Tomorrow, the American Institute of Graphic Arts will honour one of the most influencial people in my life, Gael Towey, who is the organization's 2014 Medalist. I have never met Gael, sadly, but she has been a part of my life for well over a decade. Unbeknownst to her, she has taught me so much simply by doing what she does best and I have been fortunate to have seen so much of her work through Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and its various brands. From publication design to product packaging, Gael Towey's partnership with Martha has been, for me, the most consistent source of inspiration as it pertains to the visual presentation of ideas - a theme I'm mildly obsessed with. I was thrilled to learn that the AIGA will be recognizing her talent and her pioneering work at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she worked for over two decades, helping to shape and define the essence of this global brand.
photo by Johnny Miller
Gael began working with Martha in the early 1980s when she was the art director at Clarkson Potter. She collaborated with Martha on many of her early books, including Martha Stewart's Gardening and Martha Stewart's Weddings, building those quintessential Martha Stewart underpinnings: bold, lush photography; information that is presented in an organized and pleasing way on the page; the iconic Martha Stewart colours; inspiration and information delivered in a bright, beautiful package.
It was in 1990, however, when Martha hired Gael to design her new magazine, Martha Stewart Living, that their partnership really began to deliver some groundbreaking results. Never before had a women's magazine treated the subjects of domesticity and homemaking with such reverence. This was not simply a throw-away guide to household management. It was a large publication, beautifully designed with dynamic photography and well-researched articles that exhalted the domestic arts in a book-like magazine you wanted to cherish and keep and consistently refer back to.
I cannot emphasize enough how groundbreaking the Martha Stewart Living model really was at the time. No other publication had the founder's name on the cover (Gael encouraged Martha to do so) and no other magazine brought together every home-related subject under one title: cooking, homekeeping, crafting, gardening, decorating, entertaining, holidays, kids, pets... All of these subjects were lyrically articulated on the page through well-researched and engaging texts that were further enhanced by the dazzling photography. Nearly every women's magazine that existed at the time attempted to adopt at least some aspects of the Martha Stewart model because its effect was so inspiring to the reader.
After serving as the company's chief creative director, the magazine's editor-in-chief and the all-round visual guru at Martha Stewart Living, Gael left in 2012 to start a new chapter. Her 60th birthday was the perfect time, she thought, to step away and spend some time with her family. She also had time to develop some new film projects she had been thinking about and has since made a series of videos about creative people, including fashion designer Natalie Chanin and artist Maira Kalman.
I want to congratulate Gael and to thank her for giving me so much to "look at" over the years. My eye has been so dazzled by her beautiful visual presentations and my aesthetic standard has been duly elevated. I have learned so much from her. I was pleased to see her editorial contribution to the May issue of Martha Stewart Living and I hope to see more of her work in future issues. Below are some examples of her collaboration with MSLO over the years.