20 Questions for… Menachem Weinreb

Menachem Weinreb, creative director at Mishpacha since 2009

Menachem Weinreb, creative director at Mishpacha since 2009, blends art with soul. When he’s not crafting stunning layouts, you’ll find him delving into deep Kabbalah texts — always with a stash of chocolate close by.

My ideal work environment

Wherever there is plenty of coffee and chocolate

Deadlines make me…


I learned the most from

My wife

The accomplishment I’m proudest of

My family

The best piece of advice I got

Don’t let school interfere with your education


1. How many years have you been working at Mishpacha?

I’ve been at the magazine since 2009. My first job was designing one of the first supplements Mishpacha published, and I’ve been there ever since.

2. What’s your all-time favorite column design?

The one that has lasted the longest, and is probably also my favorite, is the Family First index. Although it has four iterations, we usually just use the standard one now. There is a lot of flow in that design, a lot of flexibility to mix things up. I don’t lay it out every single week, so I don’t have that much control over it, but in theory, my idea was to bring a lot of design elements into what is otherwise very factual content — and usually a boring layout.

3. Tell us about a feature design that you love.

The last feature that I designed on the Jews fighting in the Civil War. I liked it because it was a great combination of AI (artificial intelligence) and other elements that created a simple and clean design. I know that some people don’t have positive feelings about AI, but I’m happy to use it as a tool like any other tool. If I speak for my department at the magazine, AI has only helped us, not hindered us.

4. What do you look for when you hire a graphic designer?

A good attitude. Closing days at the magazine are very long, and there’s a lot of work to be done. With a good attitude, you can get through anything. It’s not just raw talent that’s important; we need talent plus a good personality.

5. What’s the biggest challenge of your job?

The biggest challenge of my job is to realize that it’s not just about me, it’s a group project. There are a lot of cogs in the wheel that need to come together to create a huge magazine every single week, and although I have my opinions, I don’t always get my way on how things look. I have to keep in mind that it’s a team effort, not an individual one.

Graphics can be a serious matter, with a lot hinging on us getting it right. Once, a certain personality didn’t approve of the pictures that were going to be published. He hated them and made it clear that he would not forgive us if they were printed. Oops, too late — we had already gone to print. Yet when the magazine finally hit the newsstands, he emailed us saying his wife loved the article and he was happy. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to face time in purgatory for this graphic error. Whew!

6. How has your role changed over your years on the job?

Initially, I was a lot more hands-on, and was involved with Family First and (what was then) Junior as well. At this point, I don’t do much for Treeo or the teen section; I’ve handed those jobs over to the other designers. It’s great to see how they’ve really grown into their roles, taking responsibility and developing as artists.

7. Describe some style trends you hope never to see again.

I’m kind of open to all different types of design. I don’t think there’s a color that I don’t like and I don’t think there is a gradient that bothers me. In my view, everything has its own merits and its own place. We use a lot of the tool sets over and over, recycling with a little twist. Fonts come and fonts go, but each one has its own place; nothing is bad.

8. Which two colors would you never put on the same page?

I don’t really have problems with any colors, but it happens to be that pink and blue don’t necessarily go well together. Pink is just so obviously associated with the feminine, and blue with the masculine. An exception to this is when the article relates to the birth of children, whether boys or girls; then obviously it would behoove the artist to use those two colors to get the point across.

9. Tell us about something you tried, and were shocked when it actually worked.

I think the use of AI has been amazing, and surprisingly good. I can’t believe how much it has advanced over such a short period of time. At the magazine, things have to be done fast,
and the better AI gets at imaging, the better it is for us.
I’m amazed at what it can do,
and at its potential.

10. Which section of the magazine do you most enjoy working on?

For the Purim issue this year, we worked on a news spoof. Working on that was very enjoyable; not only were we creating fun graphics, but the text was also funny. I liked the direction that the magazine was taking.

11. Are you involved in any content decisions besides design?

Yes. Sometimes I suggest titles, even when the writer has suggested a title of their own. Titles affect graphics, because they need to convey the essence of an article. I’ve also suggested that Mishpacha cover certain personalities — Amar’e Stoudemire was one; Ben Forta was another.

12. Tell us about a dilemma or a difficult decision.

It’s hard to make critical comments on artists’ designs. I don’t like to be negative, so I usually get more hands-on and work with the artist, to demonstrate the process of the different ideas that I’ve thought of.

When somebody has been working on something for a couple hours, it’s hard to move away from the idea. I can definitely relate to that, because I’ve done things and had my concepts altered, and it never feels good to have your work rejected.

13. What are your sources of artistic inspiration?

Pinterest is a good place to get inspiration for our designs. I feel that it works out a lot better than any other medium or anything else that social media or the Internet have to offer.

14. On average, how long does it take to design a feature?

I don’t necessarily want to go into detail how much time art takes. There’s a classic story about Picasso, where he did something in five minutes and he then asked for a lot of money for that sketch. When people asked him how long it took, his answer was “a lifetime.” In actuality there’s so much time and expertise that goes into creating a design. Sometimes it can go really fast, and other times it takes much longer. There are a lot of variables, so I never like to say how long something takes.

15. What day of the week is the toughest for you?

Friday. Getting ready for Shabbos, because Shabbos is the biggest deadline of all.

16. How do you create a cohesive look for a magazine with such a diverse range of articles?

Creating a cohesive design means breaking things down to their simplest shape and form, and then embellishing them. You have to keep in mind the overall picture of the magazine, as opposed to each individual layout.

17. Tell us about a near-disaster on the job

I think I’ve almost lost my temper a few times and that would have been a real disaster. All other issues can be worked through when we do it together.

One day, we closed the magazine early — or so I thought. At 8:30 p.m., our production manager called: the Rav didn’t approve the cover story. Yikes! I quickly designed a new cover. With a great image and a stellar team, we closed it again just one hour later.

18. How does the quality of the paper and the ink affect the final product?

Good paper is amazing. It makes a big difference in terms of how the pictures transpose. Investing in good paper and ink has a big impact on the quality of the final product.

19. What are the key elements of a successful cover? What’s more important — visuals or text?

It definitely pays to know what the text is when you plan the design. When you’re doing a personality, you’re looking mostly for a good photo and image, but if it’s a concept, then you definitely need good text, and it’s very important to get the text right to support the visual.

20. Why does Mishpacha always stick to the same colors on the cover of the main magazine?

For the cover, we like to use red, which is the color of the logo. There aren’t that many colors that pop on the newsstand, and we are trying to make our covers pop. It happens to be that a certain bright yellow works very well also; it adds a pop and gets a message across. Other than that, white and black. In general, we use only those four colors: red, yellow, black, and white.


20 Questions for 20 Years
Coming up:

Rachel Ginsberg, Associate Editor

Nina Feiner, Sales Manager, North America

The Kichels Team

Refoel Pride, Chief Copyeditor

Send your questions to


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1016)

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