We start the new week in the company of west-country based graphic designer Elliot Jay Stocks. As well as being creative director for Adobe Typekit, Elliot has worked in print and digital for clients including Virgin, Microsoft and MailChimp. He regularly talks at conferences and contributes to the creative press, and recently published the final edition of typography magazine 8 Faces. We hear about his week ahead as the first issue of his new publication Lagom arrives.
Where are you today?
I’m in our home office in the countryside just outside of Bristol. It’s just me and the dog, as my wife is working on-site with a client.
What can you see from the window?
Our garden and, behind it, the A37. But we’re actually moving house in a couple of weeks and the new studio will have a view over glorious rolling countryside. I can’t wait!
Are you a morning or evening person?
If I get up really early, I find myself being extremely productive, and it’s the same thing with very late nights. In the run-up to Lagom’s release, there were a lot of late nights! I try not to do that too often, but sometimes you’ve just got to.
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
It’s hard to choose. I have a lot on my desk at the moment — most of them by fellow Bristol Independent Publishers. I think it might have to be issue two of Sidetracked. The standard of photography is just so high.
You’re a serial magazine maker – first 8 Faces, then Digest, now Lagom. Even by our mag-obsessed standards that’s committed. What keeps you coming back to print?
It’s possible that it’s the web that makes me return to print. For years I was a web designer first and foremost, and when I launched 8 Faces in 2010, it was a reaction to the ephemeral nature of the web. I wanted to create something that wouldn’t just disappear in a year or two. And that’s how I view my relationship with print and the web: each is an antidote to the other. I’d go mad if I had to just pick one — it’s the balance of the two that keeps me sane.
You straddle print and digital, working for Typekit, getting sponsorship from Mailchimp, and publishing Lagom. Do these other partners appreciate and comprehend your love of print?
Absolutely. In Typekit’s case, it turns out that they offered me the job because of 8 Faces, which I find quite ironic. I mean, I was a web designer for years and then a web service hires me because of my little print-based side project? It’s funny! In MailChimp’s case, yeah, those guys love physical artefacts, which you can see by looking at the kind of businesses they partner with. Again, I wonder if that’s because their service is web-based: physical objects serve as an escape.
How will you judge the success (or otherwise!) of the new magazine?
The reaction so far has been fantastic — better than we thought, in fact. So many people have been in touch about contributing to future issues and we’ve already sold more than we thought we’d sell at this stage. If you include subscriptions, we technically became ‘profitable’ just a few days after launch, which is something I didn’t expect to happen until much later. So in that sense, you could say that the magazine is already a success, but realistically we need time to make an accurate judgement. We printed a lot of copies of Lagom — far more than anything else we’ve published previously — and it’s going to be a long time before they’ve all gone. And all of that profit is going straight back into the production of the next issue.
With our other mags we relied on direct sales from our website, but we decided to radically change tactics with Lagom: we wanted to invest in getting it out there in real, physical shops around the globe; out there in the public’s consciousness. The goal is to increase the print run quite considerably with each issue just to get it out into the world, which is an idea I learned from the Apartamento guys when they spoke at your Modern Magazine event last year.
One of the big challenges we’ve faced with Lagom is getting in advertising revenue — because it’s a brand new magazine and has pretty broad subject matter — so I’m hoping that when I approach potential advertisers for issue two, they’ll see what we’ve done and get on board. In some ways that will be a key part of how successful we are because we see advertising as a way of making Lagom a sustainable business, even though advertising will always be pretty low in terms of page count.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
Tonight we’re going to see Tycho, the music project by designer Scott Hansen. I’ve been a fan for a long time and always admired his balance of music career and design career. I’m hoping to get on a plane to New York tomorrow and go to Brooklyn Beta, which is an absolutely amazing event run by some friends in Brooklyn. I did the branding for them when they first launched. But I’m also waiting to see what happens with our house sale, so I might not actually be able to go!
What are you least looking forward to this week?
The lack of sleep on the flight home, if I take this trip to Brooklyn. Other than that: emails! I’ve been getting even more of them since the magazine’s launch — which is great, because they’re all about contributions to future issues, press appearances, and potential collaborations — but I’m drowning in email even more than usual.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Now seems like a good opportunity to go downstairs and make a coffee with my recently purchased AeroPress. I’m not as huge a coffee fan as most designers I know, but I love the ritual of the AeroPress and I’m trying a lot of different recipes at the moment. The UK coffee tasting champion is a close friend of mine, so he’s a great resource! In fact, he’s got a piece about making the perfect coffee in our magazine. Nudge nudge, wink wink! After that I’ll be getting on with Typekit work. The day job calls!