The key element of this mini-monograph project is the actual artist research that we have carried out. So using an array of articles online and the Hall of Femmes book, I have compiled a history of her design work for my monograph.
Ruth Ansel has been a woman of firsts in magazine design. In the 1960s, when she was 24, she and Bea Feitler became co-art directors of Harper’s Bazaar. The in the 1970s, she was made art director of The New York Times Magazine, in the 1980s, Vanity Fair. At each magazine she was the first woman in the position of art director. Now she runs her studio, Ruth Ansel Design. For a while she was one of the great unsung heroes of magazine design until 2010 when she was the first designer featured in the Hall of Femmes, then in 2016 became a AIGA medalist.
Harper’s Bazaar was and still is considered one of the most influential fashion magazines in America. Ansel managed to get her foot in the door even without having a graphic design portfolio, they took a risk on her. This risk paid off when she was made co-art director of the magazine along with Bea Feitler. Both of the women were in their early twenties and so they were met with skepticism by a male-dominated industry. However this didn’t hold them back, before long they were modernising the magazine with pop art, street fashion, rock and roll and film.
Bea Feitler left Bazaar in 1969, and in 1974 Ansel went to The New York Times Magazine. She went from working for one influential magazine to another influential newspaper, which was a daunting task but an exciting project for her to bring the Sunday magazine into the 20th century. She’s always kept her design contemporary and this was no different, she aimed to reflect the times and distinguish new voices in visual journalism. Part of her process of choosing visual talent from month to month was hiring people who were smarter than her, so she could be the student and develop her own skills throughout her career.
In 1984, Ansel joined Vanity Fair as art director just as Tina Brown was taking over as editor and revitalized the magazine, creating a living record of the Hollywood-obsessed, go-go 1980s, as seen through the lens of Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, and Annie Leibovitz. Her time at the magazine working with Brown meant endless nights in the art department as they were to prepare up to three issues worth of work for every issue before the content was decided on.