The 5 O’Clock Split
When Phil Van Kirk joined The Taunton Press 18 years ago, he came on board as one of several production managers. Now as the senior production manager for the Newtown, Conn.-based publisher’s periodicals—Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, Fine Cooking, Fine Gardening and Threads—Van Kirk is responsible for getting those magazines onto the newsstand and into subscribers' mailboxes.
PE: Can you offer any practical tips for other production directors?
PVK: Keep a very good library—with samples of things you’ve done. Becoming a bit of a historian or librarian is really helpful. Collect some of the promotional stuff that the paper mills create, and tutorials on color and image resolution. I’ve also collected projects that we’ve done here. Just being able to show the people within our company some of the history has been a major help in giving them a sense of what is possible. Being a pack rat has paid off.
PE: What are some of the tricks you’ve picked up over the years?
PVK: It’s really a simple suggestion, but it’s saved my bacon a lot. I have a composition book—one of those things from Mead. It has a leopard-[print] black and white cover. I keep notes of phone calls and my to-do list. I just run it in chronological order of my commitments. When those things have finished, I gray them out slightly so I have a history of open projects and commitments I’ve made. Half the time, I can juggle fine with the assignments just in my brain. Having them down in writing has been instrumental in sorting out occasional disputes and problems.
Occasionally, you get so many interruptions throughout the day. I keep a ball of string in my desk, and I’ll put a no trespassing sign in my cubicle if I need a few hours. Once in a while, I have to do it.