magCulture Live, London 2021—the afternoon
Here’s our second round-up of this year’s magCulture Live, London. The afternoon session featured four guests and was livestreamed to an international audience.
Olu Odukoya opened after lunch with a strong, passionate talk about Modern Matter, describing it as being about presentation and telling stories. ‘We never start with the theme, the theme comes at the end of the magazine when we’ve gone through the process of making the issue.’ The result is a magazine about making a magazine, encouraging the reader to consider the editorial process.
‘Growing up in Africa, the opportunity I see in a magazine is totally different, as I understand it, from the Western way. I see a magazine as a freedom for me to express something I wouldn’t otherwise have a platform to do.’
After talking through a few recent issues, Olu’s focus was the brilliant new 19th edition, out now. The cover (above) is a typical collision of different elements: the subject is Korean artrist Koo Jeong, shot by Juergen Teller, and with the name and theme added by Olu’s four year old son. In addition, ‘the whole cover was laser cut,’ he explained (at this point he passed copies of the issue to the audience to see this effect).
Olu showed a video of his daughter reading his explanation of the shredding of the issue
The cuts on the cover are small interventions; inside the pages have been shredded to reflect the threat to digital data—the magazine recently had its Insatgram account hacked. ‘Every time you go through the magazine you will create new pages, new layers of your one information in the way you want to look at it.’
As a result of this type of tactile ambition, Olu has become a production expert; every issue brings up extraordinary printing demands and it took him three months to find the printer that could shred this issue in the way he wanted.
Kirsten Algera has spoken several times before at our events; we invited her back to mark 10th edition of her magazine MacGuffin. She talked through the ten issues (above) and discussed what she and fellow editor Ernst Van der Hoeven have learned from each.
This was a fascinating talk built on the editorial brilliance of the magazine itself; Kirsten used each issue to reveal a general theme from the magazine, from the kaleodoscopic nature of the content, to the celebration of the everyday and the idea of the magazine as exhibition.
The MacGuffin cover design has always struck me as a strong and brave template—they look great together as a setries and are immediately identifiable despite being relatively opaque and abstract. So it was a surprise to hear that the final design was resolved as the team were on their way to see issue one print. Another design had been completed, but at the very last minute they shifted to the hand drawn ‘M’ we know, inspired by the 1950’s ‘La Marque Jaune’ comic (above).
Kirsten also highlighted the role of the team in magazine-making, and ended with the concept of throwing a stone in the pond… throw the stone and watch the ripples spread out. ‘All the topics and contributions are like that, feeding into one another and expanding on one another.’
After two strong and successful examples of contemporary independent publishing, we turned our attention back to the 1980’s and the launch of a magazine that has proven to be an inspiration to generations since.
The 40th anniversary earlier this year was the perfect reason to feature i-D founder Terry Jones. He couldn’t join us live so we took a film crew down to his Somerset base and filmed an interview, after which Terry joined us a for a live Q&A via Zoom.
Terry talked through the origins of i–D and shared work ranging from the first issue (and its original physical artwork) to recent collages using work from across his career.
Along the way he showed how design, art direction and publishing are intertwined in magazine making, talking about his ambitions for i-D in a manner familiar to any indie publisher working today, ‘What I wanted to make was something you had to work at a little bit. As a quarterly, I thought you should slow the reader down; the idea you’d have an instant bit, then you’d find something three months later. It was intentionally a process of discovery rather than a series of rules’.
Following the film, Terry appeared on the screen to cheers and proceeded to generously answer questions from the audience.
Does he have advice for anyone making a magazine today? ‘Be brave!’
‘If you’re going to be an editor, build a good team around you. The nature of a magazine is to work with a team.’
Our final speaker was the creative director of The Guardian newspaper.
Known for its innovative use of art direction and design, with figures including David Hillman, Simin Esterson and Mark Porter all helping establish that repuration, the current lead designer Alex Breuer presented the latest addition to the newspaper: the weekend magazine Saturday.
This was a reminder of the way journalism and design interact in print. Alex discussed the newspaper’s longstanding history of Saturday magazines (above) before sharing inspirations and development of the new magazine.
Alex provided inisght into the design and technical underpinning of a weekly story-intensive project. What appears simple in execution needs rigorous advance thought and development, and the entire talk was a whistle-stop tour of the minutae involved in setting up a new weekly: typographic palettes, pace, colour…
He also shared some early design directions that were abandoned—it’s always good to hear why something doesn’t work as well as what does.
The new magazine is a deliberate step away from the very defined parameters of the 2018 relaunch of the entire Guardian print and digital channels; it draws together several existing publications to produce a single, significant Saturday package.
‘We're really excited about these first steps… it feels like an exciting way to rejuvenate not just the graphic design but also the photography and art direction, how we use illustration, and how we tell stories.’
And that was the end of the day.
All the speakers shared great stories and experiences that reminded us of the power of magazines, but perhaps more important than that was the simple thrill of being present at a live event in a room with other people.
We’ve already booked Conway Hall for next year’s magCulture Live; meanwhile we ponder a return to the US for a New York edition next Spring.
Ticketholders can watch back the entire day on video— you should have received a Vimeo password by email this week.