I love the smell of freshly printed paper in the morning

by Jo Keeling


 I cut my teeth on specialist interest magazines for a lovely Bristol-based publishers (much of my time literally spent in the field being chased by herds of cows while writing walking route guides for Countryfile). I loved the creative thinking and resourcefulness that came from working on a small team with passionate readers and a tight budget. But it was only when I started to dabble in the world of independent magazines, working on the first few issues of the (sadly now closed) Cloth and launching Pretty Nostalgic that I became completely absorbed into the world of indies.

 

I was creating a magazine from the ground up and it soon became apparent that very few of the rules I had previously followed applied. I could do away with cover lines and indulge in an unconventional cover image, I could explore really rather niche subjects over eight pages, spend a disproportionate amount of time stitching headlines onto tweed and physically design features on a tabletop, leaving space for the copy on the pages of old sketchbooks. I was hooked.

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I began devouring other independent magazines and unearthed an intrepid subculture that I never knew existed - a wealth of self-funded, dynamic and risk-taking journals, created thoughtfully and crafted with care. I pulled bunting out of centrefolds and ran my hands over papercut straplines, embossed fonts and laser cut covers. I discovered a Dutch magazine that mixes a love of paper with mindfulness; an American journal that focuses on creativity in informal economies; a magazine centering purely on a love of typefaces and an illustration journal that doubles as wrapping paper. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know that magazines like this not only exist, but are thriving and creating communities around the globe.

The world of publishing is changing at an incredible rate and, while some publishers are clambering to keep up, there are others who are taking the creative opportunities and running giddily with them. With every new innovation, indie publishing becomes increasingly do-able. Distribution’s still a bugger, but what need have indie mags to chase those elusive economies of scale when there’s Apple Newsstand, indie subscription champions such as Stack, oodles of small bookshops and an eager troupe of print-hungry readers happy to buy direct.

Personally I love reading and making magazines that bridge that gap between the quirky indies and mainstream publishing - those that are elbowing their way onto newsstands and blending elements of traditional design with an unconventional take on the world. I’m more enamoured by beautifully-crafted, playfully-designed community-builders than leftfield arty mags (but I’ve got a lot of love for them all and I’ll buy anything once).

Slow Jo indulges in a love of slow journalism and tactile design, from hand-drawn zines to award-winning indies that stand shoulder to shoulder with the newsstand masses. It’s a celebration of journals that have been made with care by risk takers and publishing revolutionaries. It’s about sharing the love of freshly printed paper in the morning.