Making magazines

geoff ross photographed by alistair guthrie for idealog launch issue


It was an interesting and fun experience to launch Idealog magazine. I had never been involved in launching a title before so I was lucky to have partners well versed in the process. I was thinking about the experience the other day as I prepared a talk for students at the Natcol design school campus in Auckland.

One of the things I enjoyed was working with illustrators and photographers. As creative director I think I might have overspent the art budget somewhat but it payed off with interesting content that didn't look like other business magazines (or design magazines for that matter). My concept was to use the images not only to sell the stories but also to support and challenge the creatives who made the images.

A given in my briefs to contributors was to come back with something that would scare me silly. I didn't want to see things that were homages to other magazines or of a genre. It was important to me that each page turn should be a surprise for the reader - something to challenge their perceptions. Idealog is a magazine about creativity, after all. It was fun to be working with talented people who were able to have far more freedom because of the editorial context than they would have in my usual realm of advertising and design - where clients exert a certain constraint and control over the imagery (perhaps too much) - and at far more favourable rates than commercial constraints permit. I was often surprised how some contributors would deliver technically proficient results but which were still fettered by the perceived constraints they were used to. Sometimes it was disappointing.

One photographer never failed to delight - Alistair Guthrie (who caught Geoff Ross of 42 Below (above)for a story about recreation, what creative people do to renew). I first met Alistair when he was assigned to shoot me for Metro magazine in the early nineties. I hadn't hired him for any advertising work but leaped at the chance to bring him into the Idealog team. He is probably the closest New Zealand has to Annie Liebovitz in the editorial realm. Better still he is a both professional and very easy to work with - typical of talent who are confident in their work. I find prima donnas tend to have performance anxiety that can translate into passive aggression. (read the often smarmy, sarcastic and - usually - anonymous comments on the New Zealand Creative circle advertising blog).

The talk at Natcol went well. The interesting thing was the high level of interest in digitally distributed magazines. I know it is a challenging concept for the people engaged in churning out paper and ink publications, but it has to happen. Just as advertising agencies face huge challenges so to do publishers. You have to wonder about the sustainability of an industry that is cutting down trees and filling landfills at a terrifying rate.

I would like to develop more publications but I think they will, inevitably, be digital.

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