'Dwell' Mag's New Editor: Sam Grawe

Aims for a 'Thoughful, Intelligent' Approach to Modern Design

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Three months ago, Dwell magazine saw Editor in Chief Allison Arieff leave after a reorganization, blaming a "fundamental change in the magazine's mission." Today President-Publisher Michela O'Connor Abrams promoted Sam Grawe, who had been executive editor since the reorganization, to assume the editor in chief position. Mr. Grawe is a six-year veteran of Dwell -- which recently appeared on the 2006 Advertising Age A-List -- has also written for Wired and Nylon, co-taught a design workshop at The University of Art and Design in Helsinki, and is one-half of an electronic music group called Windsurf.
Sam Grawe was named editor of 'Dwell.' He said the design mag's mission hasn't changed
Sam Grawe was named editor of 'Dwell.' He said the design mag's mission hasn't changed

About an hour after he officially assumed the post, Mr. Grawe answered a few questions from MediaWorks.

MediaWorks: When Allison Arieff left in August, she said there was an objectionable "fundamental change in the magazine's mission." What was the mission -- and what will the mission be on your watch?

Sam Grawe: The mission has been to make modern architecture and design as accessible as other subjects in the public domain. Our mission statement has been to bring modern design to everyone -- and it continues to be. If there's been a fundamental shift, it's more in the way that media companies are organized, including much more multiplatform work.

The magazine has to lead to way, but we're ramping up online and creating as much user-activated content there. We are doing a series of conferences called Dwell on Design. We have had the show on Fine Living, "Dwell TV." We no longer work with Fine Living but we continue to explore TV as a medium. We have the Dwell Homes by Empyrean as well. There are a lot of channels and we're going to continue to advance all of those, but in a thoughtful and intelligent way that reflects what the magazine is trying to achieve.

MediaWorks: Has the increasing attention to design among American consumers been double-edged for Dwell, with more interest offset by more competition?

Mr. Grawe: Competition obviously is great; the more people who are interested, the better. In 2000, there weren't blogs putting up new designs, homes and objects online every day. But there's also so much out there that it's impossible for one person to weed through it all. We provide a thoughtful, intelligent, curated approach to those things that are out there. We definitely have content that isn't anywhere else, because we have the means. And our approach is a little bit different. It has our voice and our style of photography.

Because of that explosion of design, though, there's this thought that modern design is just a fashion or a trend. We're not concerned with what's going to be hot next fall. We're more concerned with what's timeless.

MediaWorks: Dwell's vision has been pretty clear so far -- would you ever consider broadening its approach to include more styles or entirely new directions?

Mr. Grawe: If you look through the magazine, you'll find a lot of different styles. There's no cookie-cutter checklist or playlist we go by. It's more the collective personality of the creative team. Also that is formed by the individual interests and individual aesthetics of our team.

We're not as concerned about style as we are about showing what's new and how people tackle that and how to tell their stories. That makes architecture -- which is kind of a heady subject -- more approachable, because it's about people and their relationship with buildings.

MediaWorks: Any new features, columnists, sections in the works?

Mr. Grawe: We are planning a section based on rentals and what people have done to apartments or rental situations, where you're working in the constraints of what you can do according to your lease. It will have the same attention to aesthetics and detail that our other departments have.

We have a really broad audience, everyone from college kids in the architecture programs to 85-year-old painters who are lifelong modernists. We have a wide berth for what we can do. That's something that may have been missing from the magazine.
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