No matter how enterprising its reporting may be, or how lyrical its writing, a magazine hasn’t earned a spot on your coffee table unless its stories are enlivened with handsome photography and illustrations and design. That’s what our art department strives to accomplish in every print issue and on our other storytelling platforms. And I’m proud to report that its work is earning recognition from our peers.

When the National Magazine Awards were presented in New York City in April, in three categories, including Best News and Entertainment Photograph, for a cover image that I’ll bet you remember—of . In the , to be presented in May, we’ve been short-listed in all seven of the art categories, including Cover Excellence and Excellence in Design. Finally, in June, when the Society of Publication Designers issues its annual prizes, we will compete as finalists in seven categories, including, for the fourth year in a row, Brand of the Year.

In earlier editor’s letters, I’ve introduced you to our creative director, Emily Kimbro, and design director Victoria Millner. Now I’d like you to meet the talented pros who work alongside them.

Jenn Hair Tompkins was promoted in March to art director, in a nod to the growing responsibilities she has taken on, including the design of complex editorial packages. A prime example is headed your way in the June issue, where we’ll publish a collection of stories about summer fun beyond the beach. Working closely with executive editor Kathy Blackwell, Jenn is deftly assembling a virtual jigsaw puzzle of fourteen stories and sidebars of varying lengths, along with accompanying illustrations, maps, and photos. In the current issue, you can see Jenn’s talents on display in our story about a young rancher who was . Work like this got Jenn (along with Victoria) named a finalist for Designer of the Year in the CRMA awards.

A native of Irvine, California, Jenn earned her BA at the University of Virginia and her master’s degree in photojournalism at the University of Texas. She joined Texas Monthly in 2017, after stints at San Antonio magazine and Austin Monthly. “I love city and regional magazines,” Jenn says, “because they cover everything from food and travel to politics and true crime.”

Kayla Miracle joined our staff as assistant photo editor last July, after impressing us with her work as a freelancer. Collaborating closely with other members of the art department, and with editors and writers, she assigns and edits most of the photos that appear in the print magazine and on our website. Setting up the cover image in the issue you’re holding, and the one of , this Fort Worth native and UT grad drew upon skills she developed while wrangling celebrities in Los Angeles for Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter. When she was staging Plemons at his home in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, Kayla was delighted to discover that “it was just a few blocks from the apartment where I lived a few years ago.”

Darice Chavira picked up her first digital camera while attending high school in Spring Branch, north of San Antonio. She was instantly hooked on photography, which she went on to study at UT while pursuing a degree in journalism. We hired her straight out of college to work in our custom-
publishing department. Then, in 2021, Emily hired her to work as an art producer. “Her eagle eyes are the last ones on all of our pages, on the editorial side, before they move to the printer,” Emily says, “and in every issue she saves us from mistakes, like, say, a stray bolded comma.” While broadening her skills, Darice has never lost her passion for photography, so she’s shifting into a role that allows her to work more with Kayla on photo assignments and shoots.

I hope you enjoy this issue, and especially the handiwork of our art department.

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Bringing Stories to Life.”