Jobless after the cancellation of Portfolio magazine in 1951, Frank Zachary accepted a position as Picture Editor of a struggling travel magazine called Holiday. Though orderly, the magazine’s design was markedly conservative. This all changed as soon Zachary started experimenting the photos to make his own layouts.

Inspired by the pioneering design work of his friend and former colleague Alexey Brodovitch, Zachary’s layouts featured heavy use of white space, asymmetrical compositions, and dramatic juxtapositions in scale. The effect is kinetic. And it got noticed: he was quickly offered the job of Art Director. At first he deferred, suggesting the editor hire Brodovitch, “the real master,” and even set up a meeting between the two. But they never hit it off, and so Zachary finally accepted the promotion.

Describing his approach, Zachary explains, “I learned that the picture is the layout. If you have a great picture, you don’t embellish it with big type. You make it tight and sweet.” He also developed the approach to photography called “environmental portraiture,” which is the standard in most contemporary magazines. “A photographer just couldn’t walk in and take a picture of a subject,” he said. “He had to assemble the components of the subject’s life.”

The next time you’re at a yard sale, keep an eye out for issues of Holiday magazine published between 1951 and 1964. You’ll be surprised to see how modern they look — and you’ll get an idea of the debt contemporary editorial designers (myself included) owe to this guy. In the meantime, here are a few samples.