I remember he was at LIFE magazine the last time they resurrected the iconic title. Today, I don’t know where he has landed but wherever it is I know he is on to a new level of creative innovation. Personally, I would just like to let him know how much his work has inspired me over my career and that he really helped me discover my passion for magazine design.

Thank you, Richard Baker.

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