Old Ironsides and the big E – Eric Seidman, art director for Discover

Old Ironsides and the big E – Eric Seidman, art director for Discover – editorial

Gilbert Rogin

Just what leads a person to become an art director? Often it’s a matter of economic reality forcing a compromise with the creative muse. Take Eric Seidman, 39, our art director forthe past two and a half years: he started out as a fine arts major at New York’s Pratt Institute with the dream of becoming a sculptor, supporting himself by playing the accordion at bar mitzvahs and wed- dings on the side. Eventually it dawned on him that only a handful of people were actually earning their living as sculptors, so he switched to commercial art, a decision that led to a dozen years as an art director at the New York Times. That tour of duty was interrupted by another in the U.S. Navy, which was unusual by any standard: his orders posted him to vessel IX-21 in Boston harbor. This turned out to be the U.S.S. Constitution, a.k.a. Old Ironsides–it seems the Navy was looking for a yeoman, over six feet tall and with a clear complexion, to guide tourists through the historic frigate–a dream assignment but for the fact that the ship has only 5 ft.6 in. of head room below decks. To this day, the 6 ft.4 in. Seidman–who’s known around here as the Big E–still walks cautiously.

In 1971 he was recruited as an art di rector by Time Inc. Following stints at the Washington Star and TV-Cable Week, he took over at DISCOVER, where he conceived and executed our extensive 1985 redesign.

The principal stories in this issue provide examples of the complexities Seidman and his staff must grapple with. How do you show with meticulous accuracy the details of a state-of-the- art Israeli fighter plane that’s still shrouded in near-total secrecy? How do you convey the precise effects of an earthquake that hasn’t happened yet? In the first instance, before artists John Berkey and Jim Bryant could even begin their paintings, days of legwork by an Israeli aeronautics expert were required. In the second, we commissioned an architectural photographer and two consulting engineers to help us visualize the hypothetical damage. All in a day’s work for the art department, although in this case it was more like a month’s. But the end results live up to a Seidman maxim: ”If I can tell the story so well you don’t have to read the text, I feel I’ve succeeded. I’m a communicator, not a decorator.”

Our art department lost its strong right arm, and all of us lost a good and gentle friend, when our associate art director Bob Daniels died of heart

failure last month at the age of 54. He was talented, inventive, and ever calm. We’ll miss him.

COPYRIGHT 1986 Discover

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group