“‘Print is dead’ is dead,” says Kai Brach, founder of Offscreen magazine. I couldn’t agree more.
The revival of niche print media in recent years has spawned dedicated blogs, inspiring conferences and beautiful retail stores to support the ever-growing stack of great new magazines on the market.
News of the print renaissance has even made the mainstream media, featuring in newspapers that must certainly envy the ability of these magazines to draw audiences so dedicated to the medium. Even Vogue wants in on the action.
In fact, the recent rise of print has been so meteoric that the latest issue of my favourite magazine about magazines (yes, even that exists now) features a cover asking mag makers to tone it down a little bit.
“NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR OH-SO-COOL KICKSTARTED TACTILE MINIMALIST UNORIGINAL MAGAZINE,” screams the cover of Gym Class magazine.
Gym Class editor Steven Gregor told MagCulture blog: “The cover is a call to action… make magazines, and make them exceptional.”
But it is also a tongue-in-cheek dig at the magazines that so clearly derive their aesthetic from already established publications. Why bother making an indie mag if you’re just going to follow the party line?
While many magazines inspire adoration, and others criticism, there is perhaps no more divisive publication on the indie mag scene right now than Kinfolk. The magazine’s aesthetic of carefully arranged handmade homeware elements, washed-out photography and near-excessive use of white space is instantly recognisable, and being copied by many of the newest independent magazines. Meanwhile, its critics point to the reductive conformism of its design as a reason to steer clear.
Enter The Kinspiracy. With the tagline “making white people feel artistic since 2011”, the blog pokes fun at Instagram users who live out the Kinfolk aesthetic by posting photos in the style of the magazine.
Who knew it could be so entertaining to reduce a highly refined aesthetic to just four tropes? Cups of coffee, wooden backdrops, American flags, and the latest cover of Kinfolk magazine.
The blog’s founder, Summer Allen, explains that the blog was “born not out of spite, but out of a fascination with the redundancy of almost identical subject matter.”
What began as an idealised lifestyle playing out on the magazine’s pages is now an archetype that has even been recognised in the mainstream media. The Sunday Times Style Magazine recently commissioned illustrations for a piece on style tribes that included a character called the Kinfolk Man. What set him apart from the East London Dalston Pop-Up was a heavier beard, vintage cardigan, sandals and canvas tote filled with organic vegetables.
As Rob Alderson at design blog It’s Nice That put it, “Did the magazine create the culture of visual conformity, or was it just perfectly placed to take advantage of it?”
The debate continues to draw interest online.
It’s funny how much my experience of print is enriched by the online mag community and all the extra discussions and tools on offer there. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My favourite thing about magazines isn’t cracking the spine on a new issue, getting a whiff of the paper, or Instagramming my latest mag purchase (although I love all those things), it’s that they’re such a strong tool for building communities.
Lately I’ve been playing with a concept for a magazine about migration that would aim to break down that hierarchy of expats versus immigrants, connecting people through shared experiences.
If I’m lucky, the only thing my magazine will be able to be hated for is its ability to earnestly build solidarity. It’s a work in progress.