WS: What do you look for in a student book? And what impresses you?
MB: Originality. With student books, I have to be a little bit more forgiving for the lack of breadth. Because it’s only as great as the different projects you’d be given at school. Although some of the kids go out of their way to do stuff. Different voices are very important. If you’re an art director: craftsmanship, design sense. I’d like to see someone be able to art-direct a piece of body copy. I know it sounds old fashioned, but it’s good to see that someone can do this. And, likewise, a copywriter’s body copy. Show me some body copy.
I think humor is helpful. I find that if you are going to rein yourself in on a student book, you’re already in trouble because we need to see how far you can go out there. And I’m talking relevance though, not just “I’m crazy.” How far you can go out there on a project because inevitably your creative director will rein you in, the client will rein us in. So, if you’re starting conservatively then we have no clue what you’re capable of.
The ease with which you can go through a book is important. I don’t have a lot of time. The ability to contact the person is really important. Sometimes I get books from people and I don’t know how to contact them easily. A phone number and an email address are enough. I’d like to be able to see some campaigns. All the alternative media—people are already addressing those things.
WS: Do you think that, if the ideas are good, sketches can be enough?
MB: I would like to be able to say yes. But I think it’s the responsibility of the art director or the copywriter to be able to hook up with a partner and work together to make that idea and that concept read. It’s lazy otherwise. Go out of your way, believe me. There are a lot of schools, there are a lot of programs. It’s not like we’re talking 30 years ago, 40 years ago. There are schools addressing this. Make sure that your brilliant headline is substantiated with the art direction. And for the art director, your visual concept should be part of the headline.
WS: So, a writer needs to hook up with an art director who needs to have design skills…
MB: I think it’s important. Now, could I take a look at a bunch of headlines and writing with sketches? Yes, I could. Of course I could. But I’m saying, given the fact that there are so many different schools available to you and so many different people who can do art direction from these schools, why not go through the whole exercise? Why not go and make sure that the portfolio you present to us is complete?
WS: And an art director needs to have those design skills?
MB: Yeah, an art director should have design skills, and the ability to lay out pages and be conceptual as well. You know what? I’ve hired people who’ve had a book with great headlines and copy and really bad art direction. It’s really hard for me to sell that to these guys, though. So, once again, when you look at a book, it’s the whole thing. And you as a writer have to make sure that if you’re hooked up with a really bad art director you switch your art director. If the concept comes from the art director and they have the ability to really visualize the idea, but the headline and copy are clunky and a little off, it’s up to that creative to find a copywriter who will nail it.