Wayne Kamidoi’s journey to The New York Times all started with coverage of women’s field hockey games.
As a 1987 Central Michigan University graduate, Kamidoi started his work as a journalist in the musty basement of Anspach Hall as an ambitious freshman, working a beat for Central Michigan Life he knew nothing about.
“I had never seen it or even knew one rule of field hockey to start with,” Kamidoi said. “So it was a real learning experience.”
Kamidoi’s work has paid off, as he along with former CM Life advisor Neil Hopp, editor/publisher of The Capital of Annapolis Tom Marquardt and University of Michigan vice president for communications Kallie Bila Michels are being inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame on Nov. 15. Kameel Stanley, Young Journalist of the Year and reporter for the Tampa Bay Times will also be inducted.
Today, as art director of the Times’ sports section, Kamidoi spends his days creating visual masterpieces for all the world to see.
But he says he’s not an artist.
“I mean, my 10-year-old can draw pictures much better than I can,” he said.
Others think differently, and Kamidoi has the awards to prove it.
Kamidoi has won more than 50 awards from the Society for News Design and has been honored as Sports Designer of the Year in 2007 and 2012.
“He’s obviously highly regarded in the design world,” said journalism professor Ken McDonald.
McDonald and Kamidoi both started their journalism careers at CM Life and continuing beyond CMU where their paths crossed again at the Detroit Free Press.
McDonald credits some of his career success to Kamidoi, saying Kamidoi helped him land the job at the Free Press.
“To a large extent, I kind of owe much of my career to following in Wayne’s footsteps,” McDonald said. “I don’t know necessarily whether I would have gotten that interview or not at the Free Press had it not been for Wayne’s connection and the fact that he had gone there and done really good work (before) recommending me.”
In fact, being helpful and mindful of others is one of Kamidoi’s strongest attributes.
“Wayne is a terrific listener,” McDonald said. “He’s a great team player (and) he is excellent at allowing everyone to have their say before deciding what direction he thinks the design should go in.”
According to President of the Society for News Design Rob Schneider, Kamidoi lent a helping hand during a time when Schneider was struggling.
Schneider, an editor at The Dallas Morning News and one of the many Kamidoi fans at the time, reached out to his fellow designer, whom he respected, for some guidance.
“(Kamidoi) spent two hours on the phone with me going over my work,” Schneider said. “He helped and he was really honest in his critique and really helpful in the way he approached it.”
Schneider took Kamidoi’s act of kindness to heart, as he continues to follow the example Kamidoi set for him years ago.
“I’ve always been aware that you’re only as good as you treat other people,” Schneider said. “And that really inspired me to pay that forward to people who reach out to me.”
As art director, Kamidoi works to blend the creations of his coworkers – reporters, photographers and graphic designers – into one central focus.
His daily work is much like constructing a recipe, as he brings together all the “ingredients” from various sources to create something tasteful and visually appetizing.
“I feel like when you’re a designer, you’re sort of just taking in the best ideas – best thoughts, best stories, best photos – all the ingredients of that particular day and then making them representative of the news of that day,” Kamidoi said.
But there is a unique niche needed from those who work at The Times.
“The New York Times is different. It has its own set of rules,” Schneider said. “From an outsider to look at, there doesn’t seem to be a good rhyme or reason as to why they do things.”
And Kamidoi has that niche. Not only has he made it to a world-renowned newspaper, but he has excelled.
“Wayne had a lot to do with the fact that The New York Times is not just a great paper to read, but it’s a very interesting paper to look at,” McDonald said.
While Kamidoi’s success is apparent, it might not be in a traditional sense. As art director, Kamidoi’s works aren’t the center of attention. In fact, sometimes they hardly receive any attention at all.
“A lot of my designs are in a way simple,” he said. “The best designs are really the ones that get out of the way and don’t intrude on the content of the news.”
For Kamidoi, it’s all in the details: The fonts, the spacing, the number of stories on a page. It’s these details that both enhance the look of the newspaper and draw in readers.
But it’s Kamidoi’s overall love for all things journalism that keeps him going.
“I just like the whole news-gathering and newspaper business,” he said. “I think that’s in my blood.”
And at the end of every workday, Kamidoi said he feels an overwhelming sense of pride that comes from knowing he aided in the creation of one of the most loved, hated, respected and criticized newspapers in the world.
“I like the fact that in some way, when someone picks up The New York Times newspaper, I was part of that,” Kamidoi said.