I love my Day Job

by Steve Watson in October 2012
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There are lots of magazines about work. The Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek will tell you what the world’s biggest businesses are up to, and Blueprint and Icon will show you the lovely new buildings they occupy.

But there aren’t many magazines about working – about the regular people who work in regular jobs, getting up day after day to do something they love or hate or feel entirely indifferent about.

That gap has been filled by Day Job, a magazine made by 29-year-old New York-based graphic designer Elliott Walker. Issue zero of Day Job came out back in April, a short newspaper that Walker used as a promotional tool for his Kickstarter campaign. He hit his funding target over the summer, and last week the first full issue arrived on my desk, described by Walker as “the anti-Mark Zuckerberg magazine”.

“In most magazines work is about a big powerful businessman or entrepreneur, who is like, ‘Well I started Facebook!’” he explains. “But I’m not really interested in that story – I’m interested in the guy who’s worked for 40 years in a steel mill.”

He’s also interested in the guys who work in the beleaguered sport of minor-league baseball, the guy who went undercover in an industrialised slaughterhouse and the guys (Milton Glaser and Steve Hindy) who started Brooklyn Brewery.

That’s not to say he isn’t interested in women at work, or that he’s not interested in people working overseas (there are stories from Sweden, Lebanon, France and Turkey) but Day Job is primarily a sensitive and nuanced portrait of the American working man.

And as such its release is brilliantly timed for British readers. With the US election drawing near, average working Americans are finding their way into mainstream British media, often to demonstrate the ravages of recession on a once-great nation. Seen in that light, Day Job begins to look like a piece of recessionary rebellion – a magazine full of people with jobs who are getting on with their lives, quite contrary to the prevailing winds of international news media.

In its form, too, Day Job defies recession. At nearly 200 pages it’s a thick slab of a magazine, not at all showy but of unquestionable quality. Walker says that from the very beginning he saw Day Job as a magazine rather than a blog or other digital format, because he wanted to create something that would last.

“I did a piece with street food vendors in New York City – a lot of these guys are immigrants to the US and don’t speak English as their first language. I gave a copy of the magazine to one of the guys I interviewed and the look on his face… that was all I needed. It has such an affirming quality, such a weight and power to it… it’s like saying; ‘You exist. This thing is real.’ For me that makes it worth doing it in print, to put that sort of weight behind it for people who aren’t normally interviewed in magazines.”

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