Illustrate Me for February

Illustrate Me for FebruaryOne of the advantages of being employed at The New York Times is that I get access to some of the best design minds out there. And by access, I mean I can walk right up to them (if they’re not busy) and talk to them, and they’ll actually talk back to me. It’s pretty awesome. If they’re a talented designer working in publishing, at some point or other, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll come work at The Times, at least for a spell.

With a little bit of cajoling, once in a while I somehow manage to get a few of these designers to contribute to Illustrate Me, my ongoing project where I invite outside contributors to create illustrations for’s monthly archives pages. It’s a kind of windfall when I pull it off, sort of like getting a Major League ballplayer to join you for a game of stickball.

Last year, Op-Ed art director Brian Rea turned in a fantastic piece for the June 2006 archives. This time out, I’m lucky enough to have a brand new piece for the February 2007 archives from none other than Nicholas Blechman. See it for yourself on the archive page.

In addition to being the Art Director for The New York Times Book Review, Nicholas is one of the most prolific and talented young art directors and illustrators out there. He’s amassed an impressive body of work in design and illustration, some of which you can see at I’ve long been a fan of his spare, exceedingly intelligent and yet satisfyingly simple approach to visual communication, and as ever, I feel very fortunate he was able to create something typically splendid for display here.

Right: Spray it loud. Nicholas Blechman’s Illustrate Me. See it at full size on the February 2007 archive page.
Illustrate Me for February by Nicholas Blechman

No Way to Start the New Year

You can read my brief interview with Nicholas below, but before you do, one housekeeping note. I fell somewhat behind in commissioning Illustrate Me work towards the end of last year, and so you may notice that this latest entry actually skips over January’s archives. This is my attempt to catch up, as it were, and get back on a reasonably accurate schedule. For the time being, I’m leaving January un-illustrated, and I think I’m going to do a little pinch-hitting myself and fill it in with one of my own drawings, for a change. That should come real soon. As soon as I get all of this other stuff done.

Questions for Nicholas Blechman

Khoi Vinh

What was your inspiration for January’s Illustrate Me?

Nicholas Blechman

Cleaning my closet I found a can of spray paint with a diagram showing how to spray and I thought, “That’s a good metaphor.”


Do you think of yourself as an illustrator or a designer? Or are they inseparable activities for you?


Actually I think of myself as an art director-illustrator, who sometimes has to be a designer…


How you define the difference between an art director and a designer?


It’s a fine line. The art director is responsible for visual content, like asking an illustrator each month to draw three posts. The designer sets up the format, establishes the grid, makes it happen.