500 Designs For The New York Times
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500 Designs For The New York Times

Bob Hambly's 500th drawing for the magazineSince January 2006, quirky black-and-white brushstroke illustrations have graced the back page of the The New York Times Magazine. The work is that of Toronto-based designer and OCAD teacher Bob Hambly, who just completed his 500th illustration—a bus—for the prestigious Sunday newspaper supplement.
“Even after twelve years, I still get that little pang in my stomach each time a new story is sent to me,” he says. “I feel a great sense of responsibility for the page. After all, it is the New York Times.”
The magazine publishes feature-length articles and scribblings from a variety of well-known contributors, including Albert Einstein, Elmore Leonard, Pulitzer-winning journalist William Safire, and even sitting American Presidents. The Lives column featuring Bob Hambly’s work presents curious stories of everyday people, and the bus drawing illustrated an article about a 1966 ride on a Greyhound.
Some of Bob Hambly's favourite illustrations from the magazine's back page
The subject of the weekly illustration is always a discussion between the artist, the editor of the page, and the magazine’s art director—and deadlines can get pretty hairy. “On occasion, I’ve only had several hours for sketches and a final,” Hambly told Torontoist, though he normally has a mere two days from start to finish.
“I was thrilled [in 1996] to hear that they were going to use my illustrations on a weekly basis, but I had no idea how long it would last for. I believe the longevity of the Lives page is really a testament to the stories themselves—it’s the people’s voice of the magazine.”
Oshawa-born Hambly has lived in Toronto since 1980, and is the co-founder and creative director of design firm Hambly & Wooley. His work has also appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Time, InStyle, House & Garden, and Martha Stewart Living magazines.
UPDATE: Bob Hambly has informed us that, as of May, The New York Times will be debuting the work of a different illustrator for the magazine’s back page. “I’ve always known that at some time it’s going to end,” he told the National Post. “I’m not shocked, but it’s the kind of thing you’d love to go on forever.”
Tip o’ the chapeau to Canadian Magazines. Images used with permission.