David McKendrick, Paperboy
After plenty of experience producing magazines for others, art director David McKendrick has just launched the first issue of his own title, Paperboy.
McKendrick won multiple awards for his work as creative director at British Esquire, before starting creative agency BAM with fellow art director Lee Belcher in 2014. Recent magazine projects include Cloakroom and Wallpaper*. As he shares his week ahead, we hear about the inspirations behind, and hopes for, the new magazine.
Outline your usual Monday morning routine.
I’m originally from Glasgow Scotland, but I’ve been based in London for the last 20 years. I’m very lucky to live in the Barbican.
I’m the co founder of design and art direction studio BAM. We are based from our studio in Hackney, and we are lucky to have and international client base that seen us work all over the place, but that was until 12 months ago.
A global pandemic put a right spanner in the works of my usual routine that would start with a coffee then a straight to the local pool for a 2km swim before I even even open the Instagram, or read an email. The swimming pool is my sacred place where I dissect the day ahead, make a plan, then get my arse in gear. It's a pretty precious space to have this hour to myself with no phones and shit.
So recently I’ve kept to this routine loosely, replacing the swim with a run.
As for the office: I’ve swapped out a book shelf for a desk and screwed and anglepoise lamp to the wall, et voila, the home office. I’ve found it really enjoyable working from home, I feel like I now have options and enjoy them both. (I do however appreciate I’m lucky and not everyone has the same experience).
Home HQ for me is very good for concentrating, and having Columbo on the TV in the background is quite a treat. The studio is more a collaborative place, set up for making stuff and leaving mess, but sometimes it difficult to get things done as I’m easily distracted. Having a laugh is much more fun than graphic design.
Describe your desk and what you can see around you.
Home — I see books and through the window to the left I look out over a man made lake in the centre of a concrete jungle. Even though very static concrete towers dominate the skyline, I feel like the view and the atmosphere changes a lot, with colour and light. Very dramatic.
Studio — I see more reference books and look out over a train track; I find the constant rumble of trains very comforting. Sounds basic, but big windows are a very important thing to me too. Of course there are the other designers too. Handsome bunch.
Are you feeling optimistic about 2021?
Yeh — I think so: Since I got Paperboy out my head, then out the door, then out into other peoples hands, I have felt a gentle buzz of optimism in the air, last year was such a stinker of a year, but I’ve had it alright compared to others. I’m very aware of this.
I do really feel for younger people right now, it must feel really shit, at school age, being at home every day. Graduates, graduating without a degree show and not a great deal of optimism or opportunity. I guess that is why I felt the need to get these guys involved in Paperboy and give them at least a glimmer of hope.
That was one of the key things that ignited the spark to get Paperboy out the starting blocks. In conversations with close friends, I realised there was very little I could do as a graphic designer or art director to contribute to the battle against the virus and help others. No one needs another one of those daft pointless ‘design a poster’ projects during a global crisis.
So working with young people and doing Paperboy has personally made me a little more chipper.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Well, honestly, my first memory is finding what we called at the time ’nude books’ in my mates dads hut: (that was very exciting, but I guess that’s not appropriate).
Other than that, I was a religious weekly consumer of Auto Trader, a weekly regionally publication. A beautiful, news print, saddle stitched bible of automobiles that were for sale. (I’ve made it sound more glamorous than it was).
But I remember loving the order and the function, it really appealed to me the sense of rigour and logic. It wasn’t designed to be pretty, it was designed out of pure function. The aesthetic was pre determined by a grid of adverts that you bought to promote the car you were selling. I think this is a publication of pure accidental beauty.
In June 2013 the internet delivered its final deadly blow to Auto Trader’s printed version. It’s not quite the same digitally. Sitting on a Sunday with a cup of tea thumbing my copy, pondering over the ‘hot hatch’ section with my pals was a very precious moment.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Right this is going sound a little lame, but I’ve become and avid collector of newish French magazine called L’etiquette. It is biannual and it’s all in French.
It is a non pretentious men’s style magazine and is pretty good for outfit inspiration, (how to wear white jeans etc) sorry if I sound like a teenager. Oh I’m also trying to learn French so good for that too. It is such a beautiful balance of cool and accessible. I recommend tracking one down.
Describe Paperboy in three words.
Only Good News
You've art directed many, many magazines, but never before published your own. Why now?
I’ve wanted to make my own publication for a while now, but I guess a combination of being robbed of having social life, coupled with the fact I’ve been making projects for other people for 20 years (which is great but can really be a pain in the ass sometimes), triggered an urgency for me.
So yes, I am Paperboy, for the second time in my life. First time in Glasgow delivering Glasgow’s Evening Times five nights a week after school. (1987-1989) Thankfully this time around it’s less heavy lifting, although the pay is much worse now.
I also mustn’t forget another motivation: the barrage of bad news 2020 delivered! It was getting to me, the constant sensationalism by the newspapers, the radio, on my phone, it was really getting to me. I guess that is why it was important to get Paperboy out there and deliver only good news. A kind of antidote to the bad news.
The contributor's list is impressive; how did you assemble such a crew?
I don’t want it to sound too basic, but I drew up a wish list of all the great accomplished people I have worked with over the years, and I dreamt a little, and in an old fashioned manner got on the phone, told them about Paperboy, and the idea and begged the question “will you be part of this?” and much to my surprise, everyone seemed up for it.
It might have been the bribery of post lock down red wine and dinner that helped. I was also giving everyone quite a broad brief of ‘good news’, so everyone seemed drawn by this, and the creative freedom to make something for themselves, that they knew I would publish.
The harder part was getting young people involved. I was adamant that I could help / contribute to the people who were having a shittier time than most. So I reached out to my old high school, and my art school and a few million emails later required some school kids and some undergraduates, who had talent, and needed a break. And they rose to the challenge and hopefully being published alongside some big hitters will give them a little springboard to what they want to do.
Yes, everyone got paid, a democratic and token fee per commission. Regardless of how many pages, or how accomplished the contributor was, EVERYONE got the same fee.
Is the issue a one-off or does Paperboy have a future?
So the reaction has been great, and we are about to enter into a reprint situation two weeks after going on sale. I guess it is hard working on these things in isolation, so you are never sure that your idea or visions are going to be welcomed or popular. Every issue that I sell is like getting one big Insta ‘like’.
But seriously, if I can get issue of Paperboy in as many peoples hands as possible it will be great.
Issue two is already in early stages, but I need to find a partner to help me fund it, so that is a more pressing matter. I wasn’t sure that it should have a conventional advertising revenue business model, as it doesn’t feel right.
The down side of that is it cost me a shit load of my savings to get issue one out the door, so the bigger job right now is finding funding, so if anyone is out there and they want a slice. Give me a shout.
What’s going to be the highlight of this coming week for you?
My highlight this week, is of course this article going live, but aside from that, the lido’s are open again and, although every day at 6am I question my own sanity, I’m back in the pool, phone-less, digitally unplugged and thrashing up and down a pool for 45 minutes.