Skip to content
Martin Jenca, founder of Backstage Talks magazine, sits at his office desk surrounded by books and magazines.
At work with

Martin Jenca, Backstage Talks

Slovakian graphic designer Martin Jenca runs design agency Buro Milk, is the curator of the By Design Conference, and editor-in-chief of Backstage Talks, the magazine about design and business.

Each issue of the magazine is built around the talks at the annual conference. Issue seven, based on the 2022 conference, has just been published and features a new look courtesy of US designer Chloe Scheffe. Martin tells us more about his working life and the magaizne, as this year’s conference takes palce.


What are you up to this Monday morning?
This Monday is special because we had our By Design conference on Saturday. I’m full of energy, It was a great day. Now, I have to get back on track with everything.I usually start my day at a coffee place near the Milk office, prioritizing tasks for the upcoming days. Monday is also a day without client meetings.


A view of the office, with vase of floweres in the foregroudn and bookshelf in the background

Where are you based?
I’m based in Bratislava, Slovakia and I have an office in the city center.


A view form the office window showing Bratislava’s presidential palace and modern banking buildings

What can you see from your desk/through the window?
From my desk, I have a view of the presidential palace, a historic building where our president works and welcomes her guests, along with a square that has a huge fountain called ‘The Fountain of Freedom’. I'm fortunate to have a small balcony where I can greet  those important visitors and wave to them as if I were the president. Sadly, the whole building and square are surrounded by roads with a lot of traffic. It's a noisy but beautiful place.

 Fronet cover of German kid’s magazine Vravo, from January 1993

Which magazine do you first remember?
I remember a few magazines from my childhood in Czechoslovakia. I was always hooked on the German magazine Bravo, which was about pop culture and included stickers, posters, and terrible life advice. But my real magazine obsession started with local erotic magazines.


Cover of Japanese magazine Too Much, the Sacred issue.

Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Japanese magazine Too Much matters to me the most this morning. It’s beautiful in every way, and I love how they approach the topic of ‘Who is to say what is sacred?’ It's really important now.


Froent cover of Backstage Talks magazine issue 7

Describe Backstage Talks in three words.
Dialogues, Design, Business.


Explain how the magazine works with the By Design Conference.
The By Design Conference is just a sales event for the magazine (just kidding). We always make an effort to interview our speakers and collect the interviews in person during the conference weekend. These interviews are then mixed with other relevant content.

However, it's important to note that the magazine has its own theme and independent life. Our goal is to create something that will have a long shelf life. The editor of Backstage Talks, Zuzana Kvetkova, also helps in organizing the conference, so as a magazine, we have direct contact with the event.


The seven issues of Backstage Talks laid out on a table.

The magazine has seen a significant change of design direction for issue seven. Talk us through that change.
Yes, we tried to push the magazine's boundaries last year, but it was gentle. I wanted to be surprised and scared and I created space for significant change. I love Chloe Schefe's work (I collected a few of her magazines), so it was a clear choice to collaborate with her. I believe a change of direction is always good when working with someone from outside the team. It brings a refreshing new point of view.

The collaboration was perfect and really fast. Chloe is a superhuman. So, I trusted her and let her do the work. Usually, I heavily art direct the magazine, but not this time. I wanted for me a new experience and to be surprised when I open our magazine. The result is perfect.

I believe the new design also attracts a new audience, although some of our regular readers were initially grumpy about the change. But I personally like it as well.


Animated GIF of the pages from sisue seven of Backstage Talks

The magazine offers advice for designers that goes beyond the creative to the personal and strategic. Is there one piece of advice that you would recommend to our readers?
Our seventh issue is about empathy, and empathy sells well. My advice would be: don’t sell all the empathy you have. Remember to give as much time to yourself and your team as you give to your clients.


What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
I’m looking forward to some quiet time between magazines and books in my bookstore, Brot Books Deli. Additionally, I’m looking forward to the Exhibition of Bachelor and Diploma Theses at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. I’m on the lookout for young talents.


Designer Chloe Scheffe will be speaking at magCulture Live New York 2023 on Sunday July 9. Full details here.


Previous post Vestoj #11
Next post Coverjunkie exhibition