2014 AIGA Medalist Gael Towey

Gael Towey
Gael Towey
Recognition
2014 AIGA Medal
Born
1952, Jersey City, New Jersey
Recognition
2014 AIGA Medal
Born
1952, Jersey City, New Jersey

Gael Towey
Recognition
2014 AIGA Medal
Born
1952, Jersey City, New Jersey

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.

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Gael Towey (Photo: Johnny Miller)

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Martha Stewart Living magazine spread, March 2001Client and publisher: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia; Chief creative and editorial director: Gael Towey; Photographer: Gentl and Hyers

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Blueprint cover, Summer 2006Client and publisher: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia; Chief creative and editorial director: Gael Towey; Photographer (cover): Chris Shipman; Photographer (interior): Gentl and Hyers; Creative director (cover and interior spread): Deborah Bishop

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Martha Stewart Living: Boundless Beauty iPad special issue (stop-action cover), November 2010Client and publisher: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia; Chief creative and editorial director: Gael Towey; Cover photographer (stop action video): Gentl and Hyers

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.

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Martha by Mail covers, 2001 and 2002Client and publisher: Martha Stewart Omnimedia; Chief creative and editorial director: Gael Towey; Creative directors: Deborah Bishop, Fritz Karsh; Photographers: Sang An (Holiday 2001), Anna Williams (Summer 2002)

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Martha Stewart Living spreads, 1993–2005Client and publisher: Martha Stewart Omnimedia; Chief creative and editorial director: Gael Towey. Figs (September 1997): Photographer: Maria Robledo; Creative director: Gael Towey / Fruit (July 2005): Photographer: Gentl and Hyers; Creative director: Ayesha Patel / Crustaceans (December 1993/4): Photographer: Davis and Starr; Creative director: Susan Spungen / Hydrangeas (September 1994): Photographer: Victoria Pearson; Creative director: Gael Towey

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Home Depot paint colors created by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, 2010Client: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Home Depot; Chief creative and editorial director: Gael Towey

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Martha Stewart Signature furniture and rugs, 2006Client and publisher: Martha Stewart Omnimedia; Chief creative and editorial director: Gael Towey; Cover photographer: William Abranowicz; Rug design: Stephen Doyle (2008)

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Whole Living covers, 2011Client and publisher: Martha Stewart Omnimedia; Chief creative and editorial director: Gael Towey; Creative director: Matthew Axe; April cover: Raymond Hom; February cover: Johnny Miller

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 Kalman.

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.”

Tags Inspiration AIGA Medal Article print design graphic design packaging Womens Leadership editorial design