Chicago Guide

Chicago magazine | 2007 to 2011

From 2007 to 2011, I served as Chicago magazine’s events editor, producing a monthly arts and culture calendar known as the Chicago Guide. That’s a sample opening page of the section, below left—the original design that inspired the equivalent page in magazines from Texas Monthly to Down East. I also wrote the Chicago Guide’s front-of-book companion, Pocket Guide, my top picks for things to do each month, below right.

These examples are “afters,” the results of a self-directed project to overhaul the magazine’s events coverage. I started out asking three questions: First, whether a print magazine in a tough publishing climate still had room for an arts calendar; second, whether a print calendar could compete with websites updated daily; and, third, if the answer to the first two questions turned out to be yes, whether I could identify a competitive advantage.

In a sense, I went old school. I recruited a team of critics who drew on their encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and theater and contemporary art to anticipate which events would be worth readers’ time and money. But that’s also what made the result feel like such a breath of fresh air. The stringers and I waded through a never-ending onslaught of information so that our busy audience didn’t have to, and we made sure each 75-word snippet read like a complete story.

The output was a sophisticated, selective compendium that was reliable but not overwhelming, a curated and trustworthy resource that set itself apart from the data-farmed spam available elsewhere. We turned what could have been tedious fine print into a well-read section of the magazine that regularly sold out its adjacent ad pages, without stepping a toe over the ad-edit firewall. If I’m going on a bit, it’s because I’m proud of the final product. I took care.

chicago-guide-ex pocket-guide