After a summer break, our ‘At work with’ Q&A is back. Today we meet Alice Pomfret, an editorial designer based in Norwich. As well as working for other magazines, including Season and Wunderdog, and companies, including a stint with us at magCulture, she launched her own magazine, Akin, in 2018. The fourth issue is just about to be published.
How do you start your week?
Mondays start a bit differently around here, I often work for one of my freelance clients Studio Adorn on a Monday so I take a walk through my hometown of Norwich, past the river and to a lovely light filled studio to work for the day. Then I head home, pick up the mess that is my email inbox and try to tackle it before I knuckle down for some real work on Tuesday.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your studio/office.
I think you’ll know this about me Jeremy but I’m ridiculously tidy and probably a little OCD about my desk so unfortunately it’s not too eventful. I have the new GF Smith paper sample book pride of place because are you really a magazine/book designer if you don’t? My label printer, a lamp and some pencils. How boring!
I recently just got awarded a Young Entrepreneur Grant from The Princes Trust so luckily now I’m working from a brand new iMac – I’m forever grateful. As I’m sure most people do, I currently work from home, our flat has floor to ceiling windows overlooking a church – admittedly I spend some of my time people watching, I’ve come to know some ‘regular’ street walkers. Joys of a small town.
Which magazine do you first remember?
I have a distinct memory of walking into WHSmiths and finding Oh (Comely) magazine whilst I was studying Design at A-Level. The pages had white space? There was little to no ads? My mind couldn’t quite believe it. Now we stock them on Akin so my life really has come full circle.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
I’m a massive fan of Courier, it’s so nice to have a business magazine which isn’t focused on big words and business models that I don’t understand but instead full of cool people, starting great businesses and succeeding. It’s helped me a lot with working out behind the scenes of Akin. I often think of Mundial quite a lot – I hope they return to print. I love that they’re so much more than a mag. A football team, podcast – they really exist beyond the pages.
Describe Akin in three words
Work in progress.
Each issue of Akin is based on a famous creative individual; how do you choose these people? Do the people themselves cooperate?
The people we’ve featured before have been people who have inspired me throughout my life. I like to choose people who are successful in their own art/craft but also stand for something. It’s quite an admirable trait to be brave enough to speak out these days. For our first issue we worked quite closely with Zaha Hadid’s architecture firm but since then we haven’t bagged any insider exclusive interviews. But I quite like it, I like to think our cover stories from these issues will be our inspirations in years to come – who knows.
Akin has changed physical formats several times. Which has worked best? Why?
Yes, sorry it must be a nightmare to stock. Being a magazine and book designer I suppose I feel most comfortable experimenting with new design ideas and styles. I often work to quite tight budgets with other magazines who already have their style guides and ways of doing things.
But Akin is mine, so I can kind of do what I want. Our third issue was a newspaper for environmental reasons, it didn’t feel quite right to publish a magazine which talked about the environment and slow fashion that wasn’t recyclable and re-usable. So a newspaper was the best answer, no glue!
We also included tips on how to re-use our newspaper and had a protest poster within so it had multiple functions. We’ve settled for ring-bound for our next issue, I think a bit of continuity is good and will help Akin but I still have an itch to have fun so maybe I’ll try some new papers and printing techniques. I get the best feedback from ringbound – not many magazines use it so hopefully we’ll become known for it.
Issue four has been produced solely by people of colour; who was involved and how did you establish the team?
Yes – I’m super excited. We’ve worked with some incredible creatives like founder of ‘Where are the black designers? Mitzi Okou, art director Wei Prior, documentary photographer Cian Oba Smith, up and coming rapper R.A.E and some more we’ll keep up our sleeve for now. We’ve also commissioned five articles from POC writers who we’ve never been published before. I put a call out on Twitter and as usual it went crazy – I should really learn my lesson. I’m on the lookout for a sub-editor so if you know anyone…haha.
Share one piece of publishing/business advice that has helped you.
It’s not necessarily publishing advice but I often live by the rule of ‘If you never try you never know.’ I think that runs through everything I do, I’m a massive fan of emailing people/studios who I’ve never met, sometimes it works and you start a really nice working relationship. But on the flip side, you don’t lose anything if they don’t reply.
Looking ahead, what are you excited about this week?
Sleep! I’m in the middle of a few print deadlines at the moment, it’s always bittersweet coming to the end of a print project but my brain is definitely full. And we’re finishing issue four this week – so that will be good – we might miss our release date but that’s kind of expected in indie print right?!