Jesse Marinoff Reyes:
We are saddened to learn of the passing of our friend and former colleague Dale Yarger—a terrific designer and one of my early role models.
A TRUE Northwest COVER OF THE DAY:… on the background of designer and art director Dale Yarger (also highlighted in a special gallery today). This is it, the True NW special issue of Seattle’s The Rocket magazine—the oft-referenced here and elsewhere, and subversively influential music publication that spawned so many creatives it would strain this entry to the breaking point to list them all .
“True NW” was a concept that the editors of The Rocket, Charles R. Cross and Grant Alden, developed as an alternative conceit to Seattle’s newsweekly, The Weekly (there was no The Stranger in 1988) and its “Best of Seattle” laundry listing of mostly mundane Seattle triviality (“best” power tea, anyone?). The Rocket convened a panel of experts—a definitively diverse and eclectic downtown group that included, among others, the novelist Tom Robbins, the post-beat poet Steven Jesse Bernstein, and congressional aide and longtime-Asian American activist Bob Santos. That being said, it fell upon me, the art director (at the time) to cobble together a feature that would involve lots of little pictures and lots of little paragraph blocks and lists. But wait, this issue also had The Rocket’s Bumbershoot Festival Guide, that would involve lots of little pictures and lots of little paragraph blocks and captions. But wait, this issue also would include a fashion supplement, that would… Well you get the idea. My associate art director Lisa Orth could handle the supplement, make it her own entity, a magazine inside the magazine. But added on top of the basic issue’s content meant I needed a little help getting the cover to happen—and I needed a heavy-hitter if True NW was going to succeed as a concept.
That heavy-hitter would be longtime Rocket contributor and former design associate (and future The Stranger art director, among many interesting endeavors), Dale Yarger. Yarger at this point had within a year or two, been the assistant art director of the aforementioned newsweekly, The Weekly. So an insider’s familiarity (and/or disdain) for that paper’s Best of Seattle list would make this a fun project—an opportunity for parody, or to do something that the other publication would not do. Pursuant to this, a nefarious idea on my part, would be to pair Yarger with the longtime contributing photographer for The Weekly, Kim Zumwalt. We had the idea that we wanted to make Tacoma’s landmark diner and nightspot, The Java Jive, the cover subject as it was the winner of Best Larger-Than-Life Roadside Monument (in the 1980s, many of these early-to-mid-century creations were still standing, like the giant Hat and Boots or the Twin Tepees). Beyond that, we left it to Yarger to conceive the design and direct the photographer.
Little did I foresee or even possibly imagine the concept that Yarger would execute—the pitch-perfect evocation and caricature of the classic format for National Geographic magazine, detailed so expertly it left managing editor Alden and myself momentarily speechless, then doubled over in glee. Note the vintage Geographic-styled illustrated border—no mere imitation, but festooned with Rockets and a mapping chart icon that signaled the Northwest, and including the Rocket’s indicia and it’s slogan, The World’s Greatest Magazine. The twilight shot of the Java Jive further enhanced the impact of the structure’s fanciful coffee pot shape into an icon of the kind of should-not-be-forgotten-monument that the statement-making True NW was all about.
The Rocket, September, 1988 issue
Design: Dale Yarger
Photograph: Kim Zumwalt
Art Director: Jesse Marinoff Reyes
November 1987 issue
Illustration: Carl Smool
Art Director: Dale Yarger
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