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At Work With: Matt Willey, You Can Now
At work with

At Work With: Matt Willey, You Can Now

Matt Willey must be one of the busiest art directors in London these days. As well as his founding role in Port magazine, he’s been working on a number of new projects including this week’s launch of YouCanNow, a smart new members magazine for YCN. Here, he looks ahead at his week and shares some spreads from the new magazine.

Where are you today?
Usually I’m in Hoxton, I recently took a desk in Simon Esterson’s studio (also home to Stephen Coates, Mark Porter and Eye magazine). But this week I’m working at a clients office, somewhere off Old Street, as we try to get a redesign I’ve been working on off to print.

What can you see from the window?

They’re on the top floor and have pretty great views across London - north, west and south. I can see a lot of rooftops.

How many emails are waiting in your inbox?
Way too many… it's a constant source of anxiety to me, they pile up.

What’s your favourite magazine this morning?

It’s a month or so old now but Arem sent me the Who Made That issue of the New York Times Magazine, which is just brilliant. I think this weeks New York cover (above), with the tight crop of Chris Christie’s face, is fantastic. There are the usual suspects piled up on my desk - Eye Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, National Geographic, The New Yorker - all great. I was given a copy of Uppercase recently and I’m really enjoying that. My friend Kai, who publishes mono.kultur, sent me their latest issue - on Brian Eno - which is lovely…

Do you feel optimistic about contemporary editorial design or does a visit to the local newsagent depress you?
I feel very optimistic about contemporary editorial design, there are lots of wonderful magazines and editorial projects going on out there, but I don’t think the old, established systems of circulation fit particularly well with a great deal of them. As a result I don’t find many of them in my local newsagents.

I do miss places like Borders, it feels like there are fewer and fewer places left in London where you can browse, where you might discover something interesting or something unexpected that you weren't necessarily looking for. I used to enjoy that.

Working with another creative director (Kucher Swara) on the art direction and design of Port is a rare relationship. Describe how it works.

Well I don’t design it any more, I’m senior editor on the magazine and only design and art direct the cover (and AD the cover story images obviously). Kuchar is the art director and he does an amazing job, I think the design is getting better and better. At the beginning we designed and art directed it all together and I guess that was an unusual set-up, but we pushed one another and I think it was an interesting way of doing it, I think it worked well.

But the great pleasure in owning a magazine, for me, is that we get to control the content. The design is obviously important, it's just very secondary to what we actually put in the magazine. I think Dan is a brilliant editor, he and I have been good friends for a long time (since Zembla) and we've always enjoyed sitting in pubs and restaurants talking about ‘stuff’ that interests us. Some good ideas (and some very silly ones) have come out of that; eating and drinking and talking, which is essentially how Port came about in the first place, and although I am far less involved in Port these days it's still what I most enjoy about it.

I’m also really enjoying working with Betty Wood and Barney Rowntree on the Port podcasts, and Anthony Austin on the filmed interviews - I think the one on René Burri worked really well.

The new magazine for YCN is almost a reinvention of their whole brand. Do you see a link between editorial and brand design?

There certainly can be a link but I wasn’t thinking about that with YCN if I’m honest, not in any direct way at least. YCN have been around for a long time but the way founder Nick Defty talked about You Can Now was always as something ‘new’– so it felt like a chance to do something that was distinct from, or not overly effected by, anything they had previously done. It was great fun, I worked with Alex Hunting at YCN, who’s a really good designer, and we got to commission some fantastic illustrators and photographers. I’m looking forward to seeing what Nick and Alex do with it next.

What was the last thing your editor said to you?
Lunch? St Johns? Bone marrow?

What are you most looking forward to this week?
Well, aside from the bone marrow (and the obligatory bottle of red that goes with it), this redesign (an architecture magazine) goes to print on Wednesday and I’m looking forward to finishing up pages and getting it off to print, it’s been a really interesting project. There are two new editorial projects that get under way this week too, which I’m really excited about.

What are you least looking forward to this week?
There’ll be a few late nights but I think this week is going to be just fine.

What will you be doing after this chat?
I need a coffee.

YouCanNow is usually only available to YCN members, but the magCulture shop has a limited number for sale now.

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