I’ve always loved that word, “designer.” Even as a kid, the concept of someone being called a designer—be it for flower arranging, home interiors, fashion, gadgets—was such a wondrous concept. Think about it for a moment: By definition, someone who’s actually a designer quite literally is tasked with creating something that has never, ever existed before. They have to “design” it from a blank canvas. To me, few things could be cooler than that.
Because I’m naturally drawn to creative people who unquestionably make the world a better, more colorful place—writers, architects, artists, musicians, photographers, interior designers, illustrators—my life is filled to the brim with dynamic, immensely talented standouts in myriad creative fields. And as creatives, they tend to see what’s in front of them just a little bit more fabulously than the majority of, you know, those left-brain folks.
So, a quarter century ago, one of my favorite creative geniuses (truly), the legendary magazine and book designer, artist and author Jean-Claude (J.-C.) Suarès introduced me to Kathleen Gates, one of three Gates siblings (along with Linda and Susan Gates) who make up Gates Sisters Studio, a boutique magazine design firm in New York City. It was love at first sight for Kath and me.
Since that very first day, Kath Gates has been my creative partner. And, as a visually geared editor in chief, I pride myself in helming magazines that astound by their beauty and are announced by the clever/arresting/provocative/gorgeous covers Kath serves up time and time and time again. The woman can flat-out design. But that’s just the reason why we work together so often. She’s one of my closest friends because of her real talent: how she helps illuminate and design what’s on the inside. Outward talent and inward passion make an intoxicating cocktail when wrapped in an often hilarious, self-aware, deeply caring human: Oh, yeah, I highly recommend you get yourself your own Kathleen Gates.
Creating a magazine from scratch, Kath and I have the same feeling today as we did 25 years ago when we first collaborated on a publication. We get excited at the idea of what to do on the cover, deciding on the tone, the pacing, the thematic hooks that best illustrate the message the given issue is conveying. In a word, it’s fun. So. Much. Fun.
I’d go as far as this: Together, Kath and I have created some of the most beautiful, compelling magazines any editor in chief/designer duo has ever created—magazines about everything from medical issues to luxury, from professional sports to architecture, from travel tomes to, yes, saratoga living. Kathleen Gates is absolutely the Robin to my Batman. How lucky am I? Take a good, long look at the publication you’re holding in your hands. Glance at the cover and remember that, just a little while ago, that same cover was nothing but a blank page—this entire magazine was filled with nothing but blank pages—until a certain superhero put all the ingredients together just so. And here we are.
It didn’t seem right to devote an entire issue of a magazine to design achievement without acknowledging the designer who’s been front and center, hiding in plain sight all along. Well, no longer. Say hello to Kathleen Gates, a world-class designer and an even better friend. She’s the only superhero I need.