Art and independent magazines

by Steve Watson in November 2013
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Thanks very much to everyone who came to Printout last night. It was a great evening looking back over some of the best independent magazine launches of 2013, and Pekka from FAT brought the house down with his brilliantly uncompromising views on why he bothers making magazines. (Essentially, magazines aren’t art, but they should be.) Thanks Yippee Ki-Yay! for the photographic evidence, above.

If you couldn’t make it down (or if you could, and you want to check whether I remembered stuff accurately) read on…

Rob Alderson, Printed Pages
The evening kicked off with Rob from Printed Pages musing on what it means to work in the shadow of another. Like Jayden Smith manfully struggling to live up to his father’s success (Rob’s metaphor, not mine) Rob promised big things next year, as Printed Pages begins to define itself as something related to but separate from It’s Nice That.

It was interesting hearing him speaking about their motivations for starting Printed Pages in the first place – essentially, It’s Nice That had started off as something fun and accessible, but the magazine had become weighed down with seriousness. Printed Pages was their attempt to start afresh with a new business plan, a cheaper cover price and a greater sense of fun, and it looks like they’re succeeding on all fronts.

Louis-Jacques Darveau, The Alpine Review
The first of the evening’s videos came from Louis in Montreal, also speaking about his reasons for starting a magazine. Whereas most magazines talk about one thing in lots of ways, he said, Alpine Review talks about lots of things in a singular way, relying on tone to unify content gathered from all over the world.

The magazine comes out when Louis and co are ready for it to come out, avoiding a rigid publishing schedule as a way to free themselves from the pressures of finding advertisers, and helping to make sure it all stays fun and interesting for all concerned – this is clearly a magazine that functions as a creative output rather than a money-making entity.

Sam Walton, Hole & Corner
Sam took to the stage to talk us through the A to Z of Hole & Corner’s first year, taking in everything from inspiring interviewees to cost-effective print solutions. Like so many of the magazines we see at Printout, Hole & Corner exists simply because somebody realised that the things they care about aren’t being covered in the mainstream media, and now Sam’s challenge is to take his decidedly uncommercial magazine and find a way to keep it running.

Peter Bil’ak, Works That Work
Back to the video screen, and Peter from Works That Work talked us through why he wanted to make a design magazine that’s not just for designers. As he said, everything in the world is designed, but only a tiny proportion of them make it into conventional ‘design’ magazines.

Works That Work seeks to shine a light on these more unexpected and unconventional pieces of design, from the Dutch towns and cities that have removed all traffic signals to improve road safety, to the now legendary urinals at Schiphol Airport, with flies etched into them. And it’s not just in the content that the magazine is committed to doing things differently – the video also showed the content management system that means all content can be tracked right through the entire editorial process, and published to either the print magazine, the blog or the ereader with the push of a button. And it made mention of the innovative social distribution system that seeks to turn readers into distributors – apparently a third of the magazine’s sales are now made this way.

Pekka Toivonen, FAT
And so it came to Pekka, art dictator of Finland’s FAT magazine – a magazine of art and life. Most people will know Pekka from his work on Kasino A4, and he spoke about the way that he and the others at Kasino view magazine publishing as if it were movie making, always attempting to tell these grand, ‘too big’ stories in a way that gets across what’s special about the people at their centre.

Genuinely inspiring and very funny, it was a great way to finish off the night and we’re very grateful that he made the trip all the way over from Finland to speak in person. He might have been a bit drunk by the end of the night, but I have witnesses who heard him invite me out for a fishing trip in Spring, so I’ll be taking him up on that.

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