Four lessons from crafting Silicon Valley’s innovation bible
Many members of the team here at Godfrey Dadich spent years building tech’s leading innovation bible as editors, writers, designers, producers, and operations experts at wired. We know the art of crafting a cover story and the science of building an audience. Here are four lessons from that experience that inform our work every day after day.
Lesson 1: It Starts With Story
Scott Dadich isn’t a spy, but that day in Moscow put his tradecraft to the test. As wired’s editor in chief, Scott had traveled to Russia to meet Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program. The sit-down had come together only after months of negotiation, and with Snowden still on the run, secrecy was paramount. Finally, the day arrived, and Scott found himself waiting nervously in a Russian hotel room, blackout curtains drawn, for Snowden to arrive.
“Reflexively, I reached into my left pants pocket for my iPhone, but it wasn't there. For half a second, my heart fluttered, but then I remembered that I had left the phone at home so it couldn't be tapped. For the purposes of this trip, I only had an 800-ruble burner, now sitting quietly on the hotel nightstand, its Cyrillic menu unintelligible to me.”
Snowden knocked on the door, alone and at ease for a wanted man. He was knowledgeable, articulate, and friendly. (“Call me Ed.”) And together with world-renowned photographer Platon, Scott and the wired team crafted one of the most arresting stories and covers in the pioneering magazine’s 25-year history.
At wired, everything starts with the story. And to get the best stories, you have to go to the greatest lengths. At Godfrey Dadich, that same commitment to story is embedded in our DNA.
Two years after Scott met Ed Snowden, he and GDP Head of Editorial Rob Capps (then wired's editorial director) found themselves in a very different room for a very different interview, though almost as tricky to arrange. President Barack Obama had agreed to become the first sitting president to guest-edit a major publication, wired's November 2016 issue. Scott and Rob sat down with the president in the Roosevelt Room at the White House to unpack 44’s vision of technology and a better future. The result was one of wired's proudest achievements, an issue thick with optimism, anchored by the president’s powerful editor’s letter, “Now Is the Greatest Time to Be Alive.” It’s a conviction we still hold to in this time of great change and tumult, a belief that better stories will guide us to a better future.
From its first issue in 1993, wired has always insisted that stories about innovation demand to be told in innovative ways. Design at wired has always been integral to the storytelling. It’s how a narrative finds its voice and shows its audience the way—literally how a story takes shape. The design process is necessarily rigorous, because every story has a unique form that you can only find through experimentation and iteration. But the reward is an experience where form and function come together to create something singular and unforgettable.
Godfrey Dadich Partners Creative Director Allie Fisher and Design Director Margaret Swart helped create some of wired’s most memorable issues, from Obama and Snowden to the Future of Work and the rise of artificial intelligence. Working with guest editor Bill Gates, wired’s design team crafted a cover-to-cover design system for navigating the Microsoft co-founder’s search for big ideas to solve the planet’s biggest problems. During her tenure, Margaret oversaw the redesign of wired magazine itself, creating a clean, simple page structure that was flexible enough to allow every article to become a bespoke creation. Allie, meanwhile, was a key member of the team that completely overhauled the design of wired's website. She also helped oversee the design executions of wired's social media presence and live events.
Under Scott’s leadership, wired’s designers deployed art, text, video, graphics, and interactivity under the tenets of Wrong Theory—his guiding philosophy of observing best practices with utmost precision up to the point where you push the medium forward by getting the rules exactly wrong. It’s an approach that netted four National Magazine Awards for design and drove a surge in engagement, growing wired’s overall audience by 50 percent and tripling its social media reach.
wired invested deeply in graphics and visualizations as a mode of storytelling on equal footing with other formats. In-depth data visualizations told the stories of global bot attacks and the market penetration of consumer electronics. Multi-page graphic-driven features illustrated the rise of same-day delivery and the technology in development for settling Mars. Flowcharts, maps, and timelines all served to illuminate new ideas and explain intricate concepts in accessible, entertaining ways.
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wired seeks out the finest photographers on Earth to create the engrossing imagery it has become famous for.
wired has long been famous for its images, whether it’s documentary-style work, intimate portraits, pieces that put across bold ideas and concepts, or striking product imagery. Rosey Lakos, Godfrey Dadich Partners’ Director of Photography, oversaw award-winning feature stories and covers, assigning photographers, producing, and selecting the perfect pieces of existing imagery to help tell a story. In addition to talented staff photographers, Rosey worked with singular talents Dan Winters, Cait Oppermann, Joe Pugliese, Elinor Carucci, Platon, and Art Streiber.
Lesson 4: Where You Tell Stories Matters
From its founding days, wired foretold an era of ubiquitous networked computers that would change every aspect of our lives—an era that wired itself was instrumental in bringing to fruition.
As Creative Director at wired beginning in 2006, Scott outlined a vision of how a magazine could be reimagined for a tablet device—well before Apple released the iPad. While vice president of editorial platforms for Condé Nast, Scott put that vision into action. He conceived and led development of the groundbreaking wired and New Yorker apps, creating a publishing platform that became the industry standard. Later, as editor in chief at wired, Scott and his creative team worked closely with Apple ahead of the launch of Apple News to develop design systems for feature content.
Scott also oversaw an ambitious, Webby Award-winning redesign of wired’s website to enable a seamless cross-platform experience on desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile. The redesign streamlined a site that began publishing content online in the earliest days of the web (and ran the web’s first-ever banner ad). An elegant new site structure built around the concept of a layered interface strata offered modular layouts for different content types and improved workflow for a newsroom that published up to 50 stories a day. The new platform enabled editors and designers to create customized longform features with rich interactivity while also providing templates for high-cadence breaking news as well as infographics and new types of ad placements, among other innovations. The new site also added three highly successful new verticals: transportation, video, and photo. The redesign and content expansion helped wired shatter viewership records, surpassing a billion total page views in under a year.
As video lead at wired, Godfrey Dadich Partners Executive Producer Paula Chowles built an agile, scalable video operation for the entire range of wired storytelling, from in-depth journalism and interviews with the world’s top innovators, as well as celebrity profiles, humor, and analysis of the latest news. The numbers tell the story: Video views quintupled. The narratives also tell the story, from the race to run a two-hour marathon to the cast of Silicon Valley on the absurdity of tech startup names, from drone racing to an animated explanation of automation. Video brings together storytelling chops with technical know-how, reflecting the range of capabilities that Godfrey Dadich brings to every engagement.