The highly regarded Mr. Woodward, a 14-year veteran of Wenner Media, will begin his new role in late November, and will replace the Conde Nast title's current design director, Arem Duplessis, who is leaving GQ.
"It's a huge defection," said a Wenner Media staffer. Wenner Media this year has been roiled by rounds of layoffs and intense expense cutbacks; some senior-level editorial staffers are no longer allowed to expense lunches or magazine purchases.
GQ editor in chief Art Cooper said he had been "trying for 14 years" to lure Mr. Woodward to his title. "I think he's the best in the business." Asked how he was finally able to win Mr. Woodward over this time, Mr. Cooper jested, "I guess we wore him down."
Mr. Woodward did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Mr. Woodward has won numerous plaudits for his work. In 1996, he became the youngest inductee into the Art Director's Club Hall of Fame. At the time, Jann Wenner, chairman of Wenner Media, said Mr. Woodward was "truly a visionary in the field of magazine art direction."
During Mr. Woodward's tenure, Rolling Stone won the National Magazine Award for design in 1989 and for photography in 1988 and 1995. His visual sense made him a popular poaching target; among the magazines that came calling for him over the years, according to people familiar with the situation, was Vanity Fair and ESPN the Magazine, which Mr. Woodward came close to leaving Wenner for in advance of its spring 1998 launch.
A GQ spokeswoman could not say whether Mr. Duplessis would remain with the company. A Wenner Media spokesman said no replacement for Mr. Woodward had been decided.