The New Icons

State of the Art

A Q&A with Hannah McCaughey, our creative director

For McCaughey, the biggest reward has been the life she and her family have made in Santa Fe. (Leah Woodruff)
Photo: Leah Woodruff hannah mccaughey

Since joining Outside as creative director in October 2001, Hannah McCaughey has designed 224 covers, 1,120 feature stories, and thousands of other pages. She began her career at Esquire and Rolling Stone but made the switch to Outside with aplomb. Under her direction, this magazine has received nods and medals from the American Society of Magazine Editors, the Society of Publication Designers, American Illustration, and American Photography, among others. But for McCaughey, the biggest reward has been the life she and her family have made in Santa Fe.

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Outside: What made you take the leap to work at Outside? 
McCaughey: I was ripe for a break from the subway and ready to up my game from jogging in Central Park to real mountain sports.

What was the hardest part of the transition?
When I first arrived, some editors worried that I didn’t have enough dirt under my fingernails. It didn’t help that I didn’t know any of the lingo. (Shred? Pow? Dawn patrol?) The challenge for me has been to evolve the visuals without going too far. But creative directors should break rules and make sure the art is never boring. Otherwise, why bother cutting down the trees?

What’s your favorite part of the monthly production cycle?
I totally flip out when illustrations or photographs come in and are above and beyond what I had dreamed they would be. It’s a high like none other.

Sixteen years is a crazy-long time to be at one magazine. What’s made you stay?
This job continues to push and inspire me. For example, in 2014 I started shooting photos for layouts—and I still have so much more to learn. Meanwhile, I got married and built a house, and our two kids were born here.

What’s been the biggest change at the magazine since you started? 
Media and digital entertainment have gotten so much better, so we have to work harder to make our way of life a more appealing—dare I say sexier—choice. Spending time outside makes you happier and healthier. We know this, but people forget. My job is to provide visuals that remind them.

Why are all the women on this month’s cover dressed in white? 
I associate white with suffragettes, of course. But I also thought it would look really beautiful to have one color.

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