Shax Riegler (MA 2007, MPhil 2009, PhD Candidate) is the executive editor of Architectural Digest. Previously, he worked at Consumer Reports, where he developed and managed content strategy across the company’s print, digital, and video platforms, and was the executive editor of House Beautiful. Earlier in his career, he held editorial positions at House & Garden, Martha Stewart Living, Travel + Leisure, and Vogue magazines. His book, DISH: 813 Colorful, Wonderful Dinner Plates, was published by Artisan in 2011. He received his undergraduate degree from Kenyon College.

What attracted you to Bard Graduate Center’s program?

I was working at House & Garden magazine when I applied to the master’s program. I met and interviewed so many designers and artisans while working there that I constantly found myself wondering about some of the references they were making. While they spoke a language that I had grown familiar with, I found myself wanting deeper knowledge. I wanted to know if they were being accurate when they called something a “lit à la polonaise” or described something as “George III-era.” The Penguin Dictionary of Decorative Arts (which is a wonderful book) just wasn’t satisfying my desire for more. So I started looking at the programs offered by BGC, Cooper Hewitt, and Winterthur. After meeting a few of the professors and talking to Dean Elena Pinto Simon, I felt the strongest connection here. I was thrilled to be accepted.

What was your focus of study here, how did you find yourself involved with it?

At House & Garden, I wrote a story on Meissen porcelain that sent me down a rabbit hole of research and reporting. I couldn’t read enough and ended up collecting so much more information than I would ever use, or need, for the article. That experience opened my eyes to the kinds of stories behind objects and materials. As a student, I was thrilled to study European ceramics with Andrew Morrall and Chinese ceramics with François Louis. I also loved taking deep dives into other styles and materials—for instance, Neoclassicism with Jeffrey Collins and English silver with Ken Ames. In the end, I gravitated toward classes that helped put constellations of objects into context, such as histories of collecting with Catherine Whalen and Andrew Morrall, and a class on Walter Benjamin with Peter Miller. I majored in English and history as an undergraduate, so I guess I’ve always been attracted to stories, which has ended up being what my career is about, in a way.

You have been working as a writer and editor for many years and have been recently named executive editor at Architectural Digest. Describe your position.

The publishing world has gone through tremendous turmoil and change in recent years. These days, this business is about so much more than the print product that appears in mailboxes and on newsstands every month. In today’s language, editors-in-chief have to manage a “brand” that encompasses all possible expressions that might appear under that name/entity—including print and digital content, social media and live events, and, increasingly, video production. Everyone on a magazine staff now performs many more tasks each day than simply initiating, creating, and polishing content (the new-fangled term for what used to be called “stories”) right up until the issue ships to the printer.

As the executive editor of Architectural Digest, I work alongside our editor-in-chief and managing editor to make sure the trains keep running. I’m also responsible for coming up with new kinds of stories to tell, and developing new ways of telling those we are expected to deliver. This involves a lot of picking and choosing and saying “no.” When you really break it down, you can only fit so much into twelve print issues a year, so we really have to strategize about how we’re going to allocate space. Of course, on the web, space is limitless, so the concern there isn’t so much saying “no” as it is making sure that what appears is consistent with the overall message and mission of the magazine as a whole.

These big issues are fascinating to consider, but on a day-to-day basis it’s also just a pleasure to engage with ideas and images ranging from truly amazing houses to the most beautiful products. This can be a heady mix, and it is very easy to get caught up in the newness and the “now-ness” of things. But the historian in me is always thinking about what might end up being studied by a BGC student in the future.

What ultimately is your professional goal?

My work at Bard Graduate Center has given me so much confidence as I tackle what I do now and think about new ways of presenting information. It takes a lot of effort and knowledge to present information simply, but not simplistically. All the things I did in graduate school—writing papers, giving presentations, helping out on exhibitions, and teaching classes—gave me a great foundation of knowledge and experience in different approaches expressing facts and ideas about design and architecture. Honestly, I don’t know what the future holds. My most immediate goal is to finish my dissertation. Beyond that, I’d like to just savor the pleasure of engaging with this kind of material and ideas every day. That’s a real privilege.