The backstory

Work by the Advance Digital enterprise Design Team.

Work by the Advance Digital enterprise Design Team.

I got into publication design after a career in painting and photography. As an artist and photographer, I was drawn to newspapers as a way to combine art and typography on a relatively big canvas. Now I am a strategist for a group of 21 newspapers, including the Star-Ledger in Newark, The Times-Picayune, in New Orleans, The Oregonian in Portland and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. 

Here is the rest of the background:


Keeping print relevant and sustainable

The quest to do more engaging work quickly led to management, cultural change, team building and the construction of workflows. Fix the machine to do better work.

I came to Advance Digital in 2015 and we set out to rethink how we make newspapers. As a result, we redesigned and launched 29 papers in 2016 with all new workflows. Efficiency increased over 20 percent on average. We also managed to draw some of the best talent to help improve our audience engagement.

We launched Gannett's Asbury Park Design Studio in 2011. The team put Gannett on the map for news design while producing over 20,000 pages per month for papers across the northeastern U.S. 

Before that, I led the visuals for print, digital and TV graphics at the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, FL; managed news design and graphics at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, AZ; and led the visuals at the Sun Journal in Lewiston, ME.

Management and coaching

Slides and promos for recent coaching presentations. StudioEDU was an effort to create coaching programs for all of the Gannett studios to share.

Build a better machine

Clients aren't receptive to our ideas until we win their confidence. Then talent needs to be developed, not just by hiring, but by building a creative culture supported by coaching. Strategies and workflows are established to make the work more effective so there is time for creativity. Products are redesigned and rebranded to be more audience-friendly, more sellable to advertisers and give designers a better canvas for their work. 

Manage as mentor

We've built a culture here where creativity can thrive and designers can feel safe to try their ideas. We don't demand good work. We inspire it. 

Coaching is one of my favorite parts of the business. Daily critiques, regular workshops and over-the-shoulder coaching give our designers opportunity to grow. Last year, we started StudioEDU, a coaching program for the Gannett studios. Some of the best work out of our studio was done by people who had never worked at a newspaper before.

Sell our ideas

You're really only as good as the work you manage to get produced. But it turns out that one can't just show up and have your really cool ideas welcomed with open arms. One often has to change the culture to make way for more innovative work.

"If You're Not Scaring Your Boss, You're Not Trying Hard Enough" is a  a series of lectures that came out of those efforts. Although the talks have been for visual journalists, the strategies are universal.

Build trust, align your arguments with building audience, push the boundaries on a regular basis and gradually desensitize the organizational fear of new ideas. 

Build a network

We are stronger together, so building networks has long been part of the strategy., the portfolio site for visual journalists, was created while I was in Maine, as a way to share ideas and see more work. Since 2002, the community has grown to over 8,000 members who have posted over 120,000 pages worldwide.

Now, we are networking journalists within the company so that they can collaborate and share their talents.


Downtown Port Clinton, Ohio, circa 1987. 20" x 24" silver print.


I used to have this romantic idea about small town community photography. In 1985, Amy and I bought an old camera shop in a resort town near the Lake Erie Islands and turned it into a gallery and studio, where we sold our work.

It turned out to be much more than joining the community there, as we also had to build our own community to help support our efforts. We learned to make accessible images that paid the bills so we could also pursue more personal work. We developed collectors across the country, taught workshops, took editorial and commercial assignments and shot stock for tourism clients. You can see some of the work here.

Sideshow banners

Palace of Illusion, a side show operated by Tim Deremer Productions, based in Ohio, ca. 1980. It featured a banner line of 17 banners. Among the shows I painted were Gabora the Gorilla Girl, Myrna the Mermaid and Strange Little People. Many of the original banners are still in use.

Adventures in lead-based paint

I started my creative career painting side show banners. At the time, I think there were three people in the country doing this work the traditional way. The initial banners, Painted for Tim Deremer productions, were based on the style of Fred Johnson, the old master of carnival banners. The work received a lot of attention from the media at the time and was shown in galleries, as well as the midway. The banners were painted from the late 70s to the early 90s. I still include this because it was the most fun you can have with a paint brush. American Pickers recently bough a couple of the originals on one of their recent episodes. 

The Human Blockhead, 7' x 8', Painted in 1983, Cleveland. One Shot lettering enamel, cut with boiled linseed oil, on canvas.

The Human Blockhead, 7' x 8', Painted in 1983, Cleveland. One Shot lettering enamel, cut with boiled linseed oil, on canvas.