John Sunyer, Courier
The theme for magCulture Live NY this year is ‘Format’, and one magazine on the line-up is London-based business title Courier, which has just marked its 50th issue with a complete refresh.
John Sunyer is Editor across all Courier’s channels—print, email, online and video—and led the relaunch alongside Creative directors Kate McInerney and Lisa Rahman and Photography director Anna Jay. The new magazine retains Courier’s desire to tell stories of modern business and ‘people living and working on their own terms,’ but presents it in a more ambitious frame.
Published twice a year instead of bimonthly, it has more pages, a freer flatplan, and make better use of the physical attributes of print with different papers, pull-outs and stickers. John tells us more about the project and what our audience can expect from his and Anna Jay’s talk at magCulture live.
Where are you working from this week?
The south of France (hence the tourist pic). I’m half French and have been coming to Marseille for the past three years during summer, working one week on, one week off – usually for around a month, if I can get away with it. My dad’s from a small town nearby, so this part of the world has always been special to me. Every year we came to this region on family holidays. There’s no better city than London, but Marseille runs it close.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
I wake up at 7.30—any earlier’s no fun. Because France is an hour ahead, I have more time to play with until I start work. I get to run along the coast, swim, return to the flat, shower, and head back out for a pain au chocolat, obviously. Then I’ll start on emails, calls, meetings, writing, editing, etc.
What can you see from your desk/ through the window?
Directly in front of me, a white wall. But there are tall windows on either side; they look out onto a typically pretty/gritty Marseille scene—four-storey apartment blocks, tiled rooftops, trees, blue sky.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
There are still so many amazing magazines out there, magazines like n+1, Popeye, New York, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek (sounds boring but its longform features are brilliant brilliant brilliant). Tank, i-D, Dazed and 032c have all been putting out really strong issues recently. I love what Kaleidoscope’s doing. Apartamento is always in my rotation; so is Regain and the annual Zeit Magazin International.
Describe Courier in three words.
Positive, practical, fun.
How has the reinvention of the magazine been received by readers?
I think pretty well, actually. With most new issues or launches, friends and family will send you kind words. But with this project, lots more people have been reaching out: former colleagues, writers and editors at other magazines who I hadn’t been in touch with before, readers and friends who typically don’t show much interest in my work (fair enough). So it’s been making a bit of noise. Our founder, Jeff Taylor, always says that Courier is the magazine world’s best kept secret. We’ve been working hard to put that right, and the new magazine feels like a step in the right direction.
You’ve previously worked at more established titles, The Financial Times for instance. How do the work cultures vary between that and the relatively small, independent, Courier?
I was at the FT for around six years, predominantly as commissioning editor of the newspaper’s weekly culture section, Life & Arts. I looked after the front page essays, the Lunch with the FT interview slot, and generally edited and wrote across the section, as well as for the magazine. The FT’s a great place to work – everything’s very considered, very structured. I worked alongside several phenomenal editors and still now, whenever I edit or write something, I think about how they would do it.
At Courier, most people are younger and there’s a lot more change—nothing’s sacred, products come and go, you have to be more flexible in how you work, no two days are the same, etc.
What are you going to be talking about at magCulture Live New York 2023?
Anna Jay (photography director) and I will talk about how and why relaunched the magazine. On the surface, not much has changed: the magazine has stayed true to its founding ideas and beliefs—focusing on people living and working on their own terms. But we’ve reimagined how we represent what success looks like in the modern economy across art and design, food and drink, entrepreneurship and fashion.
In visual terms, we’re moving away from traditional layouts by evolving our photography and developing a bespoke approach to features and design. Our design team, especially Lisa Rahman and Anna, have done amazing things on that front. We also wanted the magazine to become more collectible—we’ve made it bigger, the paper stock is more premium and there are lots more surprises, among them sticker sheets, pull-out posters and augmented reality illustrations.
And some industry-speak for a second… above all, we wanted to design a magazine with more experimental formats that could show more forms of self-expression—almost like a mood board—and let readers see and find themselves in it. The magCulture talk gives us a good opportunity to explain what all this means in practice.
Which other speaker are you looking forward to hearing talk?
I like reading Port (and wrote a couple of features for it in the early days). So Matt Willey and Dan Crowe’s approach to making magazines definitely stands out. (The two will be presenting issue two of their latest project, Inque).
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
Stretching out the work/life balance here. Get the violins out: it’s my final week.
magCulture Live New York 2023 takes place on Sunday July 9, and live and livestream tickets are still available.
Book your place now!