Kara Zwaanstra, Ø8-12 Magazine
Graphic designer Kara Zwaanstra recently published the first issue of her magazine Ø8-12. The pocket-sized mag promises a close-up look at different niche topics each issue, starting with Japanese dagashi sweets.
Its pages are packed with images of sweet packaging collected by Kara during a visit to Tokyo, each scanned on a flatbed scanner, which Kara points out, ‘is great for picking up those subtle details that we would otherwise overlook—important bits of information that we can gather about objects.’ The images are accompanied by Kara’s carefully researched notes about each sweet.
What are you doing this morning?
Mondays are funny to me, they are supposed to be a fresh start to the week but I hardly feel fresh on Monday mornings haha. Nonetheless, I always start my mornings with music, my recent obsession being country music… more specifically Zach Bryan’s song ‘Revival.‘ He puts me in a good head space in the morning so it’s nice to start the day with some feel-good tunes. I eat breakfast, then check my emails and process any new orders that have come in.
I’m currently working on our second issue which will be all about the heavy metal and rock music culture in Finland. I’ve been trying to overcome the creative block that I have been facing for the past week. Running a magazine is tough stuff!
Where are you today?
At home! Currently sitting in the home office staring out the window trying to gather my thoughts for the new work week. I usually sit outside in our back garden if the sun is out, which it has been all of last week but now the weather is turning a bit so for now, I sit inside. I have a nice springy office chair with great lumbar support (it’s nothing pretty) so I’m quite comfy when working.
I do have a small office space in Hackney where I sometimes sit in a pale pink Vitra Panton chair that looks pretty but truth be told, isn’t as comfy as my non-stylish black lumbar-supporting chair. I travel to Hackney at times but on Mondays, I like to work from home and hang out with my dog.
What can you see from your desk/ through the window?
My office window faces our back garden and overlooks our neighbour‘s gardens as well. It stays quite most of the time, but we do have some neighbour’s whose kids blast their cartoons on full volume with their back doors open. Luckily this morning it is peaceful… at least for now!
The office desk, on the other hand, is less than peaceful. It’s cluttered with a mix of my work and my husband‘s (we share a home office), we have seemed to establish a system where I occupy the right-hand side of the desk, while he occupies the left. So far so good, although it does sometimes drive me crazy.
Which magazine do you first remember?
I started reading magazines when I was quite young and in my middle school years (primary school as they call it here). I am not going to share a photo with you of some cool magazine that makes me seem woke because let’s face it, who is “cool” in their pre-teen days? So I’m going to be real with you and share that the first magazine I actually remember reading was called Tiger Beat; a cheesy tabloid magazine about then-prevalent teen pop stars and their breakups, new love interests, and fashion mishaps… very riveting stuff.
But on the other hand, I also used to read Thrasher. My mother was always very confused when I would leave the grocery store with a copy of Tiger Beat in one hand, and Thrasher in another. But that was me, I was both a tomboy and a girly-girl. Thrasher sometimes had fold-out posters of skateboarders performing tricks, so I would tape them to my wall. I used to skateboard a bit back then.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Sandwich magazine. I’m always more drawn to mags that are quirky and about sort of random things. Sandwich is a great example of that, who would’ve thought that there would be a mag dedicated to the art of making sandwiches? I love their tag line, “here for the magic that happens between two slices of bread”… genius.
Describe Ø8-12 in three words.
Cool. Niche. Dossier.
And that name..?
Haha funny question, it’s just my birthday! I wanted to name the magazine something very vague but unique. I want my readers to be intrigued about what the name is, when people see my mag on the shelves, I want them to think ‘08-12? What’s that?’ It invites them to pick it up and click through to figure out what it’s actually about.
You describe the magazine as an archive, collecting together images and information on a single subject. Tell us about the subject for archive one.
Well first of all, we call our mags “archives” rather than “issues” mainly because we want our magazines to be treated like archival material, collections that stay on your bookshelf for years to come. Because each archive is and will be 160 pages (ish) long, it’s more of a book, a collectable—it’s a work of art…. Not to mention, it’s biannual so it’s not to be treated as a mag that you receive every week or month and just toss in the trash (please don’t). That’s why we call each mag issue an “archive.”
For our first mag, I wanted to pay homage to my culture. I am half-Japanese and grew up in the heart of Tokyo. I was always surrounded by a plethora of art and design, everything was so visually exciting and pleasing. I visited Tokyo last October and found myself in Kashiya Yokocho, a small alleyway lined with mom-and-pop candy stalls and became absolutely enamoured with the packaging designs of the dagashi, cheap Japanese candy. That is what sparked the idea for our first mag. I wanted to share with the world the beauty behind the cheap sweets found in tiny alleyway just outside of the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Tokyo.
Design-wise, I had the idea to scan most of the layouts via my home scanner. I like the depth it creates, well not so much ‘creates’, but captures. You can’t capture wrinkles, folds, dust, scratches, etc through purely digitized media. A scanner is great for picking up those subtle details that we would otherwise overlook—these details are all important bits of information that we can gather about objects. It also gives the reader a more tangible feeling, we want our magazine to feel as analogue as possible and by using a scanner, it can emulate how we would most accurately view an object or subject. And because a scanner can pick up depth, it creates these beautiful moments of blurriness paired with sharp contrast in the imagery.
How did you research the detailed texts about each dagashi?
The researching behind every dagashi took ages—I am working on this magazine by myself currently so this took up a huge chunk of time in relation to the total magazine-making process. It was a lot of hours scouring the internet and different dagashi forums (yes, they exist), blogs, and company websites.
You obviously love dagashi—what’s your favourite type?
My favourites are Baby Star Ramen and Umaibo—I grew up eating these as a kid. I’m more of a savoury over sweet person. All of the dagashi that you can read about in our mag, are all personally taste-tested by me… all of the taste notes are from my own tongue, they might be a little biased but at least they are honest! I actually had to purchase a separate suitcase to fit all of the dagashi that I purchased at Kashiya Yokocho… the airport security must have had a lot of questions…
What one piece of advice do you have for someone launching their own magazine?
It’s very hard but if you have a unique idea, run with it. It doesn’t matter if only five people buy into the idea initially, if you are your biggest supporter, you will go far. If you can pour passion into your project, the readers will eventually come! But it does take time.
We just started this year and while our reader base is quite small, (which can be disheartening when you are just starting out) I am still continuing Ø8-12 Magazine because it’s my passion! And I love doing it, I learn about a new subject along with the readers so it’s fun for me. It’s tough but when you see your finished product that you worked so hard on… it’ll all be worth it in the end. Trust the process!
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
I’m looking forward to progressing with the second issue. It’s slowly coming along but that’s okay, everything takes time. I’m also looking forward to watching the Formula One race this weekend, it’s taking place in Nagoya, Japan. I’m a huge fan of Formula One, have been since 2011, so it’s always a highlight of my week whenever it’s race week. Anyone here a Lewis Hamilton fan?