Designers design. Photographers photograph. Models model. That much—in broad strokes, at least—is clear. But what about the artists, technicians, and industry insiders, often unpublicized and underappreciated, who help to get clothes and accessories made and shown? Call them Behind-the-Scenesters: people who shape our experience of fashion but never take a bow on the catwalk or strike a pose for the camera. Without them—from pattern-makers to production designers—the show wouldn’t go on. And in a new series, sits down with a few of these pros to find out, basically, what they do.

If God is in the details, as the saying goes, then art directors are the gods of fashion. The job is hard to summarize—LOVE magazine creative director Lee Swillingham (pictured), for example, has a hand in everything from conceptualizing multi-page fashion spreads to setting the type in the credits. For him, as for his hero Alexey Brodovitch, the legendary former art director of Harper’s Bazaar, success comes of making a series of micro decisions add up to one iconic image. Even before LOVE came along, Swillingham and partner-in-design Stuart Spalding had already entered the art director pantheon—they were the founding creative directors of POP, and their firm Suburbia has created campaigns for the likes of Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Alexander McQueen. Here, Swillingham talks to about the gestalt of logos and layouts.

So, Lee: In one sentence, what do you do?
Really, what I do is I make things look beautiful. That’s my mission, as I see it. The way that relates to reality is, I’m a graphic designer, a typographer, and an art director of photography.

Elaborate, please—what does it mean to be an art director of photography?
It depends on what you’re doing and who you’re working with. Here’s a good example: Prior to POP, I was the art director at The Face. And we did this issue with four different covers, each one with another nineties supermodel; I literally planned out, on the computer, the different shapes of each cover, because we needed them to look coordinated, and yet totally distinct. Or, another good example from The Face is the portrait of Kurt Cobain; it’s very famous. Nirvana had gotten a lot of press in the U.K. at that point, primarily music magazines like NME, and we were trying to figure out how to make a picture of Kurt feel new. We asked David Sims to shoot it—he was a massive Nirvana fan—and it was around the time that Kurt was wearing dresses. We were tossing around ideas, and the whole dress thing gave David the idea of dress up. And that’s how we wound up with Kurt Cobain on a white background, in a Tigger costume. There’s not one element in the photo I could point to and say, that’s mine, right there, but I was involved in every decision and the development of every idea that went into the image.

How did you get into art directing?
Well, I always knew I wanted to do it, from when I was a kid. Then, when I was still in school at [Central] Saint Martins, I began assisting at Arena magazine. Back then, they only did six issues a year, so I could work on a whole issue at a time and only miss a few classes now and then. There was one issue I was working on, when the art director and the editor had a huge fight, and the art director walked out, and I wound up designing that issue of Arena all by myself, essentially. When I graduated, I took a job at The Face. In a similar way, life just sorted itself out in such a way that, within a year, I was made the art director of the magazine. Which is insane, a year out of school