Lucky Peach, the much loved food magazine is sadly coming to an end. The magazine was co-founded in 2011 by writer Peter Meehan and restauranteur David Chang and consisted of long form articles, essay, interviews, recipes and illustrations. Every issue tackled a different theme ranging from ramen to Los Angeles to breakfast. The finale for Lucky Peach comes in the form of a double-issue: a 210-page celebration of Lucky Peach’s six year run featuring a selection of its best interviews, guides and recipes. We spoke to Lucky Peach’s art director, Rob Engvall about his time at the magazine and some of the decisions that helped form this final double-issue.
Rob joined the team two years ago as a designer – Devin Washburn was art director at the time – and the art team consisted of the two of them working on all print issues, designs for the website and cookbooks and many other projects. About a year later, Devin left and Rob took over as art director, at which point they brought on Stephen Lurvey as their designer and the pair “saw it all the way to the grave together.” As art director, Rob was in charge of all designs, layouts and contributions to the print magazine as well as overseeing photoshoots offsite and in their test kitchen in New York.
The gloomy greyish-black final cover is an ironic and sombre acknowledgement of the magazine’s “passing”, featuring a selection of the magazine’s various mastheads. Lucky Peach was known for changing said masthead once every four issues with illustrators and artists being given the freedom to give their creative spin on the logotype. Over their 24 issue run, the cover adorned the work of some amazing artists including Gary Panter and Robert Beatty, many of whom we’ve featured here at It’s Nice That. “The idea was to showcase these logos and run them off the page as if it’s being cut short. We wanted the whole issue to have a black on black funeral type vibe, which was kind of a nightmare for the printers,” says Rob, however in creating such a contrast to, not only other magazine covers, but their own previous covers, Lucky Peach have created something that really stands out.
The idea to do a double issue “just felt like the right thing to do,” as when it came to pulling out all the pieces of writing and art from the last six years for the “best of” issue, it was impossible to fit everything into their usual 134 pages. Walter Green, who was the first art director at Lucky Peach rejoined the team to help them tackle the mammoth task: “he knew most of the layouts from their original issues and just went to town reworking the original art for the pieces and creating a beautiful and cohesive last issue.”
As well as featuring Lucky Peach’s best articles, recipes and art from the last 24 issues, the final instalment does include a few new things. Brette Warshaw and Rachel Morino are described by Rob as the “the real unsung heroes of the magazine, making sure it actually got printed and sent to the people who paid for it.” They have an entire feature in the final issue detailing what it takes to actually get a small print magazine made – the crazy logistics and small things that people tend to overlook. A particular highlight of Rob’s is The Problem with Authenticity by Todd Kilman which was originally featured in the first ever issue. This time around, they scanned the original spreads, made no changes, and printed them.
Lucky Peach were well known for their distinctive and chameleon-like covers and as a way to celebrate the magazine’s legacy, we asked Rob to pick out his top five.
Issue 3: The Cooks and Chefs Issue
This leg of pork actually got tattooed for the cover, then eaten. Supposedly the tattoo stayed on there after roasting it too, pretty wild.
Issue 10: The Street Food Issue
Stephen Powers killed the art for this cover. Doesn’t really need much more explanation than that.
Issue 12: The Seashore Issue
Robert Beatty is so talented it amazes me. The back cover of this one is the best though, when the beach turns into some sort of outer space sci-fi madness only he could come up with.
Issue 18: The Versus Issue
Jack Sachs really nailed this, and I’m a sucker for that type on bright pink.
Issue 22: The Chicken Issue
We did this one ourselves, we got a “hen night” inflatable hat and shot it. I’m not sure who illustrated the hat in the first place but they did such a great job, its perfect.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.