In a world that discusses artificial intelligence and digital disruption and tech innovation as the imminent future, magazines might seem like an outdated proposition. Why buy the paper version of information that’s already available at your fingertips?
Magazines are responding to this question with zeal. As some familiar publications have moved online (Newsweek) and others have folded entirely (CosmoGirl), a colourful array of independent magazines leads a renaissance of print from London to Shanghai. From insightful investigations of fashion to the unseen world of tech creators (“pixel people”) to long-reads about the most important stories you’ve never heard of, these volumes comprise a diverse spectrum of form and content. What is breathing new life into a format condemned as ‘dead’ not too long ago?
A clear point of view
The Gentlewoman calls itself a celebration of “modern women of style and purpose” that offers “fresh and intelligent” looks at fashion as personal style. Its covers have featured both Beyoncé and Bjork – two iconic personalities and savvy minds often placed at opposite ends of a simplistic audience-bracket spectrum: ‘standard’ mainstream on one end, ‘quirky’ indie on the other. Dissolving these stereotypical distinctions introduces a new way of seeing women – as not only representing a type, but held in high regard for being their complex, singular selves. In contrast, more traditional fashion/style magazines often feature a limited rotation of cover stars who fit the template of the magazine’s agenda (think of Vogue’s many Sienna Miller, Kate Moss, and Carey Mulligan covers) – fashion is coded as a certain ‘type’ of beauty defined by Vogue. But The Gentlewoman’s commitment to allowing its subjects’ (relative) diversity define ‘modern, stylish woman’ in myriad ways compels readers to see style as versatile, self-constructed, and deeply personal – offering an expansion of readers’ minds beyond pre-established beliefs of what readers know, will accept, and want to see.
Powerful perspectives (on style, on women, on art, etc.) also extend the relevance of the magazine beyond the purely literary or fashion category into other realms that share its underlying values, e.g. premium retail outlets and emergent cafes (Kinfolk is so ubiquitously snapped next to cappuccinos on social media, it’s spawned a satirical tumblr account, Kinspiracy).
An immersive escape
If Kinfolk could speak, it would do so in hushed tones. Its clean, streamlined look and muted colours and gentle, celebral tonality on thick, matte pages (behind a discretely velvety cover) signify a carefully curated world: a serene and painstakingly edited retreat from overscheduled city lives.
The overwhelming randomness of the Internet has no place here – Kinfolk’s function goes beyond the dissemination of information about the lifestyle it champions; it provides a space of its own (no ads, no embedded links, no distractions), communicating its message through the medium – a magazine that serves as a world in itself, a palate cleanser from all other realities.
Kinfolk’s cookery book (Recipes for Small Gatherings) and home design book (The Kinfolk Home) offer readers the opportunity to immerse themselves further into this distinct world.
The fast pace of digital information streams have opened up an opportunity for print publications as a slower, more manageable complement – a getaway from the daily treadmill of ‘keeping up’ with the constant influx of news and data.
A beautiful keepsake
Magazines can be pretty, and the film magazine Little White Lies is no exception – in fact, it goes many steps further. The fall 2015 edition takes Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak as its theme, with each interview laid out in the narrow columns of a turn-of-the-20th-century newspaper, replete with colour-rich hand-drawn illustrations and ads related to the interview content (including one for Camel tours of Australia, the actor Mia Wasikowska’s homeland). Each section is divided by an intricately drawn table of contents labeled as acts (three in total), guiding us through the magazine as a filmmaker encourages his audience through a classically structured film. As del Toro often puts it, this is “eye protein” rather than “eye candy” – a richness resulting from care, thoughtfulness, and devotion that goes deeper than bright flashiness and standard layouts.
As one turns the pages, the fragrant ink emanates from each roughly textured page, creating a multi-sensorial experience. The magazine here fulfills not only a function of conveying information on cinema and filmmaking – in its form is a celebration of committed craftsmanship and artisanal skill.
The physical existence of the magazine emphasises the value of its content – not to be erased and made irrelevant by newer news, but to be treasured, contemplated, and visited again and again like a beloved friend. The importance of form is elevated, creating a counteragent to the free-flowing untouchability of the internet – a stunning show of handicraft and innovative thought that readers can truly own and return to time and again: a beautiful and meaningful keepsake.
Conclusion: the virtue of slowness & magazines as an antidote to modern uncertainty
Successful independent magazines have rethought the meaning of magazine-ness: previously dismissed as cheaply produced and less valuable alternatives to ‘serious’ publications (newspapers, books), the magazine has redefined themselves as pieces of art and artefacts of fresh thinking.
Rather than being squashed by the speed, facility, and breadth of digital space, many independent magazines have positioned themselves as virtuously slow: carefully created, immersive stories, and beautiful keepsakes that inspire the passion, devotion, and loyalty of their readers. Print is dead; long live print.