At Work With: Alec Dudson, intern magazine
Following a pilot issue earlier this year, Alec Dudson has just published the first proper issue of intern magazine. The publication grew from his experiences interning at Domus and Boat during 2012, and explores the ups and downs of creative industry internships while showcasing the work of interns.
Where are you today?
It is a nice early start at AWOL Studios, the home of intern magazine. I’ve had this space since January and it has been instrumental in the project in more ways than I ever envisaged. My reason for looking into renting a work space initially was to ensure I knuckled down and did something, my concentration levels are appalling when working from home. Add to that the fact that my living situation throughout the making of intern has seen me sharing a two bedroom flat with four other people, so there are always happy distractions when I'm not cooped up in here.
What I didn’t expect from this place though is all of the content in issue one that it has inspired. A number of the features were born from chats with other studio residents and simply wouldn't have existed without my being here. DR.ME and OWT Creative in particular have been instrumental, through their work and connections, with the former only yesterday suggesting a really exciting pairing to feature in issue two.
I’m planning to move out of this room in the coming months to cut costs as I have had an offer to share the photography studio space across the corridor for about half price which suits me perfectly as I want to run the mag with as few overheads as possible. It has served me well though this room, both in a practical and creative sense. I guess I have learned the value of being around other driven, creative people, something which has really made being based here totally worthwhile.
What can you see from the window?
It’s a typically Mancunian scene. There are a few more old mills, a couple of gigantic gasometers and (much to my disillusion) the Etihad Stadium. It is a pretty grim morning weather-wise, but this is winter here to stay for Manchester now. It is a little frustrating when the weather is like this as cycling is pretty impractical. I haven't got my bike here this morning and I cycle everywhere when possible. This for me, is the one downside to living in Manchester as opposed to London. I think the entire time I spent in London last year, I didn't cycle to work/my internship once because of the weather and I was cycling every day for seven months.
How many emails are waiting in your inbox?
I have 47 that are starred and I need to reply to, I'm hoping to get on top of those this week as the dust begins to settle after the launch of intern issue one. The idea is that I'll move down to three days a week on this project once things are ticking over and running smoothly. First though, I need to get on top of these emails and arrange the delivery of bulk orders of the mag to the 20 something retailers around the world that I’m in conversation with. Seeing as the print run for this first issue is relatively short (2000 copies), it’s my hope that through working with a limited number of first-class mag stores, I can develop strong working relationships that will mean it is feasible for me to get through all the necessary work on a three-day week. Whether that proves possible or not, remains to be seen but, for now, I’m not ready to surrender all but 40% of the cover price to a distributor. I’d rather graft hard now and be in a far stronger position financially speaking to deliver a knock-out issue two next spring.
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
That's a tough one, but I’m going to go for the Fall Winter 2013/2014 issue of Purple. I love the Spring Summer 2013 issue as well to be fair, but I've still got plenty to read in this one. For me Purple is the perfect fashion magazine, editor Olivier Zahm executes the format flawlessly and
Benjamin Cooper Gianni Oprandi’s art direction leaves you wanting more every time, despite the phenomenal thickness and page count of the publication. While it may not seem it, the bold and classy editorial layout and design of Purple was a big influence on intern from my perspective. Their consistent and confident use of white space (something Port are great at as well) gives the magazine real class. While the aesthetic is inevitably different in a magazine of a far smaller format (like intern), it was one of the first publications that I showed to She Was Only when we were playing with initial design ideas and it played perfectly into their own thoughts on how to approach the project.
The pilot issue of intern was a tabloid newspaper, the first issue a perfect-bound magazine. What do you feel the two formats communicate to the reader?
One of my concerns with releasing issue zero as a tabloid was being able to make people aware of the fact that issue one was going to be perfect bound. With Kickstarter especially, you only really have people's attention for a few minutes so you need to be very clear in stating the objectives and details of the project. I figured people would be far less inclined to spend £12-20 on backing another tabloid, but fortunately we surpassed our goal and ended up with 125% of the backing I set out to drum up. As a result, many of the reactions I have had in the past fortnight from backers have been overtures of pleasant surprise. I don’t think many people aside from She Was Only and I really knew what to expect, so it has been really nice to see people blown away by the “properness” of issue one.
At the time, the newsprint format really suited where we were at with the project, it was just 12 pages long and served as a sample of what was to come. It was really well received by press internationally and lauded for its “bold” and “confident” design, but it is quite restrictive as a medium. It is my hope that issue one truly communicates the ideals and objectives of intern to the reader. We put a lot of thought into the likes of paper stock in order to create a rich tactile experience for the reader, which we hope will encourage them to engage with the content and with it, the concept.
Tell us about your experience(s) of internships. Do you have a clear view on their value?
My experiences of internships were overwhelmingly positive, their value though, in the wider sense is a lot more subjective and nuanced than that. The main debate surrounding internships is centred around the issue of pay, one of my internships was paid, the other wasn’t. I was lucky enough to be able to engineer a situation where I could afford to do the unpaid one for seven months. That meant working a bar job 30 hours a week on top of the 40 or so hours that I was voluntarily spending at Boat. It also meant sleeping on couches for the duration, generally moving from one place to another every week or so, so as not to overstay my welcome anywhere. The simple fact remains that not everyone is fortunate enough to find a similar solution, particularly when you factor in the living expenses of cities like London and New York, where the most desirable internships are based.
My time in Milan with Domus was a great introduction to the magazine world, to see the inner workings of such a long-running and prestigious publication was incredible. While I struggled a little with the content, having not come from a design or architecture background, the people I met were amazing and have been a great influence and inspiration to me.
Boat was a great fit for me personally, it was and still is, a magazine whose mission statement I connect with, respect and am passionate about. Davey and Erin pretty much allowed me to spend as much time as I liked there and that was key. It meant that I could steadily soak up the day-to-day of both the magazine and the studio, allowing me to experience the process of putting a magazine together as well as the workings of the creative spheres that the process is situated in.
You’ve learned about making magazines as you go. What would be your one piece of advice to someone else doing the same thing?
I think for me, so much of the process has, like you say been a case of learning how to solve problems as they arise that my advice would be to make sure you never sacrifice your principles. With intern I wanted to put together a publication that had real substance in terms of it being a useful resource of advice and information on top of being an enjoyable read. There are efforts across the board to ensure that the magazine's principles are not contradicted at any point.
First of all, we pay all our contributors, not doing so would completely undermine our mission statement. More subtle extensions of our ethos are things like only featuring the names of our intern talent (not our established contributors, who we need to provide perspective) on the cover of the magazine. I’ve always felt that one little slip could well put to waste all the other carefully considered elements of what we’re trying to do, so that consistency of message is of paramount importance. The magazine market is a tough one to crack and if you are looking to break into it, I think that your concept and principles need to be water-tight. If you can do this and be transparent about that side of the project, magazine readers being the discerning bunch that they are, will respond to it accordingly.
What was the last thing your designers said to you?
They told me to get hold of an iPad to borrow and download Adobe Content Viewer so that I can check out their progress on the iPad version of issue one.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
I can’t wait to see the iPad edition in development. One of my best friends from Domus, Marco (Ferrari who we feature in issue one) worked on developing their iPad editions and they are a triumph. There is a superb feel and interactivity that justifies buying them and that is what we are looking to bring to the table with the intern iPad edition. This is a step into the unknown for both She Was Only and me. It remains to be seen if there is the market out there for the product within our readership, but this stage is certainly an exciting one. It is a lot less stressful for all concerned now that the blueprint of issue one is down, I’m hoping we can really have fun with designing it and that will be evident in the user experience that we create.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
I have a meeting with my business adviser in a few hours, at present we’re working on my bookkeeping system and it’s a real pain. I’m not business-minded particularly, so this side of things has often been the most daunting part of the process. The last meeting we had, I hadn’t done my “homework” and I felt terrible because I was just another one of the people who come in and waste everyone’s time. As a result, I’ve got a few more hours of number crunching to do this morning to get back into his good books, it is never something I look forward to but is an essential facet of any independent publication.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Back to the finances unfortunately, as I said before. Not at all glamorous, but vital to get on top of. Many a magazine will have undoubtedly come unstuck by not keeping a close eye on their accounts. In an industry where profit margins are so slight when you are setting out, it is a necessity to be on top of these things from day one.
Photographs hy Kate Vanhinsbergh