Fashion-forward summer in NYC with Harper’s Bazaar

By DerekKucynda

The fashion magazine industry might strive for perfection, but it’s not as bad as The Devil Wears Prada makes it seem.

With tons of applicants hoping to land a summer internship at Harper’s Bazaar, only two interns were chosen to work in the magazine’s art department,  located in Midtown Manhattan. One of the interns was senior graphic design major David Held. His responsibilities included laying out pages and maintaining “the book.” With a flair for fashion and an eye for detail, Held dabbled in many different magazine classes at Columbia before tackling the Big Apple for 11 weeks.

The Chronicle recently sat down with Held to talk about the skills he learned at Columbia and how they helped him obtain an internship in the aggressive world of fashion journalism.

The Chronicle: How did you find this amazing internship?

David Held: It started with a search on a Web site called Ed2010. It’s a mostly journalism Web site based for jobs and internships. It started by e-mailing the HR department for Harper’s Bazaar, which is owned by Hearst Corporation. From there, I got e-mails back from the art department and they requested design samples from me. So I sent in probably about 12 different works that I’ve done mostly here at Columbia [and] also from previous internships. Then I had a series of interviews after that and the whole process lasted about two weeks. The middle of March is when they called me and offered me the spot.

What sort of responsibilities did you have while working at Harper’s Bazaar?

DH: I was one of their art interns. My main priority every day was making sure “the book” was up to date. “The book” is just like The Devil Wears Prada, a mock-up of the issue that we’re working on currently and usually they work about one to two, sometimes three months in advance before an issue comes out. When I first started, I was looking at the August book, back when I started in May. Anytime any glare was changed, any of the articles were edited, any headlines changed—taglines, captions, anything like that changed—I was responsible for updating that for the editor-in-chief. I made “the book” for her and delivered that to her. I was also in charge of updating the walls for the art department to see how the issue is coming [along]. I also got to do layouts, so I did about 10 layouts during my time there in the September, October and November issues.

Is the fashion magazine industry really as cut throat as the media portrays it to be?

DH: Yeah, I think it is. I’ve been asked every time people talk to me about the internship about whether these magazines are like the movies. Everybody asks me if it’s like The Devil Wears Prada and my answer is always yes. I don’t think I would label the industry as mean; cut throat is probably a good word, but makes it sound a little bit mean. I think everybody in the fashion magazine industry is a perfectionist and strives for perfection in what they do. There was a lot of hype around the editor-in-chief, just like in The Devil Wears Prada. When she walked in, everybody kind of froze up and pulled their act together. But in the same light, that it is very similar to these movies, it is also very different. The editor-in-chief isn’t flying around with 12 assistants to couture shows and she’s not giving away free merchandise at all. So it’s maybe not as glamorous as they make it seem.

Being a graphic design major, what magazines or publications do you like?

DH: My favorite magazines, I guess, in [terms of] what I have been doing in fashion are GQ, Details and Esquire, for men’s fashion. I would love to work someday for Vanity Fair. I love their political view and way of reporting. The way that they write their magazine is really actually stunning and the overall design … is something that I would love to contribute to.

How did your previous work at Columbia help you with this internship?

DH: I had known from the get-go that I wanted to work in a fashion magazine. I’ve always been really interested in fashion and fashion journalism and everything that goes along with the industry, so I had prepped from freshman year. I started taking classes in the Journalism Department here within magazine journalism and then some magazine classes, as well—fashion, too. So I wanted to be really well-rounded and take classes within every realm in the industry, so I knew exactly [what] to expect when I got out of here. I’m really glad that I did that. I think that helped a lot when I got to New York and started the internship. I knew a lot about garments. I knew a lot about the fashion industry, aside from just journalism, but I also knew a lot about layout … page design and page layout just from the class I geared up for.

It sounds like you had an edge over your competition.

DH: Toward the end of the internship, I was kind of gutsy enough to ask how many people were considered for the internship. There’s tons and tons of applicants that apply for the summer because everybody wants internships while they’re free and not in class. [The editor-in-chief] had mentioned that there’s a ton of people who had applied, but she always looks for some sort of edge or knowledge of the industry from all different angles.

That must be really exciting to see your own work on display.

DH: It was really weird the first time I had done the layout. My first layout I started probably three weeks into the internship and I did the page, got it cleared and sent it through the whole chain of command. It goes through the rotation for edits like five times. To see it published in the September issue is really weird to see it on screen and then printed out and then physically published and circulating through the nation. It’s pretty cool.

How did you first get involved with graphic design?

DH: I actually started school as musical theater and vocal performance and that’s what I originally came to Chicago for. And then senior year of high school, when I was deciding where to go for school and I was applying to all these schools for musical theater and vocal performance, I realized that I really enjoy journalism. I was the editor-in-chief of our high school newspaper and managed most of the design aspect of it and realized that I really enjoyed newspaper layout and wanted to get more into layout design. So I planned originally on coming to Columbia for journalism, hoping to take more emphasis on the design layout of their newspaper or magazine and then realized that graphic design would be a better route obviously because that’s where you’re learning all the technical aspects of how to design more than just one finite view of page layout.

Who are your influences and how do they affect your design work?

DH: I have a lot of different influences and each season it changes. I draw a lot of inspiration from different designers, so it’s always different. I’ll get into kicks where I really will study into typographers or random artists.

How were you able to afford to live in NYC?

DH: I subletted from somebody, so I lived in an apartment right in Midtown Manhattan, a five-minute walk from my work, which is great. Now that I’m back, I’m definitely really thankful for what I have here and how much I pay for it because my rent was about double in New York for a shoebox apartment.

What do you like or dislike about NYC?

DH: I love the fast-paced motion of the city. I think it really does never sleep. There’s never a spot in Manhattan that ever slows down. The only dislike I really had was the fact that it was really dirty. They don’t have alleys like Chicago does, so there’s no space for dumpsters, so all the trash just goes onto the sidewalk. The sidewalk, if it’s normally five feet wide, is taken over by two feet of trash and there’s no place to walk. It gets pretty frustrating at times in the summer. Obviously, the heat and the trash combined makes a horrendous stench.

What do you like to do for fun?

DH: I really enjoy shopping, as you can imagine. That’s one of my hobbies. Hanging out with friends. I’m surprisingly into sports, just watching them, not playing them. But yeah, I really care a lot about friends and the relationships that I’ve built over these years. So a lot of my free time is mostly spent with friends.

What’s your favorite sport?

DH: My favorite sport to play is Volleyball and my favorite sport to watch is baseball. I could always use a good Cubs game.