Work Memo No. 4: Location, location, location

What a difference a change of scenery can make. A lot of expansion in the office means yours truly gets to move around to a different desk each day. That’s one way to get to know the rest of the office.


This week was pretty much the same as far as the work I did and with whom I worked. On Wednesday, though, I was temporarily moved to a desk seated with another department. I was introduced to Anne, who is in charge of commissioning feature stories for the magazine. Essentially, she’s the one with all the connections and gets the big names on the cover. Yes, my transition two rows away from my regular seat had brought me back to the print side of things.

Right after we went over what people were working on for the day at the web department meeting, James, another person who writes solely for the print magazine, invited me back to the meeting area to see what the design and layout people were working on.

The open space has a bulletin board wall where designers start to lay out spreads for the next week’s issue. The way it works is that on Friday and Monday, designers start to post their spreads on the big wall. There are usually multiple designs with different working headlines for each feature. Every day, the designers meet at that area with editor in chief Ben Preston to go through which designs work best for each story and brainstorm ideas on how to make each one stronger.

There were about five or six head editors who crowded around a table at the front of the room while the rest of the designers, another 10 people or so, stood around in the back and generally just listened to the editors discuss what worked and what didn’t. They only contributed when their specific design was addressed, but most of the chatter and decision-making stayed with the core six. It was interesting to see the hierarchy of the people standing around.

These meetings continue throughout the week until the magazine goes to press on Thursday, and that’s when each idea must be narrowed down to one final spread. The gathering on Wednesday lasted for about 20 minutes. Then a few minutes after the designers returned to their desks, they left for another meeting in the conference room on the other end of the office, this time without Ben. I didn’t sit in on this one, but they were there for about an hour and went over upcoming issues. I’m curious how far in advance writers and editors work in terms of content. I’ll probably ask Anne on Monday when I see her again.

I think all this just caught my attention because whereas the writers in the web department work pretty independently, the designers and print editors all worked together. People frequently stopped by other colleagues’ desks to discuss a page, or even just chat about whatever. It was interesting to see such a different work environment just a few rows away from where I usually am.


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