Garden Design Magazine — Our Story
Recently, the story of Garden Design magazine was covered by Chantal Gordon at the Horticult. We thought it reflected our goals and mission at Garden Design perfectly, so we wanted to share it with you.
The new Garden Design magazine is so highly, gloriously visual that it’s almost fragrant. Its 132 pages join horticulture with the human-made, crisscrossing the U.S. for backyard glamour and expert advice, species spotlights and design tips. This past Summer issue represents the relaunch of the title, known for decades for its in-depth stories and spectacular images; the new leadership is manifested in cleaner design, photos with room to spread, an ace website, and completely ad-free pages.
The Autumn 2014 issue of Garden Design magazine.
For the behind-the-scenes scoop, we caught up with the magazine’s editor in chief Thad Orr for a brief Q&A.
GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY OF GARDEN DESIGN’S RELAUNCH
We read that the magazine was closing in the Wall Street Journal [in early 2013]. As fans of Garden Design we couldn’t believe such a wonderful magazine was closing. The new publisher, Jim Peterson, contacted the previous publisher, Bonnier, to see what was being done with the magazine. The next thing we knew, we were purchasing the company!
Thad Orr, Garden Design Editor in Chief.
We started traveling around the country to visit people who had been involved in the magazine, like past subscribers, photographers, writers, retailers and previous editors. In our conversations, it kept coming up that people love the printed magazine, the articles, the photography, and what Garden Design stood for. We decided to continue with the printed magazine with a few adjustments.
WHY DID YOU GO AD-FREE?
The advertising business can be difficult and at times it’s a situation where the tail wags the dog. We heard from the previous team that this was a challenging area and decided to forego advertising. We found that this model opened up a number of opportunities for us. For example, we feel that the design of the magazine is improved. We can run larger, high-quality, images without interruption. Because Garden Design is now completely reader supported, we only serve our readers in creating and delivering material they want to sit down with four times per year.
We will have 132 pages in every issue. This gives us the space to cover the topics we feel readers want most, including gardens, plants, designers and artists, solutions, style and furnishings, local events, and more.
WHEN GARDEN DESIGN TEAM SETS OUT TO CREATE AN ISSUE, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GOALS IN MIND?
Each issue now has two-to-three times as much content as the previous issues because there are no ads and more pages (132). This allowed us to do a number of things that we heard readers wanted. For one, since there are no ads, every article is uninterrupted. The magazine has a cleaner look that lets the photography and stories speak for themselves. We also have broader coverage of topics around the country because there is now space to cover a more geographically diverse set of gardens, plants, and design stories. The past editors, writers, and photographers did an incredible job with the material they produced. So we really want to continue doing what was done well and what readers respond to, do more of it, then take the magazine to the next level. We’ll consider it a success if we can be a voice of education and common language between the outdoor design community and homeowners.
Key members of the Garden Design team. From left: editor in chief Thad Orr, publisher Jim Peterson, social media director Dayna Springfield and director of communications Khara Dizmon. Photo by: The Horticult.
WE CAN’T WAIT TO SEE MORE OF YOUR ‘GARDENS ACROSS AMERICA’ SERIES — HOW DO YOU SELECT YOUR GARDENS FOR THIS SERIES?
These are showcase gardens. Some are rather large but the goal is to provide information and vignettes that provide takeaways for people interested in great outdoor design anywhere in the country. These gardens have distinct stories, material selections, plant choices, and are often designed by some of the best garden designers in the world.
WHAT REACTIONS HAVE YOU BEEN GETTING FROM READERS?
There’s been a tremendous response. Readers are responding to the balanced coverage we offer on outdoor design, horticultural expertise, and the people who design and install these world-class gardens. One common response from readers is that they are pleasantly surprised by the volume of information in the issue. I read an article a few weeks ago with Randall Lane, the editor of Forbes, discussing their recent announcement that the magazine hit record readership levels in the U.S. this year. Their focus, he explains, is on providing “deep dive” articles that their readers want. We are of the same opinion. Print is great for magazines that are highly visual in nature and where the readership wants expertly researched articles. The experience of sitting down to read detailed articles accompanied by full, two-page images, is better in print.
HEAR HEAR! ANY MEMORABLE STORIES BEHIND THE STORIES?
I recently watched a great documentary, Generosity of Eye, that Julia Louis-Dreyfus created about her father’s art collecting. What was most interesting to me was that she realized her father wasn’t just collecting the paintings, drawings, and sculptures (over 3,000); he was collecting the artists. He had these amazing relationships and ongoing dialogue with artists like Jean Dubuffet, Stone Roberts, Thornton Dial or George Boorujy, and they would feed off each other’s enthusiasm for the art. I guess that resonated with me because when working on the stories for the magazine, working with the talented people involved—the photographers, designers, gardeners, homeowners, writers, illustrators, and horticulture experts—was the most memorable part. Their energy is contagious and the stories about the creation of “garden artwork” are fascinating.