By Design: An Update on Audubon Magazine

After nearly two decades, one creative era draws to a close, and another begins. 

As wildlife photographer Joel Sartore, who shot the California Condor on the cover of this issue, put it: “Smart. Visionary. Decisive. Bold. You could always tell when Kevin Fisher had his hand in things.” That's certainly true of Audubon, which has set a design standard not just for conservation magazines but also for glossies across the media landscape. And that's true of Audubon, which, building upon its esteemed roots in American illustration, has become synonymous with striking visuals of the birds and habitats the organization strives to protect.

Fisher's guiding force as creative director, a two-decade tenure that recently drew to a close, will be missed by those who worked with him here. “After every conversation with Kevin, I come away feeling smarter and more aware,” says field editor Kenn Kaufman. “I think his influence has permeated Audubon's whole operation, helping all of us to engage with issues in a more inventive and thoughtful way.”

It has rippled outside of the organization too. “The world of illustration is always changing, and Kevin has used kindness, enthusiasm, skill, taste, and perseverance to help move it forward,” notes Eric Nyquist, who created the Belted Kingfisher above for “The Illustrated Aviary”—the clever reimagining of John James Audubon's original watercolors that Fisher conceived and developed for Audubon's back page. (To view the full archive, go to

Though Fisher is stepping away from his job, his legacy will continue in a tangible way: via the Fisher Prize, which will be added to the Audubon Photography Awards next year. It will recognize the most creative image—one that, like Fisher­ himself, pushes the traditional canon of bird photography to new heights. “I thought of Kevin when I shot, and felt free to take chances,” says Sartore. “I still do.” That's the spirit the award will honor.

Rest assured, Audubon's beautiful photography and bold design aren't going anywhere. They will simply evolve under the exciting leadership of our new art director, Kristina Deckert. Though she's already expertly designed many stories for the magazine, this issue is her first at the helm. Keep an eye on your mailbox—you'll soon recognize the telltale signs of her sure hand, too.

This story originally ran in the Spring 2018 issue as “By Design.” To receive Audubon magazine in print, become a member by making a donation today.