Archive for June, 2018

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America’s Test Kitchen CEO, David Nussbaum, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Think We Are One Of The Rare Companies Where Print Continues To Grow…” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

June 20, 2018

“… But Again We’re Not Dependent Upon Advertising, So We Understand That If You Can Build Really High Quality Content That’s Not Available Anyplace Else, People Will Pay For It.” David Nussbaum…

“Content providers can no longer survive simply on advertising and we need content providers. And so more and more companies have to realize that the future is not selling another ad or another digital ad, or even some of what they call advertorials or native advertising, which at some point the consumer is not going to trust. So, I think every content provider has to figure out a way to provide information and content and whatever else they need to provide that people are willing to pay for or otherwise it has very little value.” David Nussbaum…

Having a firm belief in print, but also having a tight vision on the digital future. This statement would define America’s Test Kitchen CEO, David Nussbaum, to a perfect T. Recently, as some of you may have read in an earlier Mr. Magazine™ blog post, I attended the IMAG Conference in Boston, hosted by MPA: The Association of Magazine Media. While there, I had the extremely pleasant opportunity to speak with David about America’s Test Kitchen and some of the innovative ideas that are being “cooked” up in the brand’s new location.

David was excited to tell me about their new studios (which we toured as part of the IMAG Conference) and about all of the fun experiences they are creating for their consumers, such as food festivals and even a food truck that will get out among people. From engaging their audience with a more communal environment to expanding their dialogue with consumers through more social media conversation, David has opened up the brand and made it more people-friendly since becoming CEO almost three years ago.

As I sat down with David to talk, I realized that his passion and commitment for and to the brand was synonymous with its continued success, as he talked quietly, but animatedly about what creating a community for his subscribers, viewers and readers meant to him. It was a peek into one of the most distinguished and unique brands around and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Now, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Nussbaum, CEO, America’s Test Kitchen.

But first the sound-bites:

On the strategy behind moving America’s Test Kitchen: The strategy was pretty clear in that the business of media and the business of food was all moving to video. And we have two TV shows on air, one of them for 14 years and the other is going into its 18th season, so we knew video and we had the expertise, but we didn’t really have the studios. But we also realized that we had to shoot video every single day. And in our old location to shoot video we had to shut down half the operation, because we didn’t have studios, we would have to close the kitchens and move cameras in.

On whether he thinks their unique business model of no advertising and collecting revenue from readers, viewers and subscribers can be duplicated in today’s digital age where everyone expects everything for free: I think it has to be, because content providers can no longer survive simply on advertising and we need content providers. And so more and more companies have to realize that the future is not selling another ad or another digital ad, or even some of what they call advertorials or native advertising, which at some point the consumer is not going to trust. So, I think every content provider has to figure out a way to provide information and content and whatever else they need to provide that people are willing to pay for or otherwise it has very little value.

On where he sees print in this digital environment we live in: I think we are one of the rare companies where print continues to grow. But again we’re not dependent upon advertising, so we understand that if you can build really high quality content that’s not available anyplace else, people will pay for it.

On the fact that they have a million-plus subscribers and it’s a 36-page magazine, black and white inside, with illustrations instead of pictures: It tells me first of all that we’re different and it helps to be different. In any business, if you can create something that’s different and unique, people are going to be interested. And really our readers self-select. Our readers are food geeks. They’re not necessarily interested in some big, pretty pictures, they’re interested in ‘why did we come up with this recipe and what’s the science behind it?’ ‘What’s the history behind some of the ingredients?’ There’s a lot more that surrounds our recipes than just a teaspoon of sugar and a quart of milk. And I think people realize that. You just have to look at the content that sells.

On some of the changes that have taken place since he became CEO of America’s Test Kitchen: First of all, things can always be greater. (Laughs) And we did have our biggest revenue year ever in 2017, that’s after 25 years in business. But really what we’ve done is realize that the competition continues to increase, that the platforms, such as public media, where we have our TV shows; all platforms are challenged because of court-cutting, and so we’ve done a lot of different things. To begin with, the new space that we talked about earlier. We went from 23,000 sq. ft. to almost 50,000 sq. ft. Mostly studio and mostly state-of-the-art kitchens. So, that’s one major difference.

On the events and the food trunk that has been created to make the experience with the brand richer: That’s another aspect that we brought to the company. We wanted to interface with our community in a much closer, one-to-one interpersonal way. Before, the company was kind of hidden away, there was no sign; you really had to work to find where it was. So, we moved to this location where there are big America’s Test Kitchen signs outside and we will have a food truck that launches in the middle of July. We did the food festival and we really want to encourage community.

In front of the Boston, MA Public Library. This is the second of three interviews I conducted in Boston while attending the MPA: The Association of Magazine Media’s IMAG 2018 conference.

On anything he’d like to add: I think one of the biggest things that we are going to be doing, and it’s in progress, is the launch of our own OTT (over the top content). We have been on PBS for 18 years with America’s Test Kitchen, 14 years with Cook’s Country, and we, God willing, will be on PBS forever. But we also recognize that with court-cutting, with programming-on-demand, with programming through applications, that we need to reach out to other platforms.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I think it would be that my belief system is that trust, honesty and caring are the three most important words in my vocabulary. And that’s whether it’s the people I work with, the suppliers I work with, my family and friends. In all of the places, in all of the companies that I have run, and I feel if you spoke to the people who worked there, they would tell you that’s what I stand for.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Whatever my wife tells me to do. (Laughs) No, actually, winding down I would probably be sitting with an iPad on my lap; I’ll be watching some program on Netflix. I’ll be jumping to one of my digital magazines: The New Yorker, Vanity Fair or digital newspapers. And checking email. That’s what I do. And definitely Twitter.

On what keeps him up at night: I sleep pretty well. What keeps me up at night is that any good company, any good businessperson realizes that you can never stand still. And innovation is not something that you do and then say, okay, we’re all done. Innovation is something that you have to continually create. So, my job as CEO is always to encourage, enrich and ensure that my teammates all feel like innovation is as the core of what they do. And that’s hard work. That’s what keeps me up at night; how can I continue to find innovation for our company that’s successful innovation.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Nussbaum, CEO, America’s Test Kitchen.

Samir Husni: Tell me about moving the headquarters of America’s Test Kitchen; what was the strategy behind it?

David Nussbaum: The strategy was pretty clear in that the business of media and the business of food was all moving to video. And we have two TV shows on air, one of them for 14 years and the other is going into its 18th season, so we knew video and we had the expertise, but we didn’t really have the studios. But we also realized that we had to shoot video every single day. And in our old location to shoot video we had to shut down half the operation, because we didn’t have studios, we would have to close the kitchens and move cameras in.

So, we knew that it was important to make that shift and we realized that we weren’t really a publishing company, but we’re a studio, like a Hollywood studio. We now shoot video pretty much every single day of the week, and sometimes on Saturdays. We opened up 360 new YouTube videos this year; we use video on social very aggressively; we’re in the process of hopefully launching a third TV show, and we do live video once every couple of weeks from our studios. So, it’s really a morphing of the business to understanding that people want to consume more video. And that now sits within our subscription website, there is a lot of video there, soon it will be on our app. So the move was really all about taking the business to where it needed to go, which was to become a studio.

Samir Husni: And you have a unique business model. You have no advertising; you’ve always collected your revenue from your viewers, listeners, readers, subscribers, you name it. Do you think that’s a model that can be duplicated in today’s digital age, where everybody expects everything for free?

David Nussbaum: I think it has to be, because content providers can no longer survive simply on advertising and we need content providers. And so more and more companies have to realize that the future is not selling another ad or another digital ad, or even some of what they call advertorials or native advertising, which at some point the consumer is not going to trust. So, I think every content provider has to figure out a way to provide information and content and whatever else they need to provide that people are willing to pay for or otherwise it has very little value.

And we’re seeing more and more of that. The New York Times recently took its cooking section from free to subscription. And from what I understand they’re doing pretty well. We heard that This Old House has launched a subscription site for content and they won an IMAG award, so they’re doing very well. So, I think more and more companies are experimenting with that and realizing that’s where the future is. You just have to look at the numbers, in terms of advertising declines over the next five years, it’s stunning. And so I think it’s absolutely critical.

Samir Husni: Yet, during all of the changes that took place in the last ten years, from the introduction of digital, such as with the Smartphone; you were sort of sheltered because you didn’t depend on advertising. Your business model was different. You have almost one million subscribers for Cook’s Illustrated and you have Cook’s Country…

David Nussbaum: Which has about 300,000 subscribers.

Samir Husni: And you’re doing a lot of SIP’s and specials. Where do you see print in this whole digital environment that we live in?

David Nussbaum: I think we are one of the rare companies where print continues to grow. But again we’re not dependent upon advertising, so we understand that if you can build really high quality content that’s not available anyplace else, people will pay for it.

I’ll give you an example, we test every one of our recipes between 40 and 60 times and we spend an average of $10,000 per recipe in development. We have to do that, because recipes for the most part are free, you just put what you’re looking for into Google, eggplant parmigiana, and you have a million recipes. Ours are better, and we prove that they’re better through our research, through the process, through the time, so that you know when you purchase one of our recipes the dish will come out absolutely perfectly.

So, there has to be something inside the content that makes people willing to pay for it; there must be a unique aspect to it. Our print magazines and our books, those businesses are up year over year, thus far through this year and the print business was up last year as well. Even our newsstand business through April was up double digits. And I don’t think there are too many newsstand companies that can say that.

And again, it’s because our content is really unique and different and interesting, and people realize that what they’re going to get from us is something that they can’t get from everybody else. You can go to the newsstand and there are a million cooking magazines there. And our business is up by double digits, it’s a multimillion dollar business. And I think it has to come down to the high quality of the content and the respect for the brand.

Samir Husni: And yet you’re able to get away with a 36-page magazine, black and white inside, illustrations instead of pictures, and you have a million-plus subscribers. What does that tell you?

David Nussbaum: It tells me first of all that we’re different and it helps to be different. In any business, if you can create something that’s different and unique, people are going to be interested. And really our readers self-select. Our readers are food geeks. They’re not necessarily interested in some big, pretty pictures, they’re interested in ‘why did we come up with this recipe and what’s the science behind it?’ ‘What’s the history behind some of the ingredients?’ There’s a lot more that surrounds our recipes than just a teaspoon of sugar and a quart of milk. And I think people realize that. You just have to look at the content that sells.

The New York Times is not a beautiful piece of print. And yet people read it and read it religiously. USA Today is beautiful, 4-color, pretty pictures, but it doesn’t have near the respect or the readership that The New York Times does. So, I think it’s more about the delivery, the content, and being unique.

Samir Husni: Since you became CEO of America’s Test Kitchen, what are some of the changes that you and your team take responsibility for? Or was everything going great when you got here and it just continues down that same path?

David Nussbaum: First of all, things can always be greater. (Laughs) And we did have our biggest revenue year ever in 2017, that’s after 25 years in business. But really what we’ve done is realize that the competition continues to increase, that the platforms, such as public media, where we have our TV shows; all platforms are challenged because of court-cutting, and so we’ve done a lot of different things. To begin with, the new space that we talked about earlier. We went from 23,000 sq. ft. to almost 50,000 sq. ft. Mostly studio and mostly state-of-the-art kitchens. So, that’s one major difference.

And number two is the company really didn’t engage in social before I got here. They had one social media person, no one else in the company was allowed to post and that person had to get approval for every single post before it went up.

When I joined, I said first of all we’re going to hire five social media people; we’re going to ask everybody in the company to please post. And they don’t even have to post a company message, just post. And so we’ve taken that social position from almost zero to where we have 12 million social participants every month. And that helped us acquire audience and it helped us build brand, so the whole social program is brand new since I got here.

The company used to be very inwardly-focused; inwardly in that if you were a subscriber to the website, you were not allowed to post on the website. We opened that up so that people can now post. And that has created more of a community environment. Before, the company didn’t want to work with anybody; we now have partnerships with Holland America; America’s Test Kitchen is now on all 14 of their ships. So, America’s Test Kitchen is on the seas.

We are very, very close to signing with a major resort company, and America’s Test Kitchen will be on all of these resorts. We’re working with Reebok. We’ve launched food festivals, we’re now working with major brands and we’re getting thousands and thousands of people to attend. So, really what my team has done over the last three years is make America’s Test Kitchen and the brands much more ubiquitous. And by doing that we have grown our touchpoints to the audience to where we now touch around 60 million consumers every month through all the various channels. And that’s probably 10 times what was happening three years ago.

Samir Husni: Some will say that you humanized the brand; you’ve grown the brand even closer with feel and touch to the audience, including creating the mobile aspect.

David Nussbaum: Yes, the sites were not mobilized, that’s a good point.

Samir Husni: What about the experience making, the events that you’re now creating, including the food truck?

David Nussbaum: That’s another aspect that we brought to the company. We wanted to interface with our community in a much closer, one-to-one interpersonal way. Before, the company was kind of hidden away, there was no sign; you really had to work to find where it was. So, we moved to this location where there are big America’s Test Kitchen signs outside and we will have a food truck that launches in the middle of July. We did the food festival and we really want to encourage community.

So, we now have a Facebook page that’s only for subscribers and we dialogue with them all of the time. The food festivals themselves, we’re going to have two this year, and we’re expecting to meet 6, 000 or 7,000 of our consumers, look them in the eye, talk to them. As I said, we added commenting to all of our websites, people can come on and now tell us whether or not they liked a recipe, and that didn’t happen before. And we’ve increased, obviously, all of our social platforms. We weren’t on Instagram before; we weren’t on Pinterest before and we didn’t have as many Facebook pages as we do now.

And I think it’s a great point to make, that engaging our consumer has become much more important to us and it has really facilitated who we are. We now invite groups to take tours of the kitchens, which is a very popular program that we have. And we hope to, not in 2018, but hopefully in 2019 and beyond, we hope to take the food truck on the road and go visit people in different cities.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that you’d like to add?

David Nussbaum: I think one of the biggest things that we are going to be doing, and it’s in progress, is the launch of our own OTT (Over The Top content). We have been on PBS for 18 years with America’s Test Kitchen, 14 years with Cook’s Country, and we, God willing, will be on PBS forever. But we also recognize that with court-cutting, with programming-on-demand, with programming through applications, that we need to reach out to other platforms.

And so we’re going to be launching our own OTT before the end of this year, so that you can watch our programs. And you can see other videos that we’ll create for the OTT, and hopefully newly-launched TV shows as well. Wherever you are, whenever you are, and for those people who don’t really watch public broadcast, they can still find us. So, I think that’s one of the most major things we’re going to be doing before the year is out.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

David Nussbaum: I think it would be that my belief system is that trust, honesty and caring are the three most important words in my vocabulary. And that’s whether it’s the people I work with, the suppliers I work with, my family and friends. In all of the places, in all of the companies that I have run, and I feel if you spoke to the people who worked there, they would tell you that’s what I stand for.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

David Nussbaum: Whatever my wife tells me to do. (Laughs) No, actually, winding down I would probably be sitting with an iPad on my lap; I’ll be watching some program on Netflix. I’ll be jumping to one of my digital magazines: The New Yorker, Vanity Fair or digital newspapers. And checking email. That’s what I do. And definitely Twitter.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

David Nussbaum: I sleep pretty well. What keeps me up at night is that any good company, any good businessperson realizes that you can never stand still. And innovation is not something that you do and then say, okay, we’re all done. Innovation is something that you have to continually create. So, my job as CEO is always to encourage, enrich and ensure that my teammates all feel like innovation is as the core of what they do. And that’s hard work. That’s what keeps me up at night; how can I continue to find innovation for our company that’s successful innovation.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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22 Lessons Learned At The MPA: The Association Of Magazine Media’s IMAG Conference In Boston…

June 19, 2018

During the IMAG Conference in Boston, I was honored to be one of the judges of the IMAG Imagination Awards and the Events award presenter.

Recently, I attended the IMAG Conference in Boston, hosted by MPA: The Association of Magazine Media. It was an absolutely eye-opening experience and wonderfully informative. What follows are the nuggets of information that I tweeted during the event. Long live magazine media and thank you MPA: The Association of Magazine Media for the opportunity.

“Magazine Media are a short cut to quality.” When people accuse you of being “legacy Media,” OWN IT. “They are credible.” Linda Thomas Brooks opening IMAG Conference in Boston.

Jeff Levy, Director, Consumer Marketing, Harvard Business Review Group, “driving subscriptions & increasing retention by reaching new users and nurturing their journey.”

How the tote bag with the September issue of Vogue increased the sales of the magazine at Barnes & Noble by 40% at a higher cover price. Just one of many smart initiatives from the bookstore to enhance the newsstand sales.

Krifka Steffey, Director, Merchandising, Newsstand, Barnes & Noble, Inc. And Tom Maloney, National Account Director, Time Inc. Retail, A Meredith Corp. Division: on how to highlight your brand and drive newsstand sales collaboratively with the reader.

Data and the right to win. From having a winning data strategy to working on a unified data framework. Mike Woods, VP, Sales & Client Services, Acxiom and Fran Middleton, CDO, America’s Test Kitchen.

“No brand has more to offer in technology media than MIT Technology Review,” Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, CEO and Publisher.

From 1899 until now, how the first ever technology publication, is doing now… why are we here and what place in the world we want to be. Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, CEO and Publisher, MIT Technology Review.

“More revenue from the readers and why this should be the magazine media new strategy,” David Algire, MediaWorks 360, “Bundle multiple brand assets to increase value.”

“Nothing beats the credibility of your brand… everything we do starts with the power and values of our brand.” Hayley Romer, publisher & CRO, The Atlantic.

The power of Brands according to Hayley Romer, publisher and CRO, The Atlantic, and why 87% of the readers return to the brand because it, “Helps inform my opinion on critical things.”

“Editors bring credibility to the sales meeting. They are not there to sell, but to add credibility.” Dan Hickey, CEO, Kalmbach Media.

“No more planning for a year or so, but rather active planning continuously…” Beth Brenner, CRO, Domino Media Group on sales and advertising from the clients.

Beth Brenner, CRO, Domino, Dan Hickey, CEO, Kalmbach, Bryan Kinkade, VP, Publisher, AFAR and Jonathan Dorn, CIO, Active Interest Media on do we really need salespeople? The answer is YES.

Chris McDonough, Chief Sales & Brand Officer, L.L. Bean on reinventing the brand: Customers First. ”Translate consumer needs into a brand positioning & emotionalize and rationalize the brand.”

L.L. Bean celebrates the return to print as and in an innovative way to create awareness across platforms.

Laura Simkins, COO, AFAR Media, reporting on the 3 challenges facing magazine Media: decline in traditional revenue; digital growth; and operational costs.

“If readers can get what you offer at some other place, then go away. You need to talk about how amazing your products are.” Linda Thomas Brooks, CEO, MPA

Adam Grossman, CMO, Boston Red Sox answers Mel Allen, editor, Yankee magazine re: audience engagement & brand value. “The DNA will not change, but you can’t rest on that. You have to evolve without losing your ID.”

“Make sure that you are going to stay relevant,” Simon Leslie, joint CEO, Ink Global. “Magazines are about storytelling. Believe in Print. Worry about your people first; not your profits.”

“Data is the very air that we will all breathe in the digital future,” Acxiom’s Shelia Colclasure stated and how to build a data driven ethics. “It’s all going to be regulated.”

The ongoing evolution of This Old House: “we are not in the media business, we are in the audience business.” Eric Thorkilsen, tells the audience.

David Liu “leads the revolution” by telling the transformation of The Knot from a digital entity to a print and digital empire. “You need to do the hard work for your business to survive.”

Thank you and looking forward to more lessons at the next IMAG Conference.

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Chill Magazine: A New Title From Pride Media That Removes The Label “Gay” & Just Resonates Around The Person – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joe Landry, Executive Vice President, Pride Media…

June 18, 2018

“We specialize in print. Our core history is in print. We have The Advocate, Out, Plus; and The Advocate turned 50 last year. Out turned 25 and Plus is turning 20 this year; we’re having the 20th anniversary of Plus. So, we have a long history in print publications. And there’s also more credibility in print. If we just launched a website, I don’t know how we make an impact within that space the way we can in print.” Joe Landry…

Recently, I attended the IMAG Conference in Boston, hosted by MPA: The Association of Magazine Media. It was an absolutely eye-opening experience and wonderfully informative. While there, I had the pleasure of speaking one on one with Joe Landry, a 25-year veteran in the magazine media business and who is now executive vice president of Pride Media. With magazines as notable as The Advocate, Out and Plus under his belt, I can’t tell you how excited I was to learn about a new print title, Chill, that Pride Media is publishing.

According to Joe, Chill is geared toward that LGBT person who dislikes labels such as “gay” attached to their persona. The magazine is really aimed at African American and Hispanic millennial men who are more about the person than the stereotype. It’s an exciting concept that opens up an entire new spectrum of possibilities for the LGBTQ individual.

Joe also touched on the relaunch of Out Traveler and a new content studio coming up in November called “Black Cat” in honor of The Advocates’ beginning after the Black Cat Riots in the 1960s. It was a great interview and one that I think you will thoroughly enjoy.

And now without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joe Landry, executive vice president, Pride Media.

But first the sound-bites:

On the new print magazine from Pride Media, Chill: There’s a movement underfoot in the millennial audience where some folks do not want to subscribe to the label “gay.” And the archetype for gay, for the younger generation, is kind of this white, buffed, affluent male. And we were losing out on attracting this younger audience, so we came up with the title “Chill,” which is geared toward African Americans and Hispanics, mostly millennial men, who don’t subscribe to labels.

On whether he sees Chill as a line extension of the other titles beneath Pride Media’s umbrella or he feels as though they’re carving a new niche: It’s definitely a new niche. I mean, 80 percent of the staff that creates Chill is African American or Latino. So, it’s a different point of view that we are working with, both on the editorial side from a content perspective, and also on the advertising and marketing side. We are now going after African American and Latino dollars that we didn’t have access to before, typically from some of the same people that we’ve been talking to who had diversity at various companies.

On whether he feels they are now doubling the diversity and making the gay community even more of a minority: No, I don’t see it that way at all. I see it as creating content that’s relevant to a consumer segment that we didn’t have access to before. So, how Procter & Gamble would view it, I don’t know. I haven’t had a conversation with Procter & Gamble about double minorities, but there are diversity agencies that specialize in Black and Latinos. They might have a subset of LGBT, and it’s still viewed as LGBT, even though it’s not screaming out on the cover, while also hitting the Latino and African American audiences as well.

In front of the Boston, MA Public Library. This is the first of three interviews I conducted in Boston while attending the MPA: The Association of Magazine Media’s IMAG 2018 conference.

On why he decided Chill should be a print magazine: We specialize in print. Our core history is in print. We have The Advocate, Out, Plus; and The Advocate turned 50 last year. Out turned 25 and Plus is turning 20 this year; we’re having the 20th anniversary of Plus. So, we have a long history in print publications. And there’s also more credibility in print. If we just launched a website, I don’t know how we make an impact within that space the way we can in print.

On the differentiation between Chill and Condé Nast’s website, Them: I think that having Condé Nast launch an LGBT product is a validation of the work that I’ve been doing for the last 25 years. I also know how difficult it is to sustain LGBT products and the market limitations to LGBT products, that’s why we have Out; why we have The Advocate; why we have Chill; why we have pride.com; and why we have Out Traveler. You sort of need to speak to each segment of the community in the voice in which they’re going to respond to. And I’m not sure that one site will have the scale that would be of interest to carry a Condé Nast title.

On relaunching Out Traveler: We are relaunching Out Traveler. In 2008, when the company was sold, the owners were very nervous about what was happening in 2008 and they folded the print publication. And Out Traveler has been an online destination. Under our new ownership we are relaunching Out Traveler in print in November. And I have been a big proponent for bringing Out Traveler back to print, so we’re very excited about that.

On the biggest challenge he thinks he’ll face in 2019 and beyond: It’s interesting that we’re having this conversation right now in the middle of June, because June is Pride month and it is our most successful month from an advertising revenue perspective in the history of the company, which is crazy. And we’re diversifying our offerings into creating assets for marketers.

On how he would define content today: Creating assets, whether it’s in print, in video, in social, or experiential, that are relevant to our audience. So, that’s the broad definition of content. And editorial is, of course, the most important area of creating content, but we’re also doing it on the marketing side with our partners. And a lot of our content is amplified through social influencers, so that’s another component to a lot of the programs that we do now. Not only do we create custom content, but we have the talent that we hire to create the custom content share the content on their own social platforms.

On whether he feels more at ease about the future of print today than he did five years ago: No. I am never at ease. (Laughs) I am confident in the company. I am confident in our assets and I am confident that we will continue to deliver relevant messaging for our audiences, both from an editorial perspective and from an advertising perspective across platforms. But I’m sort of platform agnostic, I mean, I love magazines because that’s where I come from, but it’s really about where does the consumer want the content and the information. And that’s where I’m going to deliver it. So, I’m not beholden to any one platform.

On where he is making his money: The most growth is coming from experiential’s. So, from a percentage perspective and revenue year over year, it’s crazy how much more we are making in experiential. Branded content, again, year over year, explosive growth. Digital banner ads are flat and print is down.

On anything he’d like to add: We are launching a brand new content studio called “Black Cat,” so, if you recall in 1967 the Black Cat riots preceded the Stonewall Riots and the folks from those riots who were arrested during those riots started a newsletter called “Pride,” Personal Rights In Defense and Education, which eventually became The Advocate. So, in homage to the history of The Advocate, we’re naming our brand new content studio Black Cat.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Advocate.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Watching Netflix and eating popcorn.

On what keeps him up at night: Work. Email – too many emails. It’s crazy; it’s unsustainable the amount of emails that we have to process on a daily basis.


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joe Landry, executive vice president, Pride Media.

Samir Husni: Pride Media just launched another new print magazine, Chill. Tell me about it.

Joe Landry: There’s a movement underfoot in the millennial audience where some folks do not want to subscribe to the label “gay.” And the archetype for gay, for the younger generation, is kind of this white, buffed, affluent male. And we were losing out on attracting this younger audience, so we came up with the title “Chill,” which is geared toward African Americans and Hispanics, mostly millennial men, who don’t subscribe to labels.

I have an interesting story where I was meeting with the head of Diversity at Wells Fargo when we were launching the publication. I was explaining Chill and this smile came across her face. And I said, “What?” And she said, “I’ll tell you after.” So, I did the whole spiel. I told her about the publication, who we were looking to appeal to, and she told me a story about her stepson, who had moved back in with her and her husband, and was going away on weekends. And they didn’t know where he was going. She found out that he was actually married to a man, living in her house. She’s the head of Diversity at Wells Fargo and her stepson was scooting away to go and see his husband, whom he had married, and she didn’t know he was gay.

So, when she addressed this, she said, “I’m the head of Diversity at Wells Fargo and you’re gay, and that’s okay. And he said, “No, I’m not gay. I just happened to be married to a man.” So, there’s this rejection of the label. And we don’t want the label to keep people from being attracted to our titles.

Samir Husni: Do you feel like Chill is a line extension for the rest of the magazines, or you’re carving a new niche?

Joe Landry: It’s definitely a new niche. I mean, 80 percent of the staff that creates Chill is African American or Latino. So, it’s a different point of view that we are working with, both on the editorial side from a content perspective, and also on the advertising and marketing side. We are now going after African American and Latino dollars that we didn’t have access to before, typically from some of the same people that we’ve been talking to who had diversity at various companies.

Samir Husni: Is this now double-diversity? Or how do you view it? I mean, the gay community is already a minority, now are you doubling on the minority?

Joe Landry: No, I don’t see it that way at all. I see it as creating content that’s relevant to a consumer segment that we didn’t have access to before. So, how Procter & Gamble would view it, I don’t know. I haven’t had a conversation with Procter & Gamble about double minorities, but there are diversity agencies that specialize in Black and Latinos. They might have a subset of LGBT, and it’s still viewed as LGBT, even though it’s not screaming out on the cover, while also hitting the Latino and African American audiences as well.

Samir Husni: And why did you decide to go with print?

Joe Landry: We specialize in print. Our core history is in print. We have The Advocate, Out, Plus; and The Advocate turned 50 last year. Out turned 25 and Plus is turning 20 this year; we’re having the 20th anniversary of Plus. So, we have a long history in print publications.

And there’s also more credibility in print. If we just launched a website, I don’t know how we make an impact within that space the way we can in print.

Samir Husni: Condé Nast has launched a website, Them, aimed at the LGBTQ community. Do you view that now as competition or because there is no print component it’s a different entity entirely? What’s the differentiation between Chill and Them?

Joe Landry: There is no relationship to Chill. I think that having Condé Nast launch an LGBT product is a validation of the work that I’ve been doing for the last 25 years. I also know how difficult it is to sustain LGBT products and the market limitations to LGBT products, that’s why we have Out; why we have The Advocate; why we have Chill; why we have pride.com; and why we have Out Traveler. You sort of need to speak to each segment of the community in the voice in which they’re going to respond to. And I’m not sure that one site will have the scale that would be of interest to carry a Condé Nast title.

Samir Husni: You are relaunching Out Traveler?

Joe Landry: Yes, we are relaunching Out Traveler. In 2008, when the company was sold, the owners were very nervous about what was happening in 2008 and they folded the print publication. And Out Traveler has been an online destination. Under our new ownership we are relaunching Out Traveler in print in November. And I have been a big proponent for bringing Out Traveler back to print, so we’re very excited about that.

Samir Husni: Through the 25 years that you’ve worked with those titles, you’ve seen your share of ups and downs. Now it seems you’ve reached a level of stabilization of the marketplace with your titles. What do you view as your biggest challenge as you look at 2019 and beyond?

Joe Landry: It’s interesting that we’re having this conversation right now in the middle of June, because June is Pride month and it is our most successful month from an advertising revenue perspective in the history of the company, which is crazy. And we’re diversifying our offerings into creating assets for marketers.

For example, H&M came to us and they wanted to launch a campaign for this segment in-store. So, they weren’t coming to us to buy media, they were coming to us for our expertise in the market, they were coming to us for our brand authenticity. And we actually created an entire campaign for them that’s in stores now. You can go to the H&M down the street; it’s called “Pride Out Loud” and it is a point of sale campaign, as well as a social campaign. We created custom video content for them .

So, that’s sort of the area in which we’re expanding; we are taking our expertise to the marketplace and we are elevating the conversation with marketing partners to show them that if they are looking for authenticity, we know how to deliver that to them. So, not only are we delivering the media message, but we’re creating the message to deliver to our audience.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I always say is that you can’t just be content providers, you have to be experience makers. With that in mind, how do you define content today?

Joe Landry: Wow. Creating assets, whether it’s in print, in video, in social, or experiential, that are relevant to our audience. So, that’s the broad definition of content. And editorial is, of course, the most important area of creating content, but we’re also doing it on the marketing side with our partners. And a lot of our content is amplified through social influencers, so that’s another component to a lot of the programs that we do now. Not only do we create custom content, but we have the talent that we hire to create the custom content share the content on their own social platforms.

Samir Husni: Do you feel more at ease today about the future of print than you felt, let’s say, five years ago?

Joe Landry: No. I am never at ease. (Laughs) I am confident in the company. I am confident in our assets and I am confident that we will continue to deliver relevant messaging for our audiences, both from an editorial perspective and from an advertising perspective across platforms. But I’m sort of platform agnostic, I mean, I love magazines because that’s where I come from, but it’s really about where does the consumer want the content and the information. And that’s where I’m going to deliver it. So, I’m not beholden to any one platform.

Samir Husni: Where are you making your money?

Joe Landry: The most growth is coming from experiential’s. So, from a percentage perspective and revenue year over year, it’s crazy how much more we are making in experiential. Branded content, again, year over year, explosive growth. Digital banner ads are flat and print is down.

Samir Husni: Anything you’d like to add?

Joe Landry: We are launching a brand new content studio called “Black Cat,” so, if you recall in 1967 the Black Cat riots preceded the Stonewall Riots and the folks from those riots who were arrested during those riots started a newsletter called “Pride,” Personal Rights In Defense and Education, which eventually became The Advocate. So, in homage to the history of The Advocate, we’re naming our brand new content studio Black Cat.

Samir Husni: When will it launch?

Joe Landry: We are working on the press release currently. Our first project was with H&M, I talked about the H&M campaign. That was our first project.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Joe Landry: Advocate.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Joe Landry: Watching Netflix and eating popcorn.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Joe Landry: Work. Email – too many emails. It’s crazy; it’s unsustainable the amount of emails that we have to process on a daily basis.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Steven Kotok To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: That’s Why Bauer Sold The Celebrity Titles To AMI. A Mr. Magazine™ Exclusive

June 15, 2018

In response to a story on Page Six about the sale of Bauer’s celebrity titles In Touch, Life & Style, and Closer and the Teen magazines to American Media (AMI), I reached to Steven Kotok, CEO of Bauer Media Group for a comment. His comment follows:

The Celebrity group grew its ad and retail marketshare last year but this isn’t about short-term considerations. Long-term we feel we can build and sustain the most value and strength focusing on our market-leading, very differentiated women’s service business. Woman’s World and First for Women are the #1 and #2 bestselling retail titles in the country, in any category; they are editorially excellent and utterly unique. That is a strong platform to build on. The celebrity titles can best thrive under a single owner and AMI is a great company to do that.

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Citizen Designer, Perspectives On Design Responsibility: The Presence Of Ink In Hand Design Is Powerful & Responsible – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Véronique Vienne, Co-Editor/Author, Citizen Designer…

June 11, 2018

“I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.” Véronique Vienne…

The second edition of “Citizen Designer” attempts to answer the question of what it means to be a designer in today’s corporate-driven, over branded global consumer culture, according to the powers-that-be behind this simplistic, yet powerfully-written book. Between the essays that are raw and informative to the glossary of terms and words used religiously in the design community written by former art director and co-author of the book, Véronique Vienne, this dynamic tool is far from a mere self-help guide to great design.

Recently, I spoke with Véronique, via Skype at her home in South France, one half of the team (along with Steven Heller) who put this book together and we talked about the social change and responsibilities that designers can affect and do have in our world. Véronique believes that design can and should be more than just a service to clients and can bring about political and social manifestations of importance within our society. This new edition of the book, the first having been written some 15 years ago, contains a collection of definitions and brief case studies on topics that today’s citizen designers must consider, including new essays on social innovation, individual advocacy, group strategies, and living as an ethical designer.

Véronique said she felt compelled to participate in this updated version due to the upheaval in the world today, with the American political front and many other important issues. And after having spoken with her, Mr. Magazine™ can certainly understand her dedication to her convictions and beliefs; the passion in her words came through loud and clear. And her faith in the power of design is inspiring.

So, without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Véronique Vienne, co-author, Citizen Designer.

But first the sound-bites:

On the book “Citizen Designer”: About a year ago, the publisher thought that it would be a good idea to bring back the book and update it. And we did. I wasn’t keen on doing it, but I thought that it was my duty to revisit the topic in light of the political situation in the United States and in the world, and all the things that had happened since the first edition. And I thought we needed to take a good look at the profession, not only because of the political situation, but because of the evolution of technology and social networking and all of that. It’s a totally different situation today.

On her belief that graphic designers have a social responsibility: Since I came back to Europe, I can say that in America I think design is miles apart from Europe. The American graphic design community is unfortunately held hostage to marketing. They think they’re apolitical, but you cannot be apolitical. If you’re apolitical, that’s a political stance. You have to stop thinking that you can be apolitical. You serve an economy based on different principles and if you serve that economy, you serve the principle of that economy. You have to stop being naïve.

On what she believes the role of ink on paper is in today’s digital world: I wrote about this very topic in a recent posting on a blog called “Common Edge,” about architecture and design. I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.

On having worked in magazine media and media on both sides of the Atlantic and some differences that she still sees today: There are many differences, of course. When I came to the States in the early sixties, it was a different time. It was the Cold War; it was Camelot, the whole thing. And I was very gullible, in a way. I bought the bull. I loved America and I still love America. I am very proud of my American passport. I adore the country, I really do. It is my home. I think in English, I write in English and I love the country.

On why a book about design has no pictures: One of the realities is that publishers nowadays want the authors to get the pictures for free. Or do the research for the picture. And you spend half of your time doing the photo research. I’m not interested in that. The second thing is people go online all of the time to look at pictures. To have really good pictures and really good illustrations, it’s a job in itself. Steve and I did a book that does very well, which is going into its second edition called “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design.” For that one we did a lot of research and we got designers to give us information for free and they signed paperwork and documents that we could publish it on the moon if we had to. And half of your time is spent chasing images, when actually readers go online and Google the image.

On where in the book she would like for readers to begin: Steve and I put the glossary in front, because I think it’s the first thing they should read. Second, one thing we did not do is make it a self-help book. It’s really a collection of essays, without us trying to have a theory behind it. At the very beginning what I think is there is going to be a change of mentality in the design community. We have to find our soul. We have to find that designer within ourselves. And everybody does it in a different way.

On why the book is dedicated to Michelle and Barack Obama: Yes. I think both Steve and I are sentimental and we thought they were two great people. We love them. And it came from the heart. I think one of the reasons that we did the book is because we’re under the shock of the Trump election, which did not reflect our convictions.

On anything else she’d like to add: Yes, I hope it’s a book that people can browse through and find essays here and there that resonate with them. I love the design; I think it’s very spartan. I think it’s readable. We wanted it to be easy to read, in terms of typography. The design is there in the typography; the choice of the designer. It’s a very humble book. We’re not proclaiming that we know anything. It’s a little grass roots; we wanted it to be that way, because I think that’s the way it’s going to be. I don’t believe we can change the world, but we can try to make sense of it.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Smart, intelligent, provocative, and honest.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You’d find me cooking for my friends. I believe that around the table, around food, around a glass of wine, yes, but also around food which takes a longer time to enjoy, a dinner, a meal, lunch, people can get to know each other and can spend some time.

On what keeps her up at night: I don’t know. My daughter in Los Angeles. That’s a long way. And I hope she’s fine. It’s thinking about all of my friends in the United States and I’m in France. My heart is still with all my very dear friends on the West Coast and everywhere in the States.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Véronique Vienne, co-editor/author, Citizen Designer.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the book “Citizen Designer.”

Véronique Vienne: Steve (Heller – coeditor of the book) and I collaborated together, 15 years ago, on the book, at a more gentle time. We thought that there was already a sense in the graphic design community that there was more to design than just serving the clients; the designer maybe had another function. Another thing that they could do. Pro bono work or who knows what else.

The book was mildly successful in its first edition. It remained in print because I think universities and schools were interested in the topic. It’s a very hard-to-define topic because basically graphic designers are at the service of their clients. There’s an assignment and you try and deal with that assignment. But more and more there was a sense in the community that entrepreneurship and authorship is also a part of the profession.

So, recently, about a year ago, the publisher thought that it would be a good idea to bring back the book and update it. And we did. I wasn’t keen on doing it, but I thought that it was my duty to revisit the topic in light of the political situation in the United States and in the world, and all the things that had happened since the first edition. And I thought we needed to take a good look at the profession, not only because of the political situation, but because of the evolution of technology and social networking and all of that. It’s a totally different situation today.

And more and more graphic designers were questioning and wondering what they could do to “save the world.” You know we all want to save the world. So, we decided to tackle the topic again. We kept about a third of the articles; we reread what had been written 15 years ago, and actually they were quite a few articles that were almost premonitions; they were really good and we kept them at the back of the book.

And we generated more interviews and I did a job that I wanted to do, which was a glossary, that was my main contribution. I took all of those words that we know a little bit about and all of those terms that we have a fuzzy notion of what they are, and I thought it was important to, for myself first and then share it with designers, take a good look at what was behind the terms. I think in order to be effective politically and citizen-wise, you have to be informed. And informed with an opinion and not just informed Wikipedia-style. You need to learn more of a point of view. And that’s why I tackled this glossary.

Originally, I had wanted 100 terms, but after 60 terms, I was running out of time. I feel the first thing a graphic designer needs, or anyone for that matter who wants to make a difference, is information and trying to get some straight answers. You can’t just Google something and think you know what it’s all about. So, I dug a little deeper in those entries. And they were very brief entries, but I wanted to do them to clarify for myself some of the terms.

But with “Citizen Designer,” Steven and I had a discussion about that; what do designers actually do? And my conviction, which is partly shared with Steve, is that designers have incredible communication skills. That they can put into service a lot of good causes. But what’s depressing sometimes is to see good people with really good intentions or good causes have very poor communication skills. I compare designers in a way to scribes of the past. We transcribe, we design, but we transcribe other people’s convictions and ideas into a language that other people can appreciate and interact with.

As scribes, and I always wanted to be a scribe, this ability to make visible, to make readable, to transcribe and translate other people’s convictions into a language that is powerful is what designers can do. They’ve come to save the world by doing a campaign.

A citizen designer for me is someone who is well-educated, like a scribe, smart and savvy, but also chooses their causes and puts their talents at the service of organizations or communities, or something.

Samir Husni: What makes you connect that love of being a scribe, love of translating politics and citizens, and the social aspect with design? You rarely hear graphic designers or art directors talking about social responsibility, most talk about the font their using for this or that.

Véronique Vienne: Since I came back to Europe, I can say that in America I think design is miles apart from Europe. The American graphic design community is unfortunately held hostage to marketing. They think they’re apolitical, but you cannot be apolitical. If you’re apolitical, that’s a political stance. You have to stop thinking that you can be apolitical. You serve an economy based on different principles and if you serve that economy, you serve the principle of that economy. You have to stop being naïve.

I’m actually chagrined and upset sometimes when I look at some of the topics that are discussed in the graphic design community in the U.S. because it’s totally about a tight-fist or the vernacular or blah, blah, blah. It’s about what I call the “merch.” Recently, I was reading an article and it was talking about the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The journalist who wrote the article was saying that their marriage was all about love, it was all about the love of two people and it was so inspiring. And another person in the article was saying, no, it’s all about the merch. And by the merch, they mean the merchandise. The hats, the T-shirts; it’s about the merch.

And in a way I think, and I’m really sad to see it, that the American community in general, not everybody, of course, doesn’t think that they can remain on the sidelines. And that’s why I think the book is necessary, along with many more books, not just the one. This one is just the second edition. We could try to define what graphic designers could be. I know that in Europe, political statements start with a manifesto. You write it and you glue it on the wall. So, I think posturizing, writing something on a wall, writing something on a piece of paper, is really part of the DNA of graphic design.

Samir Husni: What role do you think ink on paper, print, plays in today’s digital age? And do you think that we can do the same things through the digital platforms, or there’s a big difference between ink on paper and pixels on a screen?

Véronique Vienne: I wrote about this very topic in a recent posting on a blog called “Common Edge,” about architecture and design. I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.

It’s a little bit of what we learned with Je suis Charlie – I am Charlie – when people took to the streets. It was a viral panel that a designer had done, Je suis Charlie. And if they had printed it and took to the streets and held it…well, I think the ink and the paper and the handheld message, even in our digital age, still has a lot of power. And it’s still very much a part of how you can harness the strength of the graphic gesture, if you will.

Samir Husni: I’m very intrigued by your own story. You spent 40 years in the States, but you’re originally from France. During those 40 years you spent here in the U.S., you had a chance to work in magazine media and in media, so you’ve worked on both sides of the Atlantic. What are some of the differences that you still see today?

Véronique Vienne: There are many differences, of course. When I came to the States in the early sixties, it was a different time. It was the Cold War; it was Camelot, the whole thing. And I was very gullible, in a way. I bought the bull. I loved America and I still love America. I am very proud of my American passport. I adore the country, I really do. It is my home. I think in English, I write in English and I love the country.

But of course there was a shift after 9/11, even before. I became politicized little by little, like everybody else. With age you start to look at the situation and of course, I had been exposed in France at the Bozar. I had gone to the Bozar School in Paris, briefly in architecture, but I did finish. I had been exposed to something called the Situationists there. And so it was sort of hanging around in my consciousness.

I wrote a bestseller, believe it or not, in the States called “The Art of Doing Nothing.” And in my brain was a critique of the consumer culture. It sold a half million copies. And people completely misunderstood what it was about. They thought it was an adorable gift book. I almost invented the gift book category with it. (Laughs) It’s still in print. I had meant it to be a political gesture. And it turned out to be the opposite. It became a franchise. They wanted me to become a television guru and I refused, because that wasn’t what I wanted to do.

So it was always in the back of my mind, a critique of that consumer frenzy, if you will, but I was never able to do anything about it. And eventually, with the second Bush administration, even before we get to our time, there was an empty intellectualism in the United States. Anti-French intellectualism. And in order to survive, I suppressed in me the desire to be more honest; it was self-censorship, I guess that’s called. After a while, 40 years, I realized that self-censorship was becoming hard; I wanted to do something else. And I couldn’t do it.

I was writing for a women’s magazine at the time, I was no longer an art director, I was writing for an architecture magazine; I was writing for a lot of different things. But I somehow always had to push the merch. And I wanted to go back to a place where I didn’t have to be fabulous all of the time. It’s so tiring to be fabulous all of the time. In the States, in order to survive, we have to be fabulous. If not, you don’t count, you don’t make a difference. So, I wanted to try living in a place where being fabulous wasn’t part of the picture. That’s why I went back to France, and to take care of my mom, who is going to be 100-years-old in a few months. I split my time between Paris and the South of France, where I moved back into the family home.

Samir Husni: As I was reading some of the essays in the book and flipping through the pages, I noticed something. Here is a book about design from two graphic designers, but there isn’t a single picture in the book. Was that intentional?

Véronique Vienne: One of the realities is that publishers nowadays want the authors to get the pictures for free. Or do the research for the picture. And you spend half of your time doing the photo research. I’m not interested in that.

The second thing is people go online all of the time to look at pictures. To have really good pictures and really good illustrations, it’s a job in itself. Steve and I did a book that does very well, which is going into its second edition called “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design.” For that one we did a lot of research and we got designers to give us information for free and they signed paperwork and documents that we could publish it on the moon if we had to. And half of your time is spent chasing images, when actually readers go online and Google the image.

So, we made a choice. And we decided it would be a bad idea, because the image we might find and be able to afford, there would be no budget for those images. And it was so insignificant compared to what could be done. So, we decided that we would hopefully write things that people would want to read. But we may be wrong. “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design” is a lot of illustrations. And it’s doing well, very well.

Samir Husni: After buying the book, if someone asks you where in the book would you like for them to begin, what would you say?

Véronique Vienne: Steve and I put the glossary in front, because I think it’s the first thing they should read. Second, one thing we did not do is make it a self-help book. It’s really a collection of essays, without us trying to have a theory behind it. At the very beginning what I think is there is going to be a change of mentality in the design community. We have to find our soul. We have to find that designer within ourselves. And everybody does it in a different way.

And so this is not a prescription; we don’t say do this or do that. Everybody has a different approach. And some are a lot more theoretical and some are just gut feelings. And so we left the essays in a raw state, because as an engaged community we are not quite together yet. We’re still in the stage of trying to find ourselves, and I’m talking about the French as well as the Americans, which are the two communities I know well. I think it’s going to take time for us to figure out what on earth we’re doing. Are we already so incredibly obsolete that we’re just kidding ourselves? And I think the book is reflecting a lot of the different attempts by individuals to make sense of what they can do.

Samir Husni: You’ve dedicated the book to Michelle and Barack Obama, why?

Véronique Vienne: Yes. I think both Steve and I are sentimental and we thought they were two great people. We love them. And it came from the heart. I think one of the reasons that we did the book is because we’re under the shock of the Trump election, which did not reflect our convictions.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Véronique Vienne: Yes, I hope it’s a book that people can browse through and find essays here and there that resonate with them. I love the design; I think it’s very spartan. I think it’s readable. We wanted it to be easy to read, in terms of typography. The design is there in the typography; the choice of the designer. It’s a very humble book. We’re not proclaiming that we know anything. It’s a little grass roots; we wanted it to be that way, because I think that’s the way it’s going to be. I don’t believe we can change the world, but we can try to make sense of it.

I was reading recently about the first books, before the invention of the printing press, it was on scrolls, and it basically said that the very fact that we can go back to the book and leaf through it now, allows us to not scroll through a text like in the ancient times, but online we’re back to scrolling. When we go back and forth in print, our relationship, our mental relationship, the structure of our analysis of a text was changed because we were no longer following the linear narrative, we could go back or we could go forward. We could comprehend the whole thing and then choose where we wanted to go.

And that was a major change in our mental structures, because of that leafing and that ability to go back and forth. The mental structure of the text disassociated from speech, because when you scroll, it’s like when you speak, you have to listen to the end of the sentence. In a book you are free from that, you’re free from the speech and it’s a different thing.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Véronique Vienne: Smart, intelligent, provocative, and honest.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Véronique Vienne: You’d find me cooking for my friends. I believe that around the table, around food, around a glass of wine, yes, but also around food which takes a longer time to enjoy, a dinner, a meal, lunch, people can get to know each other and can spend some time.

One of the things that’s most interesting about what’s happening in the design community is the realization that, and you made a point when you mentioned a Skype interview before we talked, that we need to give it the time. Time is really part of design. You can’t design something because you’re smart and you’re doing it all electronically. I think you need to learn to listen to other people, to hear what they have to say, not be in a result mode. To me, that’s one of the most interesting things that is happening in the design community, the realization that you have to do field work. You have to go ask the people what they want. You can’t just have a brief and try to respond to that. So, you’d find me cooking.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Véronique Vienne: I don’t know. My daughter in Los Angeles. That’s a long way. And I hope she’s fine. It’s thinking about all of my friends in the United States and I’m in France. My heart is still with all my very dear friends on the West Coast and everywhere in the States.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Print: When You Say & See BIG…

June 8, 2018

Last week I tweeted a quote from WWD: “Melissa Jones has launched Masthead magazine, a large format, online product heavily focused on photography.” My question is, “What is a large format online?”

Well, the reaction from that tweet was hilarious. Some equated it to a “jumbo shrimp.”

So, online, the size of your media depends on the size of your screen. You can call it anything you want: large format online, jumbo format online, small format online…you get my drift, but in reality the only size online media comes in is the size of your screen, be that PC desktop or mobile phone on the go. Enough said.

In print, on the other hand, size does matter. And today I received my first issue of the extra large format Civilization newspaper that is published in a limited edition of 1000. Richard Turley, the founder, answers Linda Leven’s question, “What is the purpose of this newspaper?” His answer on page 2 of the newspaper/magazine:

Civilization – The long answer is…I was in a magazine store at the beginning of the year and looking at the few magazines and newspapers that remain. All the magazines look the same, and are more like coffee table picture books now, and as for the actual printed newspapers, well…people only read those when they get them free in hotels. So I wondered whether I could make a new one and what I missed most was a publication about New York. What New York feels like to walk around and be a part of — which isn’t just Trump, Trump, Trump, Ramen spots and lifestyle tips — that’s not what New York is to me…”

The result, an oversized publication in print that you can actually measure and regardless where you read it, it will continue to have the same size, from the physical dimensions to the size of the type. Just check the size compared to a standard sized magazine and judge for yourself…

You ask me, what can print do that digital can’t? Well, now you have one of too many answers… continue measuring and counting.

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TypeNotes Magazine And How The Typewriter Changed Typography And The Way We Communicate…

June 7, 2018

Every now and then, a magazine grabs my attention, I really mean grabs my attention, and it becomes impossible to let go. One such recent magazine is TypeNotes, “A journal dedicated to typography & graphic design.” The magazine is published by the UK’s FONTSMITH that was founded by its creative director Jason Smith.

The first article of issue two is what grabbed my attention. The title “Tap Dance” and the subtitle “Fontsmith designer Stuart de Rozario on how the typewriter changed typography and the way we communicate.” Now, I know some of you don’t even know what a typewriter is, thus you will need to buy the magazine to learn the entire history of the typewriter.

Here is the first two paragraphs from the Tap Dance article… It is worth every single word:

The sound of the mechanical typewriter is a familiar one to many of us, who grew up to its distinctive percussive clack and chime. It’s also the sound of a bygone era; a machine handed its redundancy by computers, tablets and mobile devices.

The fall of the typewriter is just one moment in a long history of changes to how mankind has used written communication, from cave paintings to letter carving and handwriting to texting. Humanity as we know it simply couldn’t have existed without mark making and visual communications.

To read the entire evolution of the typewriter you have to find yourself a copy of issue two of TypeNotes at a newsstands near you. Enjoy.

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