Any longtime Voice reader, serious design nerd, or anyone who’s ever admired a magazine cover will likely recognize Robert Newman’s name. As the design director for this paper from 1991 to 1994, he designed some of the Voice‘s most iconic covers, including the one at right (you can see some more of them here).
Newman went on to design for a stable of huge magazines, including New York, Details, Entertainment Weekly, and Fortune; most recently, he served as the creative director at Reader’s Digest. His Newmanology Tumblr and Facebook showcase the best design work from magazines all over the country. When art directors get featured there, they tend to break out the celebratory tequila. He’s a legend, and a well-known mentor for younger editorial designers.
In March, while Newman and his nine-year-old daughter, Ivy, were in Florida visiting his mother, he suffered a serious accident. While they were at the pool, he had a seizure and collapsed, sustaining serious head trauma. While in the ICU, his brain started to hemorrhage. He fell into a coma for 18 days, and had to be placed on a respirator.
Eventually, Newman was stabilized enough to be flown back to New York. He spent two weeks in Weill Cornell Presbytarian Hospital’s neurological unit before being moved to NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases. After that, he stayed at Villagecare Rehabilitation Center for nearly a month before finally going home on June 6.
In the meantime, Newman’s friends and fans rallied. His friends and fellow designers Michael Grossman, Emily Smith, and Florian Bachleda set up a donation page, Friends of Bob Newman, with the goal of raising $50,000 to help pay for his mounting medical bills and treatment costs. To date, they’ve raised nearly $60,000.
Newman still doesn’t know much about what caused either the seizure or the fainting. “One of the things that I’m spending a lot of time doing now is getting tested to find out those answers,” he tells us. “It’s likely that the trauma of the head injury brought on the seizure, and right now the prevailing wisdom among my doctors is that it was some kind of heart problem, perhaps an arrhythmia, which caused the fainting. But nobody knows for certain. It’s probably better not to get too granular about those things, although I have been telling people that we’re digging deep to find the causes so that we can avoid any future problems.”
The good news is that, after months of recovery, Newman is on the mend, though it’s still an uphill battle. (Magazine lovers will be excited to see that Newman has also returned to blogging at both Newmanology and Robert Newman Design .)
In a letter sent out today, Newman thanked the Friends of Bob for their help, writing: “The support, messages, contributions, and general goodwill has been a major factor in my recovery. When things were darkest (and they were very dark for a long time), it was the outpouring of love and goodwill that helped keep me going and lifted my spirits.”
He also gave an update on his ongoing healing process:
My recovery is going slowly, but continues to progress in a positive direction. The great news is that the cognizant part of my brain is A-OK (or at least as good as it ever was). I did get a couple not-so-great scores on some recent neurological tests at NYU, but the doctor kindly suggested that perhaps it was because as an art director I am “primarily a visual person.” I’ll have to remember that excuse in the future! However, it does seem that the thinking part of me has recovered very well.
It’s the physical side of me that suffered the most damage, and that I continue to work on daily to get back into my pre-accident shape. I look a lot better on the outside than I did a few months back; most of the damage is hidden inside. There are still a lot of parts that aren’t functioning right or that are slow to recover, and I’ve been working through all kinds of therapy to try to make them better. One of the biggest problems has been that the accident left me unable to swallow food or fluids for almost six months, and I was forced to use a stomach feeding tube. Thanks to lots of swallow therapy, that tube is going to be removed in just a couple weeks.
My days are filled with doctors and tests, as they try to discover what caused the accident and how to deal with the problems that still exist. There are many months of rehab ahead, and although there have been setbacks along the way, I’m feeling hopeful that I’ll be able to return to a good level of health and activity. The therapy, and the day-in-day-out work that I’m putting in are all speeding the day when life can return to (nearly) normal–but this has only possible with the generous help of my friends and colleagues.
“Words fail me when I try to express how much your support has meant to me,” Newman adds. “I only hope that one day I can tell each of you in person just how much you’ve helped me and my family get through this time of deep struggle.”
In order to help out with Newman’s medical bills, editor Andrew Losowsky and art director Jeremy Leslie have put together a project called My Favo(u)rite Magazine, a publication about “the power of print,” in which they asked magazine makers from around the world to submit images and words about their favorite magazines.
Newman’s full letter is below. You can pick up My Favo(u)rite Magazine at Magculture. You can also still donate to Friends of Bob Newman here.
This story has been updated with comments from Bob Newman.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 18, 2013