At work with: Paul Sethi, Special Request

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We start the new week with a look ahead by Paul Sethi, founder and creative director of new magazine Special Request. Initially conceived as a food magazine, Special Request will have a different theme each issue. The first theme remains Food, but next up will be Television. For the past four years Paul has also been art editor of Clash Magazine.

Where are you today?
I’m at home. So many print deadlines. I haven’t left for weeks. We’re working 20 hour days. Aside from doing all the design work for Special Request.

What can you see from the window?
I live beside the canal, on Broadway Market. So all the usual stuff: canal-boats, wildlife, panicking joggers, tramp-fights and the occasional dismembered human torso – true story.

How many emails are waiting in your inbox?
I’ve just gone to print, so not many. When I’m on deadline I tend not to read or reply to emails unless they involve amends. I find it difficult to shift from design to admin and vice versa. I put the latter on hold until the creative process is over with, then advance in one fell swoop. I’ll always reply though. Eventually.


What’s your favourite magazine this morning?

I pass Artwords Bookshop en route to/from my morning coffee pretty much every day. This morning Ponystep Magazine had the window (above, click image for larger version). Seeing all seven issues together is a beautiful thing indeed.


What’s been the most exciting thing about launching the new magazine?

To risk sounding clichéd, the whole process. I found choosing our fonts exciting. When Tom (co-editor-in-chief, who – generally speaking – does all the main features/writing) called me to let me know he’d secured a piece from Geoff Dyer, one of the worlds foremost essayists, it was exciting. When artists and photographers confirmed or supplied imagery, it was exciting. To go on press and see our first cover run out was exciting. When Marc (our publisher) confirmed our first sales, it was exciting. Everything. Now, I suppose what’s exciting is the fact that between us we’ve created something we love and have released it into the world. None of us really know what lies around the corner. Hopefully not abject-failure. That would be unexciting.


Special Request
started as a food magazine, and the first edition is all about food, but future issues will have different themes. Why that change?

In the year or so it’s taken to put our magazine together we’ve seen a never-ending stream of high-end, independently published food titles appear. Considered titles, relevant to now and executed impeccably. Printed on beautiful stock, with amazing typography, clever writing and beautiful imagery. From The Gourmand to Wilder Quarterly to Cereal and Gather… the list is long.

So for two reasons, really. First because the marketplace is feeling a little cramped. Second because we feel that Special Request’s draw is that the content is incredible, not because people desperately need to know more about the UK food scene. Who wants to be restricted to one subject?


What was the last thing your editor said to you?

Tom Viney (Special Request): ‘Thanks for looking after my dog – I’ll cook you dinner next week.’
Simon Harper (Clash): ‘Now the mag’s gone, I want you and the computer back into the office.’


What are you most looking forward to this week?

Booking some holidays.

What are you least looking forward to this week?
Holiday booking websites.

What will you be doing after this chat?
I’m heading into the Clash offices for a monday meeting. After that it’s dealing with everything from arranging shoots, designing layouts, trying to confirm a decent US distributor for Special Request (anyone?), Meeting with advertising people, pitching to photographers, speaking to our print broker and distributors, preparing attributes for our social network channels, invoicing people, paying people, I also have to design a logo and a poster for a friend. In what order, I have no idea. Maybe I should check my emails.

More on the Special Request website.

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