Little Atoms #1
Little Atoms might be the first magazine that started out as a podcast. The radio show of the same name launched in 2005, and it set out to tell stories about an eclectic range of topics – from science and politics to art and literature – in a smart and accessible way. Their new print magazine is no different, and it features essays about everything from Marxism to The Great Gatsby by prominent writers like Christopher Hitchens, Suzanne Moore, Jonathan Meades and Nick Cohen.
Like its name almost demands, the publication itself is very little, as is the size of the text – the point size is surely too small for some readers. But the pocket size format makes the publication easy to consume on the go (like a podcast perhaps), and this first issue features a classically quizzical Jean Jullien drawing on the cover. While the visual tone is playful, the tone of the writing is smart and probing: there’s a piece by Fergal Keane on the refugee crisis (above), and another thoughtful article considering pseudoscience and mysticism (also above).
The miniature magazine was designed with a lot of energy and precision by the London-based studio Wild Billy and Crazy Dave; the bold quotation marks and vibrant colours (above) remind me a bit of the layout of newspaper supplements like The Guardian’s G2, yet the splatterings of Jean Jullien drawings on chapter title pages (below) give the entire publication more of an independent vibe. This definitely has something to do with the fact that Jullien’s work is so pervasive in independent titles these days. It seems Little Atoms has decided to aesthetically position itself as part of the mainstream press while still showing an awareness of its independent counterparts.
I like how Little Atoms combines edited podcast interviews (which are put in the ‘Tapes’ chapter) with original articles (printed in the ‘Essays’ section). Sometimes I listen to podcasts and think about how the stories really deserve a second life in written-form: Little Atoms creates this platform for preserving and revisiting audio tales, but it also stays fresh and relevant through the commissioning of new written work.
I wonder if we’ll start to see more magazines emerging out of podcasts in the same way that we’ve seen them develop out of blogs. Magazines could become a kind of ‘Best of…’ or annual round up for podcasts – a space to revisit favourite stories and maybe continue conversations that were begun in an audio format. I wouldn’t say no to a This American Life Journal or Radio Lab Mag; I hope Little Atoms are leading the way.