Steven Gregor, Gym Class
This week we’re at work with Gym Class’s Steven Gregor, the king of colourful mag cover galore on Instagram and the brains behind everyone’s favourite meta-magazine about magazine-making. We speak with Steven in the wake of the brand new Autumn/Wintour issue 13.
Where are you today?
I’m at home in London… or, as I like to call it, Gym Class HQ.
What can you see from the window?
Cromwell Tower. I live with my husband in a very-small-but-perfectly-formed Barbican flat. I can also see the neglected flowers in our balcony planters. Oh, the shame… when I meet neighbours in the lift, I can’t look them in the eye. Seriously, it’s like Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame in ‘Game of Thrones’.
Are you a morning or evening person?
Evening. Without doubt. But not for working… rather... for watching TV, or a film, cooking, listening to a record, or trying out new albums on Apple Music. I wish I read more books. That’s a goal. I’m gonna get a Playstation soon. That’s gonna be a major time suck, right? I love magazines as much as the next magCulture reader, but you gotta have other interests too.
Which magazine do you first remember?
The Australian edition of Smash Hits. Growing up in Australia, I remember most kids would play sport after school, or ride their BMX, or skateboard, or surf, or whatever. But I was either hanging out at the Blockbuster or at the newsagent. Movies and magazines offered a window to other far-away worlds; I was always looking beyond my immediate reality. Australian Smash Hits was the first magazine I regularly read.
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
Oh, that’s a hard one. The end of summer is a bonanza for magazine lovers. So many ace, bumper new issues. I tell you, my mag swag is over flowing.
That said, my favourite this morning is Entertainment Weekly—the Fall TV Preview issue. I always read the editor’s letter of magazines I buy (even if that’s the only thing I read). EW editor Henry’s Goldblatt’s intro was totally relatable and made me laugh. A respectful and authentic reader relationship is paramount for any great magazine. Henry and his editorial team are rocking it. They’re not afraid of humour.
Design-wise, it looks brilliant. Design director Tim Leong helmed a redesign recently… he’s a Wired alumnus and I think that lineage is evident in the magazine’s structure and detailing. Especially impressive because... it’s a weekly!
As an adjunct… at 160 pages, it’s the magazine’s largest issue in nine years! Congrats to them.
What’s your favourite magazine cover this morning?
Shite. That’s a tough one, too. I really like the new covers of Avaunt; The New York Times Magazine (their annual travel issue); Wired (their annual design issue); Surfer; Esquire (the one with typography by Sawdust); and Port (the limited edition Wolfpack option).
But, the cover I totally love this morning is the limited edition red Fantastic Man one with Kyle MacLachlan shot by Inez and Vinoodh. I haven’t been able to track down a copy... yet… I fear time is running out. Just thinking about it makes me anxious. Haha.
What will we find in the brand new Autumn/Wintour issue of Gym Class?
Editorially, it’s jam-packed with mag-lover aceness. There are features on New York magazine, The California Sunday Magazine and Avaunt. Liv Siddall spoke with the makers of Riposte and Amuseum about difficult second issues. James Cartwright has written a brilliant article on the turbulent history of Good magazine.
And the cover story is an epic piece by David Weiss—he’s an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of New Mexico—about the power and influence of Anna Wintour beyond publishing. Regardless of what people may think of American Vogue, there’s no denying she’s an intriguing personality. David’s piece offers a fresh and important perspective.
With so many magazine makers out there, how do you choose who to profile?
I’m drawn to the stories of high-profile, successful people. That’s quite an unpopular thing to admit nowadays. Most indie magazines are about championing the average, unknown person going about their business in anonymity. That’s cool. I enjoyed reading about cold-water surfers in Acid magazine and beekeeping in The Outpost. But that kind of story-telling is not really what Gym Class is about.
Gym Class is about getting inside the worlds of the people so many of us revere—or, yeah, even... dislike. People don’t need to like Anna Wintour to enjoy David’s article. In fact, people will probably enjoy David’s piece more if they don’t like Anna.
Gym Class often changes its format and style. Can you tell me about the thought behind the design of the new issue?
Wow. I’m so proud of this latest issue. It’s the biggest so far… 92 pages. It has a spine. That’s exciting. I think it’s the best looking issue to date. I’ve used Commercial Type typefaces exclusively. Beautiful typefaces make design so much easier, and Commercial Type are A-list.
Park Communications printed it. They’ve done a fantastic job. And they were super helpful in paper selection within the budget.
I really want to stick with the currently format for a while… and focus on developing the content. I’d love to collaborate with a designer on future issues… but there’s no budget, so I will probably end up designing it myself.
Has the increasing profile of Gym Class affected your day-to-day editorial design work?
Gym Class has never been a self promotion vehicle for me. That said, it has certainly opened doors. And—with hard work—those doors have opened others. Most people I work with have never seen a hard copy of Gym Class. But they’ve likely seen the Gym Class Instagram or Tumblr feeds dedicated to covers. I want Gym Class—in print and online—to be a regular, relevant reference for magazine makers.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
Getting my hands on a copy of Sunday’s The New York Times Magazine. Their annual travel issue is a must-read. Plus, the day job beckons. I’m back freelancing at The Observer newspaper later this week… they’re an ace mob. We have a real laugh.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
I really want to find a distributor to pick up the latest issue. I’d love to be in stores, but don’t have the time to organise it myself. That part of the indie process is hard for me. Wish me luck… or if you know of anyone. Haha.
What will you be doing after this chat?
I’m gonna go downstairs and get a coffee from the stall on Whitecross Street. The French guy who runs it makes a mean flat white. What the heck, I might even treat myself to a croissant.