Located in the Kolonnadenviertel of Leipzig, MZIN was initially set up as a University project by graphic designer Philipp Neumann. The idea was to zealously celebrate printed matter, and as well as magazines you’ll find a host of independent art and design books stacked on the hand-made wooden tables around the shop. This week, we chat to Philipp about the changes in Leipzig’s underground publishing scene over the years.
When and why did you set up MZIN?
MZIN was my final year project at Leipzig’s Academy of Visual Art in 2008. It started out as a vague idea – I wanted to bring good printed matter to this town, and I also wanted to make a social space (we put on small exhibitions, launches, readings, etc.) Soon, MZIN became a business idea… In 2014, we released a book called ‘MZIN – the bookbook’ about the first five years of the business.
Since the start of this year, Karen (another force behind the project and also by chance my partner!) joined officially.
We both studied graphic design/ typography and we care about the art of book and magazine making. Leipzig is traditionally a good place for books and print – there are a lot of knowledgeable enthusiasts here.
How do you lay out the magazines around the shop and how did you decide on that set up?
From the beginning, I wanted to put the magazines and catalogues in a very clean and neutral environment - almost like a gallery or showroom - in order to focus people’s attention on the covers. I wanted to highlight the covers, make it seem as if they were pieces of art. We built and planned all of the interior ourselves, using very cheap but clean material. You can see our love for graphic design and architecture in general when you see the space – or at least that’s what people say.
Who are your customers?
It’s mainly graphic designers that keep MZIN going through the years. The local art school is also very important for us… There was always a strong graphic design scene here, or lets say a scene in design in general…
What’s your best-seller this month?
We just opened again after being closed in August, so it’s hard to say! For the last quarter, I think Some Magazine (‘a magazine between design and art’ from here in Germany), the current issue of Flaneur (‘fragments of a street’, a fantastic magazine dealing with a single street only) and the latest issue of Foam (‘the messenger – image-based activism today) was selling quite well. We also sell catalogues and books on art and design – for example Karel Martens’ latest publication and a book on the work of Brian Roettinger are doing well.
I should mention, being a best-seller means selling a quantity of five to 10, so if I believe in an issue I can easily make it a ‘best-seller’ by always recommending it!
Do you have a favourite local magazine?
Not really. The local scene is pretty boring (except the literature magazine Edit keep doing nice work). But there are two independent art and design publishers, Spector Books and Lubok – they’re always worth checking out!
What has the biggest challenge been?
In the mid/late 90s I worked at a record shop… so taking business seriously – the opening times, the daily paper work, etc. – wasn’t a big issue. Sometimes, especially in the first years, we struggled economically and questioned what we were doing (but somehow still getting along!) MZIN is our ‘homebase’, and it’s a starting point, a vehicle through which we can do other projects like curating or hosting conferences.
What changes have you seen in the magazines since you opened?
When we opened seven years ago, it was the time of a ‘print revival’, of new ‘self-publishing’, etc. There were magazines coming and going, so now it’s nice to see that some are still going strong. Many of them are pioneers, and many have become more professional. To see Apartamento, Purple, 032c, Fantastic Man, Lodown and Pin-Up all still there (and being influential) feels good. I guess the love of print – especially in digital times – will not go away and we can expect to see even more crazy magazines in the future.