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Day + Night: Creativity & Print Innovation Inside A Small Cassette Case – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Josef Reyes, Publisher/Editor/Designer…

July 8, 2019

“A friend of mine recently judged the ASME’s (American Society of Magazine Editors) earlier this year and she had this interesting line, which was, nice paper no longer cuts it. You have to go beyond that to really make something special. And I think that’s where print still has a lot of power; you can make it a more distinct experience in the way that digital can’t really replicate. And that’s why I’m making print magazines in this day and age.” Josef Reyes…

 

 A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

  Created to rest inside a small cassette case, Day + Night is a new magazine that highlights New York City through 14 songs that are important to the 14 contributors whose content lives within the small pages of this highly innovative title. Josef Reyes is the mastermind behind this great new publication and says giving voice to the diversity of NYC and showcasing how special the City is, was the driving force behind this first issue.

A designer by trade, Josef brings the nostalgia of the ‘70s and ‘80s to the forefront with his incredible design, throwing back to the days of the mixed tape and the uniqueness and meaning behind each song recorded on those cassettes.

I spoke with Josef recently and we talked about Day + Night and the headspace it takes you to by simply holding it in your hands. The dimensionality and subsequent quality of the content within combines to make this one of the most unique magazines Mr. Magazine™ has ever owned.

When you open the transparent case, and the publication slips out, it reveals two “sides,” Side A and Side B, giving you the Day and Night. Each story told (7 on Side A and 7 on Side B) showcases a particular song that has meaning to the writer and highlights something New York City. It’s an amazing concept and a literal hats off to the City. And who knows what might be next? A different metropolis? Or maybe even your hometown.

Either way, Mr. Magazine™ hopes you enjoy this very delightful interview with Josef Reyes as he talks about this great new title.

But first the sound-bites:

On the idea behind Day + Night: I first had the idea to do this back in 2015 actually and it was directly inspired by another magazine that I saw which was from Singapore and called Rubbish. And the thing about that magazine is they think of different formats for each issue. And that first issue I saw was all about plant life in Singapore and they packaged it inside a flower press. It really impressed me. That being said, this was not the first time I had seen a magazine do something like that, but I thought it was well-produced and well-conceived. And it really inspired me to think about what else could be done in unorthodox formats.

On whether the magazine will always be about New York City or will it evolve to other cities: While I did say that I always wanted to make a New York City magazine; in fact, initially this was going to be different cities, with more about cities in general. But in the process of trying to hone down the idea, I felt that it would feel more special if it was about one city. And since I live in New York City, that made perfect sense. But I did structure it in a way that there is a flexibility to expand it to other cities. Look at the cover, there’s a line that reads in New York City, so I could switch that out to other cities. But I think for now I want to focus it on New York City. I feel that there’s something special about being very specific. At the same time, I’m keeping it open.

On being publisher, editor and designer and which of those three hats he thrives under: I am a designer by profession, so that’s certainly my starting point. As a designer though, what I am most drawn to is the fact that we have the skills to give people a voice. I also see publishing in some ways as an inevitable arm of being a designer. But certainly, first and foremost I am a designer and I am very proud of this product.

On what he is trying to accomplish or to say by creating a tangible print object in this digital age, one with such a limited edition: The limited is really more of a consequence of the available funds. (Laughs) We need more of that. As far as the reality of it, I think in this day and age what print still has power over is in terms of its specific dimensionality and materiality. If you use it right you can really use it to amplify the message that you’re sending out. As far as the reason why I feel like this format works, and I really believe that it’s more than a gimmick, even though it may seem like that, but because of its small size and because it’s in a cassette case, if you are familiar with that format then it will automatically bring you back into that headspace of making mixed tapes.

On whether he feels that publishers have misused digital by just throwing print magazines onto the screen and who needs to rethink the design, print or digital: Obviously, they’re very different mediums. I don’t think we’ve figured out a way to make that sort of multi-style designing effective yet, because here’s the problem, you design something for print and when you do, if you do it right – for example, if you art drag a photograph you try to make it work within the page size, the spread size, all that stuff. But then when you transport it to digital, all that doesn’t matter anymore. (Laughs)  But the problem is there are different needs, especially now. I feel like we need something more vertical, things like that. As far as who needs to rethink design, print or digital, I guess the answer is both. But the problem is I don’t think it’s been resolved as to how they can make something special for both cases.

On how often he will publish Day + Night and where can people get a copy of the magazine: Right now this is coming out of my own pocket, so it’s limited by that. Ideally, I would love to publish another one by the second half of this year. I think realistically would have to be a yearly thing. I’m committed to doing three issues in this means. But basically I want to spend that time building up some sort of reputation, and hopefully by issue four we can scale up. So right now it’s primarily available at some stores in New York City. I don’t have a distributor. And I kind of like it right now because I feel like that makes it special. There’s something to us only being available in certain places.

On the cover price: It’s $10. And definitely not what it costs to produce. (Laughs)

On whether Day + Night trumps an earlier quote he made about fax cover designs being his favorite project ever from what he has done over the years: (Laughs) Yes, for sure. This definitely trumps it. What I was saying in that quote was what I like about draft design is that the things you make are things that people use on a daily basis. It’s not an expensive chair or things like that. And I think this is too. If we grow enough to keep the price point at that range, it still makes it accessible to a lot of people. There’s something very democratic about draft design that I like.

On anything he’d like to add: The name Day + Night is very generic, which I kind of like I guess. (Laughs) It fits in with the whole design of it, which is referencing blank tape packaging. In some ways I wanted it to feel as generic as possible. And that would allow the stories to really take on their own personalities. My hope is that readers get a real sense of what New York City feels like and that they get it through as diverse a range of perspectives as possible. I think that’s one of the things that make magazines great. They allow for different voices to coexist together. And the best magazines are able to do that in such a way that it’s still one unified voice.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I consume a lot of magazines for sure, I really love the industry. And I really love the business. That being said, it does make me sad the state of the way things are.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: It may be inevitable that people would say this; going back to Day + Night, one pet peeve of mine is when the extent of feedback that I get from people is they think it looks good. (Laughs) And it’s understandable because it is a very visual product and they know that’s what I do, but I would say that in this project that 80 percent of the effort was in the editing. It wasn’t actually the visual part. The visual part was more of a classic one, instead of the editing part. Again, it’s understandable that people would only comment on the visual aspect of it, but I do wish that they would also respond to the editorial aspect of it. It’s not just a visual project, it’s more than that. We’re trying to give people a voice.

On what keeps him up at night: The industry, for sure. There are definitely a lot of new magazines opening up, but from the point of view of a career, it’s just getting shakier and shakier. I guess that’s why I’m doing this project. In some ways I’m trying to take control of that track, and not be beholden to what’s happening in the industry. That certainly keeps me up at night. It doesn’t look good as far as the major players are concerned. That being said, there is still some very inspiring stuff being made and that’s what keeps me going too.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Josef Reyes, Publisher/Editor/Designer, Day + Night.

Samir Husni: What’s the idea behind Day + Night? And how many old people like me will know that this looks like a cassette tape? (Laughs)

Josef Reyes: (Laughs too) I first had the idea to do this back in 2015 actually and it was directly inspired by another magazine that I saw which was from Singapore and called Rubbish. And the thing about that magazine is they think of different formats for each issue. And that first issue I saw was all about plant life in Singapore and they packaged it inside a flower press. It really impressed me. That being said, this was not the first time I had seen a magazine do something like that, but I thought it was well-produced and well-conceived. And it really inspired me to think about what else could be done in unorthodox formats.

Around the same time, 2015, I started hearing about cassettes making a comeback, which kind of baffled me because it’s not a great format, really. (Laughs) But at the same time, it really intrigued me because I grew up with cassettes and had some nostalgic feelings about it. But I also loved the form factor of it; I loved the small size. I don’t recall how I started thinking in those terms, but I started thinking about what if there was a book inside a cassette case and tried to retrace how I arrived at that. Certainly, the whole process of thinking about alternate formats probably got me there.

So actually it was the format that came first, not any sort of concept. I sort of worked backward from there, just thinking about what sort of editorial concept would demand such a form. When I think about cassettes, the first thing I think about are mixed tapes. Mixed tapes are basically communication tools, especially the ones made for specific people. There is a reason why you select the songs that you do; you’re trying to say something. And over the years I’ve heard all of these analogies about how a magazine is like a mixed tape; you’re assembling these stories into a flow. And that makes it literal. So, I started thinking in terms of what if a magazine was a mixed tape, but without thinking about how when you make a mixed tape you have specific reasons why you select them.

And the other idea that was circulating in my mind was that I’ve always wanted to make a New York City magazine. And I love the city magazine format, but I wanted to see what other format types there were, other than the usual listings. The thing about a city like New York is that it has such a distinct sense of place, because in a city like this you can get so many different experiences out of it, but nonetheless it’s still one, single entity.

And coming back to the mixed tape idea, I started thinking about how when you hear a certain song it brings you back to a very specific headspace. When you her a certain song, you’re instantly back to a certain moment. Then I began to think of asking people to think of a certain song that brings back a strong memory that is set in New York City and then just write about that in 350 words. So we asked 14 people, and that’s 14 songs, which is about the length of an album or a mixed tape. And that’s how this worked out.

There is one last element, which was thinking further about the cassette as a format. The Side A/Side B thing is of course such a central element of that. Back when I came up with this idea in 2015, I couldn’t figure out how that would be executed. Back then I thought it would be more semantic; it could be like Side A is about maybe happy memories, or Side B is about sad memories, or about love and hate, so on and so forth. But the problem was I felt that I was limiting construct, so I continued just thinking about it.

Finally last summer I had this breakthrough where day and night was the perfect split for that because on the one hand it’s very specific, but also really broad. And I feel like this could keep going with this structure. So that’s it in a nutshell, the whole evolution of the idea.

Samir Husni: There used to be a magazine in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s called Day and Night. It was an oversized magazine about entertainment and celebrities. As you explain the concept for this Day + Night, is it always going to be about New York City or are you going to explore other cities as well? How is the future of the magazine going to evolve?

Josef Reyes: Good question. While I did say that I always wanted to make a New York City magazine; in fact, initially this was going to be different cities, with more about cities in general. But in the process of trying to hone down the idea, I felt that it would feel more special if it was about one city. And since I live in New York City, that made perfect sense. But I did structure it in a way that there is a flexibility to expand it to other cities. Look at the cover, there’s a line that reads in New York City, so I could switch that out to other cities. But I think for now I want to focus it on New York City. I feel that there’s something special about being very specific. At the same time, I’m keeping it open.

Samir Husni: You are the publisher, editor and designer. Which of those three hats do you thrive under?

Josef Reyes: I am a designer by profession, so that’s certainly my starting point. As a designer though, what I am most drawn to is the fact that we have the skills to give people a voice. I also see publishing in some ways as an inevitable arm of being a designer. But certainly, first and foremost I am a designer and I am very proud of this product.

There is a lot of effort being put into how we select people for this. For example, in this issue and hopefully throughout the life of this, we put a lot of effort in getting a very diverse and broad range of contributors. And we hope to keep going with that. But yes, the object nature of it is definitely my first priority.

Samir Husni: What are you trying to accomplish or to say by creating a tangible print object in this digital age, one with such a limited edition? Are you saying that there’s still room for print, but it has to be limited in this digital age? What’s your message to the world of journalism, print and digital?

Josef Reyes: The limited is really more of a consequence of the available funds. (Laughs) We need more of that. As far as the reality of it, I think in this day and age what print still has power over is in terms of its specific dimensionality and materiality. If you use it right you can really use it to amplify the message that you’re sending out. As far as the reason why I feel like this format works, and I really believe that it’s more than a gimmick, even though it may seem like that, but because of its small size and because it’s in a cassette case, if you are familiar with that format then it will automatically bring you back into that headspace of making mixed tapes.

For example, I met Jeremy Leslie (magCulture) here in New York last May at a popup shop. I came over and showed him the magazine and when he was looking through it, anyone could see in his eyes that he was instantly back in the ‘80s making mixed tapes. (Laughs) And that’s exactly the effect that I want to have happen, to instantly transport you back to that.

Now that being said, if you are someone who is not at all familiar with this format; in fact, just recently I gave someone in their twenties a copy of this, and he couldn’t figure out how to open the cassette case. (Laughs) He didn’t know what it was. But I think that’s also fine. There is something very different about it and very novel. I feel like that becomes a distinguishing point.

A friend of mine recently judged the ASME’s earlier this year and she had this interesting line, which was, nice paper no longer cuts it. You have to go beyond that to really make something special. And I think that’s where print still has a lot of power; you can make it a more distinct experience in the way that digital can’t really replicate. And that’s why I’m making print magazines in this day and age.

Samir Husni: As a designer, do you feel that print must be designed in a different way? There is a lot of copying from print onto digital screens. Do you feel that publishers have misused digital by just throwing print magazines onto the screen? Who needs to rethink design, is it the print design or the digital?

Josef Reyes: Obviously, they’re very different mediums. I don’t think we’ve figured out a way to make that sort of multi-style designing effective yet, because here’s the problem, you design something for print and when you do, if you do it right – for example, if you art drag a photograph you try to make it work within the page size, the spread size, all that stuff. But then when you transport it to digital, all that doesn’t matter anymore. (Laughs)  But the problem is there are different needs, especially now. I feel like we need something more vertical, things like that.

I’m seeing this problem where if you design it for print, it kind of limits what you can do digitally and vice versa. But then when you do try to design it for everything, then you kind of lose the impact in each case. So as far as rethinking it, right now a lot of print designers are having to take to digital more and more. There are a lot more magazines closing now and focusing on digital properties. But I am finding that a lot of print designers are still thinking in terms of pixel-perfect types of design. And vice versa I guess.

Many of the magazines that I see coming out now, I feel like they don’t capitalize enough on how print has very specific dimensions and materiality. A lot of new magazines that I see now, they’re agnostic as far as what the medium is. And that’s sort of been lacking too.

As far as who needs to rethink design, print or digital, I guess the answer is both. But the problem is I don’t think it’s been resolved as to how they can make something special for both cases.

Samir Husni: How often will you publish Day + Night and where can people get a copy of the magazine?

Josef Reyes: Right now this is coming out of my own pocket, so it’s limited by that. Ideally, I would love to publish another one by the second half of this year. I think realistically would have to be a yearly thing. I’m committed to doing three issues in this means. But basically I want to spend that time building up some sort of reputation, and hopefully by issue four we can scale up. So right now it’s primarily available at some stores in New York City. I don’t have a distributor. And I kind of like it right now because I feel like that makes it special. There’s something to us only being available in certain places.

Now that being said, what I’ve found after releasing this issue is I’ve been getting a lot of requests from everywhere really, overseas and in this country, so I think definitely by issue two we need to look into having a proper infrastructure for selling this online. But right now for this issue it is primarily sold at New York City magazine stores. And again, that’s really a consequence of small scale. We’re in a phase where we’re trying to see what the demand is and how we can grow based off of that.

Samir Husni: What’s the cover price?

Josef Reyes: It’s $10. And definitely not what it costs to produce. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: From everything you’ve done so far, and you’ve done a lot, you were quoted that your favorite project is not in your portfolio, it’s not a magazine, it’s not on the bookshelves; it was fax cover sheets you designed. Does Day + Night trump that now?

Josef Reyes: (Laughs) Yes, for sure. This definitely trumps it. What I was saying in that quote was what I like about draft design is that the things you make are things that people use on a daily basis. It’s not an expensive chair or things like that. And I think this is too. If we grow enough to keep the price point at that range, it still makes it accessible to a lot of people. There’s something very democratic about draft design that I like.

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

Josef Reyes: I thanked Adam Moss in this first issue because I worked at New York magazine for two and a half years and it was definitely a huge influence in terms of just general magazine making. And actually at around the time I was finishing up the issue was when the news broke that Adam was retiring, so in some ways I just wanted to dedicate the first issue to him.

The name Day + Night is very generic, which I kind of like I guess. (Laughs) It fits in with the whole design of it, which is referencing blank tape packaging. In some ways I wanted it to feel as generic as possible. And that would allow the stories to really take on their own personalities. My hope is that readers get a real sense of what New York City feels like and that they get it through as diverse a range of perspectives as possible. I think that’s one of the things that make magazines great. They allow for different voices to coexist together. And the best magazines are able to do that in such a way that it’s still one unified voice.

As I mentioned earlier, this issue we really put a lot of effort into making sure that we had as broad a range of people as possible. I think more and more in this day and age it just becomes more important to give everyone a fair and balanced platform. I hope that when people read this magazine they come away feeling that, first of all, they get a real sense of how diverse the City is and how all of that makes it one special place.

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?

Josef Reyes: I consume a lot of magazines for sure, I really love the industry. And I really love the business. That being said, it does make me sad the state of the way things are.

 Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Josef Reyes: It may be inevitable that people would say this; going back to Day + Night, one pet peeve of mine is when the extent of feedback that I get from people is they think it looks good. (Laughs) And it’s understandable because it is a very visual product and they know that’s what I do, but I would say that in this project that 80 percent of the effort was in the editing. It wasn’t actually the visual part. The visual part was more of a classic one, instead of the editing part. Again, it’s understandable that people would only comment on the visual aspect of it, but I do wish that they would also respond to the editorial aspect of it. It’s not just a visual project, it’s more than that. We’re trying to give people a voice.

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

Josef Reyes: The industry, for sure. There are definitely a lot of new magazines opening up, but from the point of view of a career, it’s just getting shakier and shakier. I guess that’s why I’m doing this project. In some ways I’m trying to take control of that track, and not be beholden to what’s happening in the industry. That certainly keeps me up at night. It doesn’t look good as far as the major players are concerned. That being said, there is still some very inspiring stuff being made and that’s what keeps me going too.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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