Recognized for setting a new standard for unified creative direction across publications, products and experiences for one of the most influential media phenomena of our era.
In 1990, the art director Gael Towey was asked to help launch a magazine—a how-to about homemaking that broke with convention by putting its founder’s name
on the cover. That magazine, Martha Stewart Living, was unusual in other ways. Under Towey’s creative direction, luminous photos and restrained
typography portrayed the domestic arts as anything but quaint or dowdy. They were the lyrical expression of one’s highest self.
Martha Stewart Living
became an inspiration for our current DIY movement. And it is to Towey’s credit, as well as that of her famously perfectionist boss, that her role in
visualizing the joy of creativity was acknowledged from the beginning.
As Stewart’s empire, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), expanded, Towey’s contributions grew with it. She oversaw product development, marketing and
advertising for hundreds of Martha Stewart products, working with her husband, the 2014 AIGA Medalist Stephen Doyle, on the branding and packaging of many
collections. And she directed and produced videos for “American Made,” an awards program celebrating American makers.
All the while she was at the creative helm of a growing number of Martha Stewart publications, including a digital version of Martha Stewart Living, first published in November 2010, whose award-winning cover presented a peony that blossomed before one’s eyes. Named chief
creative officer of MSLO in 2005, Towey also played an important role in the company’s management, especially when legal troubles forced Stewart
temporarily to step aside.
Raised in Short Hills, New Jersey, the oldest of six children in an Irish Catholic family, Towey might have seemed destined to work with Stewart, who grew
up Polish Catholic and the second of six. They were even born at the same hospital in Jersey City. They began collaborating in the 1980s, when Towey was
art director of the Clarkson Potter publishing company and Stewart was capitalizing on her talents as a caterer with books on entertaining.
By the time she met Stewart, Towey had already connected with other monumental figures in publishing. A 1975 graduate of Boston University’s College of
Fine Arts, she was a mechanical artist at Viking Press in the days when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was the star editor. There she collaborated with Onassis
on In the Russian Style and worked on books by Irving Penn, Alfred Eisenstaedt and Georgia O’Keeffe.
After Clarkson Potter, Towey spent a year at House & Garden, which gave her a disillusioning view of Condé Nast’s designers, who were walled
off from the editorial staff. Then Martha Stewart Living came along. The job Towey was offered there had few precedents: It was a place where art
directors, editors, photographers, stylists, chefs and crafters conceived stories together, where content and presentation were fused.
And it lasted for 22 years. Towey’s decision to step away from MSLO in 2012 was spurred by turning 60, she says. She was ready for a next act and has since
turned a long-standing interest in narrative into a series of videos about creative people, including the fashion designer Natalie Chanin and artist Maira
Of everything in her career, she says, the storytelling part has been most fulfilling: “I don’t think there’s a very big difference between telling a story
with photography and text and video.” She added, “but video is the new way.”
Gael Towey will be presented with the AIGA Medal at The AIGA Centennial Gala on April 25, 2014, in New York City.
Meet the 2016 AIGA Medalists! The distinguished AIGA Medal is awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements in the field of design.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, design educators, students
Gael Towey was recognized with the AIGA Medal
for setting a new standard for unified creative direction across
publications, products and experiences for one of the most influential
media phenomena of our era.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, interview
AIGA’s design community will gather April 2016 to honor the AIGA Medalists and support national design initiatives. Watch this space for upcoming information.
Section: Events and Competitions -
Event, AIGA Medal, awards
Abbott Miller is recognized with the AIGA Medal for design that elevates culture by fusing content and form through elegant and incisive publications, exhibitions and identities.
On top of hunting for new London offices to house his eponymous design practice, Simon Esterson is busy ramping up the graphic design quarterly Eye, which he’s co-owned and designed since 2008.
Section: Inspiration -
INitiative, editorial design, graphic design, in-house design, print design, typography
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