Magazines Still Play a Role. An Interview with Stephanie Mennella @ Seattle Magazine

Northwest native, Stephanie Mennella says she learned everything she knows from the staff at Vogue. Her years living in New York and working in the empire of fashion was everything you might imagine it would be; rigorous, exciting, and wonderful. Living in mid-town and she would walk to Conde Nast each morning, getting coffee along the way and soaking up a city buzzing with the energy of a new day.

In time after the birth of her sons, she began to realize how her ability to raise a family and do her job to the level that was expected, were in conflict. "At Vogue you worked until the work was done and that doesn't work with a newborn so well."

So, Stephanie made her way back to Seattle, seeking the support system of her family, and brought her immense talent and skills with her. She found satisfying work at Journey Magazine, the AAA bi-monthly, she earned her several award nominations. Years later, she feels she has found her dream job - Art Director at Seattle Magazine.


Stephanie Mennella

"This is exactly what I have always wanted. Even when I first moved here, I wanted to be with Seattle Magazine. Because I just admire this magazine. I like the editorial. I like the quality. I like the images. The reputation. It's quality, quality, quality, across the board."

It wasn't an easy job to get. After many interviews and design tests, she realized she had to give it everything she had and go beyond what was expected. "Initially when I was interviewing for this job I was comfortable at Journey. It was a great job, great flexibility. After two design tests for Seattle Magazine, they said, 'We don't know. We're not quite sure.' "

"I got really upset on that night. As I was going for a run on my treadmill on the following Sunday morning, mid run – I am not joking, I actually stopped – which is rare for me. I said, No! I deserve it!" She banged her fist on the table for emphasis, and continued, "I am going to have to go back. They don't expect anything else of me. But I am going to show them what I am really made of. I know I have the talent. I stayed up until 1 am working on new layouts. I sent them over to them, and I said, 'You are missing a great opportunity. I think this is finally right. I am supposed to be there.'  And then they hired me. You have to fight for it."

Stephanie knows what it means to dig in and give a job all you've got, but she also feels like the magazine provides a healthy environment that is supportive of parents creating a happy and stable life for their children. The location is closer to home and she is spending less time behind the wheel, that she can devote not just to her kids, but to creating great design.

"Flexibility matters to me and that is something I have put out there each time I have interviewed for a job. And luckily it has worked out. I think this city is a little more accommodating that way. There are a lot of moms on the staff and we all get it. The work life balance here is really great. I appreciate that because I don't have to feel guilty. I get my work done. It's 9 to 5:30 and then I go home and I have my family life."

Stephanie has been a member of AIGA since she moved to Seattle. "I wanted a greater community of like-minded people on the West Coast. In New York, I always felt surrounded by people in publishing and the arts industry. And I didn't feel that so much here, probably because I was either commuting or at my desk." She doesn't attend too many events as her schedule is jam packed, but she feels a need for the editorial community to come together to discuss how their business is changing and how they can work together to keep it fresh.

"Magazines will always stick around. They have to. They are too pivotal. They tell you too much about what is going on. I battle the dialogue about magazines dying all the time. There are reasons that people keep buying magazines and there are reasons that they go online. We need to keep creating and moving it forward and changing magazines enough that people want to buy them."

Stephanie's hopes young designers will seek jobs in publishing. Her advice on how to get in the door is to start at the bottom and work hard. "Doing an internship at a magazine really works. You can see how they work. That is half the battle. Start as an admin. Read magazines a lot. Know magazines like the back of your hand. I was an assistant at Bon Appetit for six months. I hated opening mail and getting coffee but I had to do it. Start at the bottom – make those copies. I learned a lot seeing Anna Wintour work through a layout – she is so hands on. You can't help but be a sponge, you just can't."

By Harmony Hasbrook
Published April 2, 2013