Robin Derrick: My Life In Media

Robin Derrick, 42, is the creative director of British Vogue. Over 20 years in the industry his eye for style has worked on Vogue's German, Russian, Spanish and Japanese editions as well as co-editing three photography books and showing his own work. He has twice been voted the PPA Magazine Designer of the Year, lives in London and has one son, Luke.
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The Independent Online

Really, it was record covers: David Bowie on the back of Ziggy Stardust and everything about them. Roger Dean books and Hipgnosis (a 1970s design team responsible for the Pink Floyd record covers) led to an interest in graphic design. Then, as 16-year-old A-level student at Filton Tech in Bristol, I found an October 1976 Diamond Jubilee copy of Vogue with a cut-glass logo, plain red cover and pictures by Guy Bourdin and David Bailey; I put all the pictures on my wall. And in order to meet girls in the fashion department at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, I designed some clothes for its Alternative Fashion Show, which I photographed. This led me to i-D magazine and I met Terry Jones. He'd been the art director of Vogue and had done the 1976 cover that I had seen when I was 16. On his desk was the cut-glass Vogue logo.

When you were 15, what was the family newspaper and did you read it?

The Sunday Times, which was a window on the world from Keynsham near Bristol. I remember lots of things - the Vietnam Don McCullin cover with the picture of the wounded soldiers to interior shoots and Guinness ads, and the very exotic half-page black and white Gitanes cigarette ads that I thought were so chic.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

Tomorrow's World and Top of the Pops.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

The alarm clock wakes me to the Today programme, very loud, and John Humphrys is usually irritating enough to get me up. I read The Independent pretty much every day.

What's the best thing about your job?

Having an idea and then being able to do it. I have always loved the pace of magazines: do one, on to the next. The great thing for me about Vogue is you get to work with some of the top creative talent out there.

And the worst?

Working with some of the top creative talent.

What is the proudest achievement in your working life?

Getting the Vogue job and keeping it.

And your most embarrassing moment?

All the times I have been really full of myself and banged on about what I was doing at dinner parties.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I don't really watch much TV but for news I usually check BBC News 24. I watch stuff on DVD and I like some of the American dramas. I'm a huge fan of The West Wing.

What is your Sunday paper and do you have a favourite magazine?

I chop and change Sunday papers and usually buy a few. I look at a lot of fashion magazines but the magazine I enjoy hitting my desk the most is the Chevy Times - I am a car fanatic.

Name the one career ambition that you want to realise before you retire

I just want to carry on and do good stuff, though I'm slightly haunted by the idea that I may have peaked.

If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?

I'd love to be a historian.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I have some art director heroes. Marvin Israel is the lesser-known art director who followed Alexey Brodovitch at American magazine Harper's Bazaar in the 1960s - creatively, the most beautiful period of the magazine, to my eye. Also I respect the career of David King, who was the art director of The Sunday Times, which I loved growing up. He commissioned himself to shoot Muhammad Ali for The Sunday Times and produced a beautiful book called I Am King with the pictures. He went on to do all the Rock against Racism and Anti-Nazi League design work and now works with his incredible archive of Russian design and photography, which has a dedicated room in Tate Modern. To have a cultural and a politicised career as an art director is quite an achievement.

The CV

1984 Graduates from St Martins, where he had worked on fledgling style magazine i-D, to take a job at The Face

1986 Made creative director of The Face and goes on to art direct international titles including Italian Elle, French Glamour and Arena in the UK

1987 Moves to Milan and then Paris with Studio Box, his fashion-oriented design and art direction studio, which produces magazines and advertising

1993 Returns to London to take up the position of art director on British Vogue

1998 Appointed creative director of Russian Vogue and oversees its launch

2001 Reaches the top of the design ladder, becoming British Vogue's creative director

2004 His first solo exhibition as a photographer, Big Head, shows in Paris

2005 Applies his talents to the online, Europe-wide photography exhibition, www.pspmybeauty.com

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