Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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The Joyful Life: A New Magazine That Provides “Heart & Home Inspiration For Christian Women” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sandi Sutton, Founder, Editor, & Creative Director…

August 21, 2019

“I think there is so much. One of the criteria for things that we use and put into the magazine is whether or not it’s timeless. And I really believe that our readers are intentionally looking for more deliberate, inspiring, and engaging content. I have at different times compared it to a fast food meal versus a feast. A fast food meal will nourish your body and you can take it in small bites and it will give you the fuel that you need momentarily, but when you sit down to a feast it’s an experience and it’s something you share with people. It’s relational. I see our publication as something that’s truly feeding women’s hearts and souls and it will have a measureable impact on, not just their lives, but their families’ lives too.” Sandi Sutton (On what print provides that digital can’t)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

In today’s world of chaos and mayhem, The Joyful Life is a new publication that seeks to inspire Christian women to rekindle their relationship with God and find the pure joy and peace that reconnection can bring in their everyday lives. Sandi Sutton is the founder, editor and creative director of the magazine and cherishes the mission of the ink on paper title, while understanding the sometimes-overwhelming job creating a new magazine can be.

I spoke with Sandi recently and we talked about The Joyful Life and the God-inspired path she believes her magazine is on. Sandi describes having an ink on paper magazine versus just a digital entity as comparing a feast to a fast food meal, and Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree. Sitting down to The Joyful Life in its print form is an experience that looking at a website just can’t compete with. The magazine is beautifully done and a “joy” to hold and read.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who has answered her own calling in life and strives to give all Christian women that same “Joyful” experience. And now Mr. Magazine™ talks to Sandi Sutton, founder, editor & creative director, The Joyful Life magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the story behind The Joyful Life: It was about two years in the making, as far as research and considering whether or not it was something I was actually going to do. I had been a photographer for 12 years prior to that and I had always had a dream of starting a magazine. I had initially planned to start a photography magazine, because I was so immersed in that industry. So my initial research and planning was leaning in that direction, but then about a year into that process…and I hadn’t pulled anything together, it was more just the research phase, but about a year into that I just felt this really strong calling from God that it needed to be a Christian magazine. It was about two years in the making, as far as research and considering whether or not it was something I was actually going to do. I had been a photographer for 12 years prior to that and I had always had a dream of starting a magazine. I had initially planned to start a photography magazine, because I was so immersed in that industry. So my initial research and planning was leaning in that direction, but then about a year into that process…and I hadn’t pulled anything together, it was more just the research phase, but about a year into that I just felt this really strong calling from God that it needed to be a Christian magazine.

On where the name “The Joyful Life” came from: Once I decided that it was going to be a Christian magazine, which took about a year, it was going to be called Joy in the Daily. So, for that first year of planning it was going to be called Joy in the Daily. And I had done all of the branding for it and I had acquired all of the social media. It was not until less than a week before I launched on social media that I changed the name to The Joyful Life. And I was literally sitting in my bathroom and getting ready, putting my makeup on, when I had this total epiphany that the magazine needed to be called The Joyful Life. I would say that it came from God because that wasn’t even on my radar.

On the elevator pitch for the magazine: Overall, the magazine is to remind women of their worth in Christ; to remind women of the joy that is found only in Him. We have so many magazines that we can turn to for just inspiration for our homes or our lives. There seemed to be this very missing piece, a void in magazines. One that brought really solid content that was going to be convicting and encouraging at the same time, but also mixed with something that was really beautiful and inspiring for their everyday lives. I think part of what women need to be reminded of is that a relationship with God affects every area of our lives. It’s not just this compartmentalized thing.

 On what she hopes to accomplish a year from now: I decided early on that we needed to build a really strong community around the magazine and I think being a faith-based publication, that has been something women have been longing for in their lives. So, we have built a really amazing community and our plans, not necessarily for 2020, but sometime in the next few years, we plan to extend to having an annual conference where we’ll bring in speakers. The conference will be heart and home inspiration as well. We’ll have speakers and workshops. So, we do plan on going in that direction, but as far as just the magazine itself, for 2020 we are going to make just a few changes to the magazine, more in design than anything.

On what she can do in print that digital can’t provide: I think there is so much. One of the criteria for things that we use and put into the magazine is whether or not it’s timeless. And I really believe that our readers are intentionally looking for more deliberate, inspiring, and engaging content. I have at different times compared it to a fast food meal versus a feast. A fast food meal will nourish your body and you can take it in small bites and it will give you the fuel that you need momentarily, but when you sit down to a feast it’s an experience and it’s something you share with people. It’s relational. I see our publication as something that’s truly feeding women’s hearts and souls and it will have a measureable impact on, not just their lives, but their families’ lives too.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Definitely cooking. (Laughs) I love to cook and it’s something that relaxes me. It’s just life-giving to me. So, cooking for my family is something that I try to be really intentional about. I have five kids and three of them are grown and out of the house, but cooking is something that I do often. And for me, I love my work so much, and obviously I’m blessed to be able to work from home, my office is at home. So, a lot of times in the evening I’m still just pouring into the business in one way or another, but the relaxation side of the work is more just engaging with our community in the evenings. I don’t see that side as work; it’s just a joy to me.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: Probably that I am very organized and have it all together. (Laughs) I think there’s probably some truth to that. You have to be somewhat organized and kind of have things together a bit to be able to run a business that is this busy and deadline-focused, but at the same time it’s not something that comes naturally to me at all. And so I have to be very intentional about it.

On what keeps her up at night: Nothing keeps me up at night these days. (Laughs) And that is the honest truth. I spent many years just really experiencing anxiety at night and stress, particularly when I was doing my photography business. And I feel like I probably hung onto that longer than I should have. It was a very busy business and I was blessed and thankful for it, but it was stressful. The first year of the magazine was certainly a lot of work that I always felt was left undone, like I had way too much to do, but I hired three new employees in January 2019 and I have told them many times, to me they represent, one of them is the project manager and I feel like she represents my brain; the managing editor, she is my writer and editor heart; and then my community manager is such a representation of my heart toward our community.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sandi Sutton, founder, editor & creative director, The Joyful Life.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story behind The Joyful Life. Why did you decide to come up with this beautiful print product in this digital age?

Sandi Sutton: It was about two years in the making, as far as research and considering whether or not it was something I was actually going to do. I had been a photographer for 12 years prior to that and I had always had a dream of starting a magazine. I had initially planned to start a photography magazine, because I was so immersed in that industry. So my initial research and planning was leaning in that direction, but then about a year into that process…and I hadn’t pulled anything together, it was more just the research phase, but about a year into that I just felt this really strong calling from God that it needed to be a Christian magazine.

.So, I spent several months just wrestling with that, and whether or not I felt there was going to be a market for it, but stepping away from my photography business and moving into this, I knew that was the direction that I needed to go.

I’ve always been a writer and I’ve always loved photography, so I knew that I wanted to create something that was going to be very visually appealing. Initially I had thought it would be something that I would do on my own, I really wasn’t prepared from the beginning to have teams of people working on it. And it just became something from really early on that made me realize if I was going to do this well and if I was going to do it with the standards that I wanted it to be done with, I was going to need help from a lot of people. And it just kind of came together in what I feel were miraculous ways.

Samir Husni: I was going to add, you probably needed help from above plus all those people.

Sandi Sutton: Oh yes, it’s been a huge faith walk. Had I known in the early stages even a fraction of the work involved, I may have been far too fearful, but it was something that I felt God was leading me to do. We have about 50 volunteers that work with us in addition to my staff. It has really become an amazing community effort.

Samir Husni: As you solidified your plans and put that first issue together, where did the name come from “The Joyful Life?” And the tagline: Heart & Home, inspiration for Christian women? How did all of the pieces of the puzzle come together?

Sandi Sutton: Once I decided that it was going to be a Christian magazine, which took about a year, it was going to be called Joy in the Daily. So, for that first year of planning it was going to be called Joy in the Daily. And I had done all of the branding for it and I had acquired all of the social media. It was not until less than a week before I launched on social media that I changed the name to The Joyful Life. And I was literally sitting in my bathroom and getting ready, putting my makeup on, when I had this total epiphany that the magazine needed to be called The Joyful Life. I would say that it came from God because that wasn’t even on my radar.

I was a little bit overwhelmed at the prospect of having to change everything, I knew I would need a different logo – all of it was going to have to change. The launch was already planned. But I did it, I just knew that The Joyful Life was what it needed to be. And in hindsight I feel like that was such a good decision because the name really does encompass everything that we are trying to promote through our publication. So, it was a good move.

The tagline kind of evolved over time as well. Initially, we had a longer tagline that was more descriptive of the overall premise of the magazine. And it was probably about four or five months in that I decided to condense it when we were in the process of designing the cover for the first issue. We initially launched our social media several months in advance of the first issue coming out. So, that first issue was a little bit more raw. (Laughs) It was put together a little differently than what we do now. There were a lot of things in that first issue that we were just trying out. And our tagline was a last minute decision, but again I just felt at peace about it and that it encompassed everything we were trying to promote and the mission behind what we’re doing.

Samir Husni: So, the magazine is out and the Summer issue is the first one on the newsstands; if someone came up to you somewhere and asked you to give them the elevator pitch for The Joyful Life, what would you tell them? What is the magazine?

Sandi Sutton: For me, the whole purpose of starting this magazine is because I feel like within Christianity, in the last couple of decades, there has been a slow disconnect from God with Christian women. When I look back on the trajectory of my life and the friends I’ve had for years, I think that we’ve just become so inundated with destructions. And in all the ways that we’re more connected as a society, we’re disconnected in our relationships. And that extends to our relationship with God as well.

Being in my forties with older kids as well as younger kids, their ages run the gamut, I just felt like women needed a reminder of their worth in Christ. And that we needed to just make that relationship with him a priority again.

Overall, the magazine is to remind women of their worth in Christ; to remind women of the joy that is found only in Him. We have so many magazines that we can turn to for inspiration for our homes and lives. There just seemed to be this very missing piece, a void in magazines. One that brought really solid content that was going to be convicting and encouraging at the same time, but also mixed with something that was really beautiful and inspiring for their everyday lives. I think part of what women need to be reminded of is that a relationship with God affects every area of our lives. It’s not just this compartmentalized thing.

I just felt there was a real void in the market for that and some of the other Christian magazines are either focused on lighter content or go much deeper theologically. I felt really strongly that it needed to be a beautiful combination of the two. That’s not my elevator pitch, that’s a really long response. (Laughs) The tagline is representative of that. We want their hearts to be inspired to rekindle their relationship with Christ and we want them to take that relationship with Him and allow it to permeate every area of their lives, including their homes. It really is heart and home inspiration.

Samir Husni: Two years after the planning, a year after you have four issues under your belt, if you and I are talking about The Joyful Life one year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished?

Sandi Sutton: My team is flying out here next month so that we can do some planning for 2020. One of the things that we’ve done with the magazine is we decided not to do traditional distribution in the way that most magazines do. Our magazine is too high-end of a publication cost-wise to make it reasonable ($24 cover price). It just wasn’t going to work to do traditional distribution. We do have one distributor and that is probably where you picked it up. We have it in a few retail places, and we have relationships with some wholesalers, so we have it out there a bit, but it’s not a magazine that I felt like people were going to just see on a shelf and pick up, especially when it’s considerably higher priced than other magazines.

I decided early on that we needed to build a really strong community around the magazine and I think being a faith-based publication, that has been something women have been longing for in their lives. So, we have built a really amazing community and our plans, not necessarily for 2020, but sometime in the next few years, we plan to extend to having an annual conference where we’ll bring in speakers. The conference will be heart and home inspiration as well. We’ll have speakers and workshops. So, we do plan on going in that direction, but as far as just the magazine itself, for 2020 we are going to make just a few changes to the magazine, more in design than anything.

And we’re promoting it through somewhat untraditional ways and we just hope to continue to see it grow. Our communities are growing and they’re thriving, and we do quarterly Bible studies as well. We have just a really great community of women that are investing in this; on the reader side and with our volunteers. It’s just a beautiful thing that God is doing with all of it.

Samir Husni: Being a writer, photographer and now a magazine publisher, what do you think that you can do in print that you cannot do in digital or social media?

Sandi Sutton: I think there is so much. One of the criteria for things that we use and put into the magazine is whether or not it’s timeless. And I really believe that our readers are intentionally looking for more deliberate, inspiring, and engaging content. I have at different times compared it to a fast food meal versus a feast. A fast food meal will nourish your body and you can take it in small bites and it will give you the fuel that you need momentarily, but when you sit down to a feast it’s an experience and it’s something you share with people. It’s relational. I see our publication as something that’s truly feeding women’s hearts and souls and it will have a measureable impact on, not just their lives, but their families’ lives too.

The content that we put into the publication is really timeless, even from quarter to quarter. There is certainly content in the magazine that is seasonally focused, but you could pick up any one of our issues at any time of the year and you will find things that apply to you. And I believe that will be true 10 years from now.

We also publish on our blog once a week, sometimes twice a week. And we post devotions every day on Instagram. A lot of our blog content has a timeless feel to it as well, but any time something is more currently relevant we would put it on the blog.

But I just believe that if women aren’t seeking it out right now, they still feel the pull of getting away from screens and seeing the value in just stepping away from their computer, stepping away from their phones; it’s like we’re bouncing back. We went the direction of everything being digital and everything being on our screens, but now we’re breaking the consequences of doing that. We’re seeing the repercussions of that being such a major factor in our lives, and now I feel that women are wanting to step back. I remember what life felt like when I used to make the time for just sitting down and reading. To just sit and be.

We are very intentional about making sure our publication is something that women will be able to spend time reading and walk away feeling like they’re full and nourished, and like they just had a reprieve and a chance to pause from the busyness of life going on around them.

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

Sandi Sutton: Definitely cooking. (Laughs) I love to cook and it’s something that relaxes me. It’s just life-giving to me. So, cooking for my family is something that I try to be really intentional about. I have five kids and three of them are grown and out of the house, but cooking is something that I do often. And for me, I love my work so much, and obviously I’m blessed to be able to work from home, my office is at home. So, a lot of times in the evening I’m still just pouring into the business in one way or another, but the relaxation side of the work is more just engaging with our community in the evenings. I don’t see that side as work; it’s just a joy to me.

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

Sandi Sutton: Probably that I am very organized and have it all together. (Laughs) I think there’s probably some truth to that. You have to be somewhat organized and kind of have things together a bit to be able to run a business that is this busy and deadline-focused, but at the same time it’s not something that comes naturally to me at all. And so I have to be very intentional about it.

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

Sandi Sutton: Nothing keeps me up at night these days. (Laughs) And that is the honest truth. I spent many years just really experiencing anxiety at night and stress, particularly when I was doing my photography business. And I feel like I probably hung onto that longer than I should have. It was a very busy business and I was blessed and thankful for it, but it was stressful. The first year of the magazine was certainly a lot of work that I always felt was left undone, like I had way too much to do, but I hired three new employees in January 2019 and I have told them many times, to me they represent, one of them is the project manager and I feel like she represents my brain; the managing editor, she is my writer and editor heart; and then my community manager is such a representation of my heart toward our community.

I feel like all of these women have come into my life and have invested so much in the business alongside me that I just don’t have that same kind of feeling of things not being done. And I just feel like we’re at a place right now that is so peaceful. I am so in awe of everything God has done with this publication in such a short time. I am experiencing, at this point right now, the peace and the joy that comes from so many months and years of hard work. It’s just a blessing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Pioneers Of Chicago Blazed A Selling Trail That’s Still Visible Today…A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past, Circa April, 1953

August 15, 2019

Once again Mr. Magazine™ has been exploring the past, still in that wondrous year known as 1953 (the year of my birth, don’t you know) and I ran across this story in Grafic, which was the Sunday Chicago Tribune’s magazine at the time. The history and the inspiration of this story had to bolster Chicago’s own spirit when it ran on April 19, 1953. The pioneers of the Windy City were the epitome of entrepreneurs. From William Wrigley Jr., who only had $32 in his pockets when he set out to teach the world to chew gum, to Montgomery Ward, who had the world’s first mail order house, Chicago certainly has something to brag about when it comes to the humble beginnings that certainly blazed the trail for what it is today – a major metropolitan destination.

And print was there in 1953 to showcase it! The story is amazingly historical without being preachy and does what ink on paper still does so brilliantly – tells a unique story in a format that can be archived and drawn upon in any generation. That’s one of the things that Mr. Magazine™ loves about ink on paper: if you decide you want to go diving into 1953 or any other year, the information is still there. It hasn’t disappeared into the realms of cyberspace, never to be seen again.

In fact, in the book I’m working on about the magazines of March 1953, I chose my birth year and month (Feb. or April will do if I can’t find a March issue or if the magazine was bimonthly) to concentrate on and physically have 532 magazines to hold in my hands and touch and do research from – all from that month. Amazing! I dare you to find 532 websites out there from 1953… (Mr. Magazine™ feels safe in offering that dare). So, enjoy this Blast From the Past and let me know what you think of the story and the idea that ink on paper lasts forever – even from way back in 1953…

SELLING – it helped to build Chicago

By Otis Carney

April 19, 1953

 

The City’s Pioneers Were Men with Ideas; They Introduced Merchandising Ways that Made a Metropolis of Frontier Town

“In Chicago,” Potter Palmer once said, “you’ve got to think big!”

The young dreamers thought big, all right, too big for the small towns whence they’d come. But in Chicago, they saw a new kind of place…a place where you could sell a dream and mass produce it to the world.

It was a salesman’s town and they flocked to it, launching the ideas which one day would shower mankind with vast new comforts, conveniences, and pleasures…and even, upon occasion, change the course of history.

The Chicago they found was a city of shacks and plank roads rising out of a stinking morass of mud.

“Queen of the Lake?” shuddered novelist Frederika Bremer in 1853. “Chicago’s not a queen, she’s a huckstress, an ugly confusion of stores and shops. People come here to trade, to make money, not to live.”

Yet the people kept coming, settling. Rail traffic boomed, land values multiplied a hundred times almost overnight. Twenty years old in 1853, the huckstress boasted one salesman to every 92 inhabitants!

But a young Virginian named Cyrus H. McCormick had gotten there before the crowd, and the kind of selling he would do was soon to revolutionize the economy of the nation. Following the westward-shifting grain belt, he settled in Chicago in 1847, and by 1850 was mass producing the reapers he’d experimented with in the east. By the time he was producing 1,600 machines a year, McCormick had already amazed his competition by merchandising directly to the farmers…men whom his critics said would be too terrified of the new invention to buy it!

To get more reapers into the field, he extended liberal credit, begging the farmers at least to try the machine and then pay for it out of money it would earn. Again and again he entered his Virginia reaper in public contests, in 1851 capturing world fame by winning at the Crystal Palace exposition in England.

Within 10 years, his dream became a million dollar business and a vital weapon in the Civil War. Said Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s secretary of war: “The reaper is to the north what slavery is to the south. It releases regiments of young men from the western harvest fields and at the same time keeps up the supply of bread to our armies. Without McCormick’s invention, the north could not win, and the Union would be dismembered.”

Meanwhile, other dreams were changing the face of Chicago, raising great department stores and shaping the city into a mid-continental market place.

A quiet newcomer from Conway, Mass., had begun to show the world a new kind of selling. If the lady didn’t get what she wanted, she could take it back and her money would be returned. Tho a startling innovation at the time, the cash refund seemed perfectly logical to the instinctive salesman, Marshall Field…as logical, for instance, as his display window technique to attract passing customers.

With the pace of business increasing all over the nation, a young contractor began to dream of a way to make train journeys more comfortable and less tedious. In 1858, George M. Pullman remodeled his first coach into a sleeping car.

Railroad presidents scoffed: putting carpets on the floor of a train was a useless extravagance; as far as playing chambermaid to a lot of clean sheets and pillowcases…ridiculous. The passengers, they claimed, would get into bed with their boots on. Think of the laundry bills! Think of the moral aspects, cried others! A moving vehicle carrying men and women thru the night could only end up a place of sin.

Pullman then organized his own company. He’d be the chambermaid himself, and would rent out his service. In 1865 he built Pioneer A, and installed it on the Chicago and Alton, soon afterward hooking it on the train which brought Lincoln’s body to Springfield.

The public swarmed to the new hotel cars… “a queen’s boudoir could hardly excel them”…and Pullman’s idea swept across the railroads of the world.

By 1875, another young Chicago pioneer had devised an equally ingenious use of the rails. Gustavus Swift, arriving that year from Massachusetts, realized that he could sell meat cheaper if, instead of shipping cattle east, he could slaughter them in Chicago, dress the cuts there, and send them on by refrigerated railroad cars. In 1879, he turned his dream into reality, breaking all precedents by shipping a car of dressed beef to Boston.

The railroads immediately attacked him. Fearing they’d lose their beef traffic, they refused to give him cars. He countered by building his own. Following this, they boycotted the hauling of dressed beef shipments, at which Swift turned to a smaller road and concluded a profitable agreement. In time, pressure of competition forced the big lines to capitulate, and the packing business went on wheels for keeps. Swift also became the first to sell cuts of meat which were formerly discarded, and thus reduced the cost of dressed meat on American tables. By the time of his death in 1903, he had mushroomed Swift & Company into an organization 80 times its original size.

As the nation’s population center inched slowly west, salesmen from Chicago rushed out to meet it. One of them was a 28-year-old storekeeper from Michigan, a man who, from his years as a drummer in the middle west, had recognized the vast potential of the rural market. If the farmers couldn’t get to the city, Montgomery Ward resolved to get the city to them, and this he did thru the mail order catalog and the world’s first mail order house.

He called it “Golden Rule Selling,” guaranteed that his customers would always be treated fairly, and in cases where they were dissatisfied, their money would be refunded at once.

Hard on the heels of Ward were two more newcomers to the city…Richard Sears, a station agent in Minnesota, and A.C. Roebuck, raised on a farm in Indiana. In 1895, Julius Rosenwald, a clothing manufacturer, joined this team and Sears, Roebuck & Co. was born, becoming eventually a multi-billion dollar merchandising empire.

From that point on, there was no stopping Chicago’s salesmen. William Wrigley Jr., coming to the city at the age of 29, had only $32 in his pockets when he set out to teach the world to chew gum. Gifted with rare insight into volume selling, he continually merchandised his product to wholesalers and retailers, countering bad times by increasing advertising and promotion. In the midst of the panic in 1907, his tremendous campaign for Spearmint made it the country’s largest selling gum within three years.

Chicago’s proud record in the selling field will be honored next Friday night, April 24, at the International amphitheater. In a Salute to Selling, 12,000 leading sales figures from all over the nation will pay tribute to the men and the dreams which, in a scant hundred years, transformed a muddy shack town into one of the great market places of the world.

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“Garment” Never Disappoints – The Student-Created Magazine From The Amsterdam Fashion Institute Showcases New Ideas To The World Of Fashion Brilliantly

August 13, 2019

Garment, a student-produced magazine from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, is a whimsically creative publication that Mr. Magazine™ has been delighting in now for 16 years. My friend and fellow educator, Frank Jurgen Wijlens, recently sent me the latest issue and as usual it does not disappoint.

The theme from these incredibly passionate and ambitious students this go-round is “underwear.” You can let your imagination take you away from there, because the students certainly did! The magazine cover is incredible, with a die cut center that as the students who created this issue say:

“… encourages you to interact with your inner fantasies and define your own identity in society through underwear.”

Editor in Chief Sophie Hendriks writes in her editorial:

Glad to see our magazine has made its way into your possession. With Garment 2019 – The Underwear Issue, we found a way of you to experience your wildest dreams in print. For a few moments, we hope to take you to another realm of self-exploration and tactile explosions. This year’s editorial team wants to make private matters public. We want to shed light on underwear – a garment that spends way too much time in the dark. We want to tingle your curiosity by exploring all kinds of peculiar garments that people you know might be hiding under their clothes.

Frank, along with the stunning new issue, sent me a lovely note expressing how these students love of print is really visible in the quality of the production of this edition:

Dear Samir, I hope all is well! We’re still going strong and I’m happy to send you this year’s version of Garment Magazine. I guess the students’ love for print is really visible in the quality cover, the special binding, and the size of the magazine. Hope you enjoy it!

And the oversized format just invites a long, leisurely sit-down with this great title.

Which is what Mr. Magazine™ is about to do…

So, grab your inner fantasies and check out the website for the magazine and enjoy these students’ magical minds.

garmentmagazine.com

Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands…

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Safar Magazine: A Lebanese Publication That’s Flirting With, Fleeing From & Falling For Graphic Design & Visual Culture – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Maya Moumne, Cofounder, Editor In Chief & Creative Director…

August 2, 2019

“We’re not even sure that it’s the best format (print), but it’s where our heart is taking us. And I’m always a firm believer in following your gut instinct and following your heart. To be very transparent, the magazine has not taken off financially at all, but I feel like if we’re stubborn and we study our audience a little better, the magazine will definitely take us there. There’s this aspect of archives that doesn’t exist online and in digital magazines that we’d like to retain with this print magazine.” Maya Moumne…

An independent magazine that focuses on the visual beauty and technique of graphic design in the Arab world is something worth talking about, as graphic design becomes more and more important and prominent in the Middle East. Safar magazine is published both in English and in Arabic in each issue (something done intentionally to attract a wider audience). And with each of its themed issues, the founders, Maya Moumne and Hatem Imam, invite a diverse set of contributors to talk about graphic design in their own individual voices as the theme allows.

On a recent trip to Lebanon, I spoke with Maya Moumne, one of the brand’s founders, and we talked about the unique aspects of the magazine, from the intriguing content of a print publication all about graphic design, a very rare thing in the Arab world, and the public talks between esteemed people in the cultural sphere, that is an extension of the magazine.

The magazine was born from an embryo started by Maya and Hatem in the form of Studio Safar, a graphic design company, mainly commission-based, that indulged their passion for design and print. It’s a lovely magazine and a very welcomed breath of fresh air to graphic design enthusiasts around the globe.

So, I hope that you enjoy this glimpse into the world of graphic design through the eyes of a very passionate young woman who is both an entrepreneur and an artist with a very important mission and dream, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Maya Moumne, cofounder, editor in chief and creative director, Safar magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the story of Safar magazine: In 2012, my partner and I started a design studio called Studio Safar. It was mainly in a commission-based context. Throughout, with the type of work we were doing, my partner and I realized  that we already had a passion for print and it had always been our dream to delve into the publishing realm. So we decided to start a magazine on graphic design because there were no magazines in the area that tackled graphic design specifically. And certainly none that were available in Arabic. When we started we called it Journal Safar and the format of the magazine was very different from the current one that you have seen. It was more like a journal that was published by the Studio.

On the magazine’s tagline, “flirt with, flee from, and fall for graphic design and visual culture”: Say, we’re designing a publication; the role of the graphic designer cannot only be to design the page given the photography and the text, the designer’s role is really enacting the way that you read the publication or that you receive the content. You give me an article and you tell me that this is the text and these are the images. I can design this article in five different ways and in each one of these different ways, you will receive the content in a different manner. You’ll understand the content differently. So, the rule of the designer really is to flirt with the viewer. What we’re trying to do with the magazine is get people to flirt with this idea of design being an agent of cultural production, and getting them to fall for it, and also getting them to flee from misconceptions around design or trends around design.

On why she and her partner, Hatem Imam, decided print would be the best format for the magazine: We’re not even sure that it’s the best format, but it’s where our heart is taking us. And I’m always a firm believer in following your gut instinct and following your heart. To be very transparent, the magazine has not taken off financially at all, but I feel like if we’re stubborn and we study our audience a little better, the magazine will definitely take us there. There’s this aspect of archives that doesn’t exist online and in digital magazines that we’d like to retain with this print magazine. And for that reason the magazine is completely translated into English and Arabic in one publication or one document for the sake of having this material there five to ten years down the line. In Arabic, the dictionary of graphic design terms does not exist because graphic design is a very new field.

On where her journey began: My family moved to Canada many years ago and they stayed there for about eight years, but they eventually moved back to Lebanon. I was very young when they moved back to Lebanon, and when everyone asks me where I was raised, I say that I was raised in Beirut but the first half of my childhood was in Montreal, Canada. But the rest of my life, such as character-building, interest-building, everything, was in Beirut, Lebanon and nowhere else.

On what got her hooked on graphic design: The infinite possibilities. The fact that a graphic designer can be someone who is so well-informed about a musical project because they have to design a printed ephemera or an online ephemera around that musical project. And the fact that a graphic designer can be so well-informed about helping cybersecurity because they’re working with a cybersecurity company on their communications strategy. It’s really the infinite possibilities.

On the future of graphic design in the Arabic world since it’s a relatively new field: I can tell you from working based out of this region that people are turning more toward hiring graphic design agencies versus advertising agencies, and that’s been a really big shift and accomplishment in understanding the value of graphic design versus advertising. More and more advertising agencies are closing and more and more graphic design agencies are opening. I’m pretty confident that the times will change and graphic designers will be given much more agency than they are right now.

On the eclectic mix of stories and articles in the current edition and what made them decide to bring such a diverse group of individuals together in one issue: Most of the time the articles that we pick could really be a midnight project; I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and think, I really want to learn more about this or that. And then I’ll think, who’s a good designer? Whose research has touched on that? Or whose research is based on that? I’ll contact them and if they’re interested, then they’ll write an article about that. Other ideas will come really whimsically, almost accidentally.

On the biggest stumbling block they have had to face: I would have to say that it’s the finances. Every other part of it was a lot of hard work, but a very enjoyable process. I wouldn’t call it a stumbling block.

On what she would hope to have accomplished with the magazine one year from now: There’s a lot that I hope to accomplish with the magazine, but there are two things that I will mention in this interview. One of them is graphic designers will understand and learn that their role isn’t just to design what clients tell them to design; their role is much more important than that. They are actually cultural producers. That is one thing I would like to achieve with the magazine in one year.

On where people can go to get a copy of the magazine: For now, our Instagram account is the best way because we’re in the process of distributing the last issue to the distribution company and to bookstores around the world. And while we have one centralized link where people can just visit online to purchase the magazine from, they’re going to have to contact us and we can tell them where they can go online and what bookstores they can get it from based on what city they live in.

On anything she’d like to add: I’d like to elaborate a bit more on the last answer I gave and say that for example, with the launch of this last issue, an organization with so much history and so much prestige like Onassis Culture, based in Athens, took a particular interest in us and partnered with us to create the launch event of our last issue. And the launch event wasn’t just a matter of selling the magazine and partying and drinking, it included a series of public talks between Paul Holdengräber, who is someone that I have so much respect for and I was star struck when I met him, and we conducted a talk between three people in an auditorium with a stage and an audience, to talk about matters that are related to cultural production, nostalgia and design.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Definitely having a glass of wine, it relaxes me. Definitely reading relaxes me, and definitely watching a movie relaxes me.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: I don’t know and I don’t really care what misconceptions people have about me.

On what keeps her up at night: It’s funny that you ask that because I actually do wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work. There are two main things: what’s the next step, which is always on my mind, what am I going to do next, let’s do this or do that. And the second one is how am I going to pay the bills.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Maya Moumne, cofounder, editor in chief, and creative director, Safar magazine.

Samir Husni: Can you tell me the story of Safar?

Maya Moumne: Yes, of course. In 2012, my partner and I started a design studio called Studio Safar. It was mainly in a commission-based context. So, if an art institution wants to design an identity, they’ll hire us, and if a publisher wants to have a book designed, he or she will contact us and we’ll design the book for them. And we have worked with art institutions, clients mainly in the cultural sector, some musicians, some corporate agencies and such.

Throughout, with the type of work we were doing, my partner and I realized  that we already had a passion for print and it had always been our dream to delve into the publishing realm. So we decided to start a magazine on graphic design because there were no magazines in the area that tackled graphic design specifically. And certainly none that were available in Arabic. When we started we called it Journal Safar and the format of the magazine was very different from the current one that you have seen. It was more like a journal that was published by the Studio.

In the last issue we decided that in order to make the publication more accessible, and to change this misconception of graphic design being something that is only service-oriented, we need to reach a larger audience, so we changed the name from Journal Safar to Safar alone, hoping that with the coming years the magazine will overpower the Studio. We’re hoping that people will recognize Safar as the magazine and not just the Studio, which is currently what’s happening.

We’ve also changed the type of articles that exist in the magazine that we publish. Before they were a bit more abstract than they are right now. We’re going more in the direction of content that is not just from graphic designers, and that’s the only way that we can disrupt that misconception.

Samir Husni: Your tagline is that you want to “flirt with, flee from, and fall for graphic design and visual culture.” Can you expand a little bit on that?

Maya Moumne: Of course. Everything that we do comes from our personalities, my partner and I, Hatem Imam. And also from the nature of the type of work that we do at the Studio and the culture that exists there. Every project that we take on, especially the commissioned ones, there is always a phase where we are trying to provoke the client, evoke the client, and we try to get them to question the nature of their own business. We feel very strongly that the rules of the graphic designer, in any given project, are so essential.

Say, we’re designing a publication; the role of the graphic designer cannot only be to design the page given the photography and the text, the designer’s role is really enacting the way that you read the publication or that you receive the content. You give me an article and you tell me that this is the text and these are the images. I can design this article in five different ways and in each one of these different ways, you will receive the content in a different manner. You’ll understand the content differently. So, the rule of the designer really is to flirt with the viewer.

What we’re trying to do with the magazine is get people to flirt with this idea of design being an agent of cultural production, and getting them to fall for it, and also getting them to flee from misconceptions around design or trends around design.

Samir Husni: Has anyone asked you or your partner, Hatem, whether you both have lost your minds, doing a print magazine in this digital age?

Maya Moumne: Yes, we have been asked that for sure.

Samir Husni: So, why did you decide print is the best format to flirt, flee and fall for graphic design?

Maya Moumne: We’re not even sure that it’s the best format, but it’s where our heart is taking us. And I’m always a firm believer in following your gut instinct and following your heart. To be very transparent, the magazine has not taken off financially at all, but I feel like if we’re stubborn and we study our audience a little better, the magazine will definitely take us there. There’s this aspect of archives that doesn’t exist online and in digital magazines that we’d like to retain with this print magazine. And for that reason the magazine is completely translated into English and Arabic in one publication or one document for the sake of having this material there five to ten years down the line. In Arabic, the dictionary of graphic design terms does not exist because graphic design is a very new field.

Samir Husni: I read a bit of your bio; how did your journey start, is it from Lebanon to Canada back to Lebanon?

Maya Moumne: My family moved to Canada many years ago and they stayed there for about eight years, but they eventually moved back to Lebanon. I was very young when they moved back to Lebanon, and when everyone asks me where I was raised, I say that I was raised in Beirut but the first half of my childhood was in Montreal, Canada. But the rest of my life, such as character-building, interest-building, everything, was in Beirut, Lebanon and nowhere else.

Samir Husni: What got you hooked on graphic design?

Maya Moumne: The infinite possibilities. The fact that a graphic designer can be someone who is so well-informed about a musical project because they have to design a printed ephemera or an online ephemera around that musical project. And the fact that a graphic designer can be so well-informed about helping cybersecurity because they’re working with a cybersecurity company on their communications strategy. It’s really the infinite possibilities.

And where I learned about graphic design was at AUB (American University of Beirut). Their graphic design program is quite particular because it’s not a technical program at all. In fact, a lot of it is critiqued for being very theoretical and not practical enough. But I think that the big theoretical part of their graphic design program is what enables the graphic designer to graduate from this degree and really delve into any field that they want.

Samir Husni: As you look at the entire subject of graphic design in the Arabic world and the Middle East, and as you said, it’s a brand new field, where do you see graphic design going and moving five years from now?

Maya Moumne: I can tell you from working based out of this region that people are turning more toward hiring graphic design agencies versus advertising agencies, and that’s been a really big shift and accomplishment in understanding the value of graphic design versus advertising. More and more advertising agencies are closing and more and more graphic design agencies are opening. I’m pretty confident that the times will change and graphic designers will be given much more agency than they are right now.

If we look at the ladder of design, design includes architecture, product design, interior design, industrial design , urban design and graphic design. I’m sure I’m missing a few more, but on that ladder graphic design is on the very bottom of it. They’re paid less than any other designer on the ladder and they’re also given much less importance. In Lebanon, for example, there are a lot of design festivals or design biannual for fashion designers, product designers and industrial designers, but there really isn’t much for graphic designers. And there are no programs that help graphic designers start new projects or apply for master’s degrees, such as financial aid and that sort of stuff.

But I’m pretty sure it’s going to change with time, and if anything that’s the mission of the magazine. I’d like to have a second compartment to the magazine, which is an online platform in addition to the print one, that would be an authority on graphic design.

Samir Husni: As I look at the current issue and I see the eclectic mix of articles and stories, from discussing posters for old movies to drag queens, to an interview that you did in Italy with Maurizio Cattelan. What was the thinking behind putting all of these different subjects together, yet they are all connected through graphic design and visual culture?

Maya Moumne: First and foremost, we started the theme as Nostalgia, and the theme of the last issue being about nostalgia too, in particular. And we try also to not let all of the articles discuss the technical aspect of graphic design just to be able to blur the lines a bit between what technical graphic design is and what visual culture is. And we feel that they fall hand in hand with each other. For example, the article on the print chimera that came with the Lebanese film posters in the ‘70s, ‘80s. and ‘90s. This was about how the history of film production leaves out all of the print aesthetics that came with the films. And all of that printed material was what made the films understandable for people and helped them to learn about the films.

If you read about the history of film production in a certain region, these texts on that history usually leave out the print part, the design part of it. And this article talks about that in particular. So, in that sense, it’s an article that’s related to nostalgia and it’s related to graphic design. And it talks about things that we like to read about.

Most of the time the articles that we pick could really be a midnight project; I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and think, I really want to learn more about this or that. And then I’ll think, who’s a good designer? Whose research has touched on that? Or whose research is based on that? I’ll contact them and if they’re interested, then they’ll write an article about that. Other ideas will come really whimsically, almost accidentally.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block that you faced when you decided to launch the print magazine and how did you overcome it?

Maya Moumne: I would have to say that it’s the finances. Every other part of it was a lot of hard work, but a very enjoyable process. I wouldn’t call it a stumbling block.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with the magazine?

Maya Moumne: There’s a lot that I hope to accomplish with the magazine, but there are two things that I will mention in this interview. One of them is graphic designers will understand and learn that their role isn’t just to design what clients tell them to design; their role is much more important than that. They are actually cultural producers. That is one thing I would like to achieve with the magazine in one year.

And the other thing is to prove everyone wrong in showing that a magazine about graphic design can reach people who are not only graphic designers, and that it can make money.

Samir Husni: If someone wants to get a copy of Safar, how would they do that?

Maya Moumne: For now, our Instagram account is the best way because we’re in the process of distributing the last issue to the distribution company and to bookstores around the world. And while we have one centralized link where people can just visit online to purchase the magazine from, they’re going to have to contact us and we can tell them where they can go online and what bookstores they can get it from based on what city they live in.

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

Maya Moumne: I’d like to elaborate a bit more on the last answer I gave and say that for example, with the launch of this last issue, an organization with so much history and so much prestige like Onassis Culture, based in Athens, took a particular interest in us and partnered with us to create the launch event of our last issue. And the launch event wasn’t just a matter of selling the magazine and partying and drinking, it included a series of public talks between Paul Holdengräber, who is someone that I have so much respect for and I was star struck when I met him, and we conducted a talk between three people in an auditorium with a stage and an audience, to talk about matters that are related to cultural production, nostalgia and design.

These public talks are a very important extension of the magazine, it’s not just about it being a print magazine but it’s about a cultural exchange and dialogue. And that’s what I would like to add.

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; designing; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Maya Moumne: All of the above. (Laughs) Definitely having a glass of wine, it relaxes me. Definitely reading relaxes me, and definitely watching a movie relaxes me.

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

Maya Moumne: I don’t know and I don’t really care what misconceptions people have about me.

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

Maya Moumne: It’s funny that you ask that because I actually do wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work. There are two main things: what’s the next step, which is always on my mind, what am I going to do next, let’s do this or do that. And the second one is how am I going to pay the bills.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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From Front Row To Front Cover: A Spellbinding And Intoxicating New Magazine Book By Didier Guérin…

July 31, 2019

In a career spanning over 40 years, Didier Guérin has launched over 40 magazines and websites.  In his new book, From Front Row To Front Cover,  he sums up those 40 years in a captivating 230 pages. And believe me, once you open the first page you can’t put the book down until you are finished.

Didier asked me to write the introduction to his book and I was more than delighted to do so.  What follows is the introduction that I wrote.

From Front Row to Front Cover: Inside the Business of International Fashion Magazines

Introduction by Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

Spellbinding And Intoxicating Like A Fine Glass Of Red Wine

To me there are three types of books that are published: the book with the cover that attracts you, but not enough to motivate you to read it; the book that you pick up because of the cover and you start reading it, but then you lose interest; and finally, the book that you pick up not just for the cover, but for the content as well, and you can’t put it down, you start reading and you absolutely have to finish it, cover to cover. Didier Guérin’s “From Front Row to Front Cover – Inside the Business of International Fashion Magazines” is most definitely the latter, once you start reading it you can’t put it down.

I first met Didier Guérin through the pages of Elle magazine, when he brought the publication to the United States on behalf of the Hachette Filipacchi-News Corp joint venture. As I vividly remember him telling me, I was the first person to send him a letter congratulating him about Ellecoming to the U.S.

With Didier Guérin and The University of Mississippi’s Chancellor Gerald Turner in 1987.

It wasn’t long after that, I invited Didier to come to the University of Mississippi in 1987 and he very graciously accepted my invitation. He came and he spoke to my students here and that began a journey for him that was parallel to my own in the magazine world, yet he was on the inside looking out, while I was always on the outside looking in.

I was so impressed by Didier’s passion for the magazine world and his business acumen when he came to speak to my students. I felt his struggles were so similar to my own struggles, trying to understand what makes a magazine work; what makes a magazine fail; what are the processes of launching a magazine. He was just coming out of the strife of spending almost two years trying to launchEllein the United States and facing all of the obstacles from every magazine media company back then until the magazine was launched in 1985, and then later he launched Premierein 1987.

So, to me Didier Guérin is much more than a magazine maker, he is an experience maker. He experienced the magazines that he made and that’s why if you read his book, “From Front Row to Front Cover,” while he wasn’t on the cover of any magazine, he was the cover of the magazine. His new book is an intimate journey through the life of someone who for 40 years has not only followed the magazine industry, but was immersed in it, both as an idea-maker and a business-maker. The combination of those two gives the book an authenticity and realism that is unparalleled.

After we met in 1987, I asked him to write the introduction to my book, “Samir Husni’s Guide to New Magazines,” the 1988 edition. And one of his most memorable lines in that missive was, “Launching a magazine is such a seductive idea for so many people, that it beats even racing cars, a dream that every boy and some girls in America have had at least once.” And for Didier, and myself, that seduction is very real.

“From Front Row to Front Cover” takes us through Didier’s childhood and university days in Paris, to his time with Hachette Filipacchi and launchingEllein the United States. It is an exciting and often gut-wrenching tale of one young man’s foray into the world of magazines and magazine making, while searching for his own personal happiness within the realms of love and finding that “right” person. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Didier relives leaving Hachette and moving to Condé Nast in 1995, and the angst that decision caused him. Then the launches of VogueTaiwan and GlamourKorea, preparing for VogueChina and launching Vogue Japan, and ultimately his firing from Condé Nast with no warning or reason.

The book is one man’s intimate and powerful journey through the ups and downs, power plays, and often hard decisions made within the higher echelons of the magazine publishing business. It is a read that will keep you spellbound and intoxicated without benefit of your favorite glass of wine.

When Didier asked me to write this introduction I was at once both honored and humbled to be able to return his own large favor to me all those years ago. But after receiving “From Front Row to Front Cover – Inside the Business of International Fashion Magazines,” I can’t imagine not writing it. It made a compelling impact on me and gave me such a deeper insight into the magazines that I have spent my life in love with. So for this, thank you, Didier. Thank you for the opportunity to do for you what you did for me, but thank you more for the amazing read.

To learn more about From Front Row To Front Cover click here and to order a copy of the book click here.

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RQ (Root Quarterly): A New Regional Magazine That Combines Local Art & Culture Along With Information About The City, All In One Beautiful Design – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher & Editor In Chief, Heather Shayne Blakeslee…

July 22, 2019

“What I’m offering people is a chance to reconnect with their attention spans, with their ability to critically think, and with their ability to enjoy long-form profiles of artists and others who are in their city.” Heather Shayne Blakeslee (On why print)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Root Quarterly, or RQ as the magazine is lovingly called, is a new title that Publisher and Editor in Chief, Heather Shayne Blakeslee, says is one part magazine, one part collaborative art project, and one part social experiment. The magazine offers insightful and provocative essays, profiles of local makers and artists, cultural criticism, fiction, poetry, and carefully-curated recommendations for getting the most out of life in Philadelphia—including a cocktail or dinner recipe here and there—all in a beautifully designed and printed magazine you can hold in your hands and settle down with on a Sunday afternoon, or argue over at Thursday night happy hour.

I spoke with Heather recently and we talked about this great new title and about its uniqueness in the Regional space. While on the one hand, RQ is a literary magazine that gives you the best in fiction, poetry and essays, it also has all the regional recommendations you could need or want for the city of Philadelphia. It has multiple personalities that lends itself to some fantastic reading and to some knowledgeable information.

And it has a creator who knows the value of a great team and the value of good storytelling. Heather is not only a publisher and editor, but she’s a businessperson, and a musician, keeping her eye on the future of this new print title by focusing on one goal, providing the best high-quality content that she can. With a goal like that, how could she be anything but successful.

So, now let’s get to the “root” of the story about RQ, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with  Heather Shayne Blakeslee, publisher and editor in chief, RQ magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of RQ (Root Quarterly) magazine: It had a long and maybe humorous start, going back 10 years or so. I was joking with my brother and he was joking with me. We were at a party in Brooklyn, and he’s kind of a witty guy, so he walked up to me and said, “Hey, didn’t I see you on the cover of Fancy Bitch magazine?” (Laughs) And I started laughing. He’s an art director and photographer and I’m a writer and editor and we had been batting around forever the idea of starting a magazine that was for women, but wasn’t a traditional women’s magazine. I thought about it for a really long time. I restarted the idea of thinking about putting a magazine together and looked at the landscape in Philadelphia and realized that we had very little arts and culture coverage anymore. The city paper, which was one of our main weeklies, went dark. And Philadelphia Weekly, which was still around, was much diminished from the state that it had been in 10 years ago even. And so, there was room for a publication like this, but it really has a dual purpose.

On why she chose print as a component for the magazine: I think people are so used to being able to fly off the handle in comment sections and have knee-jerk reactions to things. What I’m offering people is a chance to reconnect with their attention spans, with their ability to critically think, and with their ability to enjoy long-form profiles of artists and others who are in their city.

On whether any of her friends or colleagues thought she was crazy for starting a print magazine in this digital age: (Laughs) It’s interesting because, actually, the first thing that people say when they see the magazine is, “It is so beautiful. I can’t wait to sit down with this when I have time alone to enjoy it.” I did salons for a year before I started the magazine; I asked friends and colleagues to host salons in their homes. I asked them to create lists of people who might be interested in hearing more about a project like this. We did about seven or eight of them; I probably talked to about 100 people over the course of the year to get really specific feedback. Universally, people said if you do this, we will buy a subscription. They all said they would love to have something like this.

On whether the power of print today is more about just nostalgia: I think it’s absolutely more than nostalgia. One of the things that I’m curious about, frankly, is how un-self-aware we are as a species (Laughs), especially in the last 100 years or so, about the fact that our society has radically changed in the way that we organize ourselves. And our technology has radically changed.  Our minds and our brains and our bodies have not changed that quickly. There is a continuing evolutionary process going on here and we’re not meant to have 2,000 friends. And we’re not meant to organize ourselves even in the large groups that we do now in cities and in nations. And we’re not meant to consume as much information as the human mind consumes. It’s overwhelming to people.

On whether there have been stumbling blocks for her on this magazine journey: There are stumbling blocks at every turn. The main one though is time. I have a small business doing strategy and consulting for non-profit organizations and small businesses and doing editorial services. I have two major clients that I work with and this is the third thing that I’m working on, in addition to also being a musician who records and plays in Philadelphia. I’m on the Board for the local Folksong Society, so there’s a lot going on. Time, for me, is the main thing.

On the “root” origins of the magazine’s name: For me, I am a gardener and a plant person. And I am a lay biologist, so that’s a big world that’s important to me. I am not from Philadelphia, I’m from Central Pennsylvania. So for me, part of it is just being rooted in this particular region. It’s being rooted in, as I said, our own reality, rather than the online world, which is much more easily manipulated. And it’s about trying to connect and grow with other people and creating an intentional community of people who want this kind of thing in their lives.

On what she would hope to tell someone a year from now that she had accomplished with the magazine: I hope we’ve attracted additional investment; I hope our print runs have gone up; and I hope that we have attracted the people, whether they are writers and artists, or subscribers and supporters, who want to continue to make the project grow. We have already exceeded our very modest expectations that we set for ourselves in the first year. I was thinking if we got 250 people to subscribe the first year, that would make me happy and it would help to pay for some of the print runs. And nearly 100 people, some of them sight unseen, not even having seen a copy of the magazine, have subscribed already. (Laughs) And we’re just getting started and I think there’s a lot of room for growth on that and a lot of potential.

On anything she’d like to add: Yes, because you’re a magazine person, and maybe would be interested in the kind of hybrid that we’ve come up with. I don’t think that I have seen anywhere, especially in the U.S., a quarterly magazine that is both a city magazine, in that it will offer people the carefully curated recommendations of things that are happening in the city of makers, artists, destination restaurants, and other things like that, but that will also be publishing fiction, poetry, essays, and profiles of artists. It really is splitting the difference between a city magazine and an arts and culture journal.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: First of all, often in the evening, and this is the other reason why I suppose we’re able to do this because it’s really being done in partnership with many people, including my life partner, Walter, who is our copy chief, he and I read books aloud to each other in the evening. And often on things that we end up wanting to write about or have others write about in the magazine, we spar all the time on arguments and exposing each other to new thinkers, new writers and authors. So, a lot of our evenings are spent doing that. That’s sort of how our relationship is based, I suppose.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: That’s a super interesting question. (Laughs) I’m not sure I have an easy answer to that. People who know me well, who have either worked for me for a long time or have been my friend for a long time, or both, I think they recognize that I can come across as somewhat stern or very demanding, but that’s born from a desire to do really good work. Being demanding of the people who are around you is okay as long as you give them equal support, love and attention.

On what keeps her up at night: Oh gosh, so many things. (Laughs) I did sustainability work for a really long time, more than 10 years, and I think we continue to degrade our level of discourse to the point where we may not be able to solve issues like climate change or we may not be able to reconcile our modern world with the more modest ways that our bodies and our brains have evolved. That we may create things that destroy us. That’s the main thing that keeps me up at night, whether it’s the threat of nuclear war or the threat of climate change or the threat of AI advancing more quickly. I’m totally with Yuval Harari on that trifecta of monsters that keeps us up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Heather Shayne Blakeslee, publisher and editor in chief, RQ (Root Quarterly) magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of RQ (Root Quarterly).

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: It had a long and maybe humorous start, going back 10 years or so. I was joking with my brother and he was joking with me. We were at a party in Brooklyn, and he’s kind of a witty guy, so he walked up to me and said, “Hey, didn’t I see you on the cover of Fancy Bitch magazine?” (Laughs) And I started laughing. He’s an art director and photographer and I’m a writer and editor and we had been batting around forever the idea of starting a magazine that was for women, but wasn’t a traditional women’s magazine. I thought about it for a really long time.

I started working about four or five years ago at a small, independent publisher in Philadelphia. And ended up being the editor of one of the magazines there. And I realized how much I loved putting print magazines together and learned how to do it there. After the 2016 election, I realized in part that the level of civil discourse in the country  and the level of journalism had deteriorated to the point where people couldn’t talk to one another anymore, even if they had a small disagreement about something. And that was due in part to social media. And to people not getting together in rooms face-to-face.

So, I restarted the idea of thinking about putting a magazine together and looked at the landscape in Philadelphia and realized that we had very little arts and culture coverage anymore. The city paper, which was one of our main weeklies, went dark. And Philadelphia Weekly, which was still around, was much diminished from the state that it had been in 10 years ago even. And so, there was room for a publication like this, but it really has a dual purpose. One is arts and culture in Philadelphia, and ideas, essays, and analyses from mostly writers from here. Although, I’m open to a handful of people occasionally in each of the issues weighing in that are not from this region. But part of it is also around re-teaching ourselves critical thinking skills, analysis, and rhetoric.

Samir Husni: And you don’t think digital would have helped with that?

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: I don’t, because I think people are so used to being able to fly off the handle in comment sections and have knee-jerk reactions to things. What I’m offering people is a chance to reconnect with their attention spans, with their ability to critically think, and with their ability to enjoy long-form profiles of artists and others who are in their city.

Samir Husni: Did any of your friends or colleagues ask you if were you out of your mind for doing a print magazine in this digital age?

 Heather Shayne Blakeslee: (Laughs) It’s interesting because, actually, the first thing that people say when they see the magazine is, “It is so beautiful. I can’t wait to sit down with this when I have time alone to enjoy it.” I did salons for a year before I started the magazine; I asked friends and colleagues to host salons in their homes. I asked them to create lists of people who might be interested in hearing more about a project like this. We did about seven or eight of them; I probably talked to about 100 people over the course of the year to get really specific feedback. Universally, people said if you do this, we will buy a subscription. They all said they would love to have something like this.

So, I definitely wouldn’t have done it if the reaction had been tepid or lukewarm, but lots of people were really excited about it. I also had offers of help, people who offered to donate some money. I had offers where people said they would like to host one of these, could I come and talk to their friends. So, I’m going to keep doing that and keep connecting with people in person.

Certainly, there are people who have said, “Heather, are you crazy?” (Laughs) But they also have said, “If anybody can do it, you can do it.” So, I’m just going to continue on with the experiment, and it’s an experiment that may fail, but we’re going to give it our best shot.

Samir Husni: Can you elaborate a little on the power of print in this digital age, because one of the accusations that I receive is that I’m so nostalgic. Is it nostalgia or is there more to the power of print in today’s world?

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: I think it’s absolutely more than nostalgia. One of the things that I’m curious about, frankly, is how un-self-aware we are as a species (Laughs), especially in the last 100 years or so, about the fact that our society has radically changed in the way that we organize ourselves. And our technology has radically changed.  Our minds and our brains and our bodies have not changed that quickly. There is a continuing evolutionary process going on here and we’re not meant to have 2,000 friends. And we’re not meant to organize ourselves even in the large groups that we do now in cities and in nations. And we’re not meant to consume as much information as the human mind consumes. It’s overwhelming to people.

And it absolutely makes sense to me that we medicate ourselves with drugs, and don’t pay attention to what we eat, and we wonder why everyone is anxious and suppressed. I think even more than just thinking of it as a magazine, it’s really a way to reconnect with the idea that we have to slow down and be more mindful. And we have to accept that our minds are not equipped to handle the digital age. But we keep telling ourselves it’s progress, so I don’t think it’s nostalgia, I think it’s just an acknowledgement of our reality.

Samir Husni: Has it been a walk in a rose garden for you from the time you conceived of the idea and executed it? Or has there been some stumbling blocks along the way?

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: There are stumbling blocks at every turn. The main one though is time. I have a small business doing strategy and consulting for non-profit organizations and small businesses and doing editorial services. I have two major clients that I work with and this is the third thing that I’m working on, in addition to also being a musician who records and plays in Philadelphia. I’m on the Board for the local Folksong Society, so there’s a lot going on. Time, for me, is the main thing.

Money will come from being able to invest in the project and I’ve seen that already. Producing a really high-quality product and being explicit about what the vision of the magazine is has really been great, in terms of attracting investment and people who are supportive of it. But time is a huge issue and being able to find the right team of people who are willing to work as volunteers for as long as they need to. But we’ve been able to assemble a really great team over the course of the last year and I absolutely would not be able to do this without their support.

The biggest, almost-snafu was losing our designer the week before we went to print with almost nothing finished. Luckily, I’ve been working in the business world for a long time and my first instinct was, okay, how do I fix this? And I just got on my phone and texted the designer in town that I knew ideated and executed work quicker than anyone I knew, and he’s also a joy to work with. And he designed a beautiful magazine in six days, even with a full-time job and moving that week. So, having the right team of people who are dedicated and willing to get onboard behind you is just absolutely critical.

Samir Husni: Here’s a question where the pun is intended; what’s the “root” of the name of the magazine?

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: (Laughs) For me, I am a gardener and a plant person. And I am a lay biologist, so that’s a big world that’s important to me. I am not from Philadelphia, I’m from Central Pennsylvania. So for me, part of it is just being rooted in this particular region. It’s being rooted in, as I said, our own reality, rather than the online world, which is much more easily manipulated. And it’s about trying to connect and grow with other people and creating an intentional community of people who want this kind of thing in their lives.

Samir Husni: Heather, if you and I are having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with the magazine?

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: I hope we’ve attracted additional investment; I hope our print runs have gone up; and I hope that we have attracted the people, whether they are writers and artists, or subscribers and supporters, who want to continue to make the project grow. We have already exceeded our very modest expectations that we set for ourselves in the first year. I was thinking if we got 250 people to subscribe the first year, that would make me happy and it would help to pay for some of the print runs. And nearly 100 people, some of them sight unseen, not even having seen a copy of the magazine, have subscribed already. (Laughs) And we’re just getting started and I think there’s a lot of room for growth on that and a lot of potential.

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

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: Yes, because you’re a magazine person, and maybe would be interested in the kind of hybrid that we’ve come up with. I don’t think that I have seen anywhere, especially in the U.S., a quarterly magazine that is both a city magazine, in that it will offer people the carefully curated recommendations of things that are happening in the city of makers, artists, destination restaurants, and other things like that, but that will also be publishing fiction, poetry, essays, and profiles of artists. It really is splitting the difference between a city magazine and an arts and culture journal.

The closest thing that I can think of would be The New Yorker, but of course that’s a huge operation and a weekly and it also has national interest, but that is a little bit of what I’m thinking. I looked at magazines like Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker, but also the London-based magazine, Riposte, is something that I enjoy. California Sunday Magazine is another that I really enjoy.

I also don’t see people paying enough attention to the design of the magazines. That is also really important to me, to have very high-production quality. And very, very good design, because I think if you’re going to ask people to subscribe to a print journal at this point, it kind of has to be an art object that they want to put on their coffee table and that they will not usually put into a recycling bin.

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; gardening; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: (Laughs) All of those things. First of all, often in the evening, and this is the other reason why I suppose we’re able to do this because it’s really being done in partnership with many people, including my life partner, Walter, who is our copy chief, he and I read books aloud to each other in the evening. And often on things that we end up wanting to write about or have others write about in the magazine, we spar all the time on arguments and exposing each other to new thinkers, new writers and authors. So, a lot of our evenings are spent doing that. That’s sort of how our relationship is based, I suppose.

I’m also a musician, I’m a singer/songwriter that does folk and Americana. I have a new record coming out in the fall with a band called Sweetbriar Rose that I’ve led for many years. And I also have been playing the cello for the last five years, so that gets me into a very meditative state and gets me away from words and into music and vibrations; just kind of centering myself in that way.

And I definitely spend a lot of time gardening, and I do cook to relax as well, but often I’m also listening to a podcast, usually Sam Harris, whose podcast used to be called “Waking Up” and is now called “Making Sense.” He’s one of my favorites.

It’s interesting because I’m also targeting this magazine at Gen Xers and Boomers; any enlightened millennials are welcomed to come along for the ride as well. (Laughs) I had a “Letter to the Editor” once at the magazine I was working at a couple of years ago that was interesting because it was about an editorial concerning my editor’s notes, and she failed to realize that the editor’s notes were in dialogue with the entire magazine that came after it.

And it was curious to me because I was thinking about it and these are people who just download songs. They don’t see the album anymore. And I think musicians are a little bit more tuned into the fact that we do think of things a little more holistically.

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

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: That’s a super interesting question. (Laughs) I’m not sure I have an easy answer to that. People who know me well, who have either worked for me for a long time or have been my friend for a long time, or both, I think they recognize that I can come across as somewhat stern or very demanding, but that’s born from a desire to do really good work. Being demanding of the people who are around you is okay as long as you give them equal support, love and attention.

I think that’s one of the reasons that the group of people that I have right now, who have gravitated toward the project, because they too are often more intellectual and not as emotional as other people are. But I can guarantee you I bleed just as red as everybody else and I’ve had my heart broken just as many times. (Laughs) I think I just have a disposition that bends toward rationality and reason and calm.

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

Heather Shayne Blakeslee: Oh gosh, so many things. (Laughs) I did sustainability work for a really long time, more than 10 years, and I think we continue to degrade our level of discourse to the point where we may not be able to solve issues like climate change or we may not be able to reconcile our modern world with the more modest ways that our bodies and our brains have evolved. That we may create things that destroy us. That’s the main thing that keeps me up at night, whether it’s the threat of nuclear war or the threat of climate change or the threat of AI advancing more quickly. I’m totally with Yuval Harari on that trifecta of monsters that keeps us up.

And this magazine is in some ways a response to all of that and trying to get people to slow down, recognize the world that’s around them, including the existential threats that we face right now as a species with climate change.

Samir Husni: Thank you.  

 

 

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Double Blind: A New Magazine That Looks At The Healing Properties Of Psychedelics In Both A Provocative And Scientific Way – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Cofounders, Shelby Hartman and Madison Margolin…

July 15, 2019

“We’re not just doing 500 word stories with sensationalistic headlines; we’re doing real journalism with 1,500 words or more and three or more resources and fact-checked quotes and studies where we look at the sample size and we look at who funded it. We wanted to put these stories out in a format that encourages people to sit down and absorb them with the care with which they were created.” Shelby Hartman (On why there had to be a print component)…

“Print is something that is beautiful and that you can hold; you can put it on your coffee table. It commands a different sort of respect than online pieces. Not to say that online doesn’t also command a lot of respect, but there’s something special about print. Shelby and I met in journalism school and both come from backgrounds in investigative writing. I took a major magazine course at Columbia and we really believe in the format. The design is really beautiful and this isn’t just about the story, it’s about putting something together that speaks to the whole package: the design, the art, and being able to highlight psychedelic-inspired art, poetry, and the stories.” Madison Margolin (On why there had to be a print component)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Double Blind is a new biannual print magazine and media company covering timely, untold stories about the expansion of psychedelics around the globe. The magazine offers a provocative look at medicinal plants that have been used for centuries around the world in healing ceremonies and other medicinal applications. While many have a preconceived idea of the word “psychedelics” thanks in part to the 1960s and all of the connotations that has followed that era into the 21st century, the magazine also offers science along with the provocative.

I spoke with cofounders Shelby Hartman and Madison Margolin recently, two women who attended Columbia Journalism School at the same time but didn’t know each other, but who came together a little later to realize the need for a product like Double Blind, both the print magazine and the media company.

Shelby and Madison are both moderate users of what they believe in, psychedelics. And their true belief in the healing powers of plant-based medicine is unmistakable. Couple that with the research, such as the FDA’s laborious double-blind trials—psychedelics are slowly gaining legitimacy. The name Double Blind comes from those types of trials, where randomized clinical trial was invented—to ensure that scientists were not accidentally designing their research in a way that just confirmed what they already believed.

It’s an intriguing magazine that opens up tremendous possibilities for helping people with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and many other illnesses. So, I hope that you enjoy this enlightening interview with two people who are passionate about journalism and about their magazine’s subject matter, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Shelby Hartman and Madison Margolin, cofounders, Double Blind.

Madison Margolin (Left) and Shelby Hartman (Right)

 But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Double Blind (Shelby Hartman): Madison (Margolin) and I both began by reporting in cannabis. And at the same time, obviously, alongside our professional journeys we all have personal lives and personal journeys. Both of us have been on personal journeys of healing for a long time. And for me that has included a variety of different Psychedelic medicines which have really transformed my internal landscape and the way that I move through the world. I was always very fascinated by these medicines and wanted to report on them. And there was a natural opening for me to do so; I wrote a story for Vice on MDMA therapy for  post-traumatic stress disorder. And that provided me with a window into how rich this topic was and how much burgeoning research  there is going on in the field right now.

On how they came up with the name Double Blind (Madison Margolin): Basically, it’s a nod first and foremost to the double blind critical studies that are happening with psychedelics at various research institutions. Double blind meaning that neither the subject of the study nor the researcher knows whether the person is taking a placebo or the actual substance, whatever that is. But also we think that with Double Blind, it’s provocative and open to interpretation; what does it mean to really lift your blinders; what are we blind to? And a double blind indicates this level of truth that isn’t readily apparent. And that’s the background of the name specifically, the science and then also allowing people to have a little more philosophical take on Double Blind.

On the fact that there are so many other medicinal lifestyle magazines out there, many focusing on cannabis, what is their unique selling proposition (Madison Margolin): We’re specifically not a cannabis magazine. The main focus, obviously, is inspired by psychedelics, but we also see psychedelics as a lens to look at other issues like mental health, spirituality feelings, social equity, and environmental justice. But specifically because we know that there already is so much saturation in the cannabis space, we want to really delineate that we’re not a cannabis magazine.

On the fact that there are so many other medicinal lifestyle magazines out there, many focusing on cannabis, what is their unique selling proposition (Shelby Hartman): I’ll just add to that by saying there are similarities between cannabis and psychedelics in that they both are showing extraordinary promise for healing mental health conditions that basically the Western medical community at large has failed to heal. If we look at post-traumatic stress disorder, there is a huge number of people who have just been failed by the currently available treatments on the market. The same goes for depression and for anxiety; the same goes for addiction – nicotine addiction, opioid addiction, alcoholism.

On the 1960s perception of psychedelics (Madison Margolin): I think society at large has this notion of psychedelics that’s largely built on the image that was made popular during the sixties with Timothy Leary, who was at Harvard doing psychedelic research there with Richard Alpert , who became Ram Dass, and a lot of other researchers. And the proliferation of the psychedelic culture through The Grateful Dead and the Summer of Love, and things like that. I think that was an incredible contribution to the psychedelic movement and to people’s perception of psychedelics, but that’s not really the only thing that we can use to look at these substances.

 On whether people have thought they were on drugs when they decided to launch a print magazine in a digital age (Shelby Hartman): As I said, alongside my professional journey I’ve had a personal relationship with psychedelics and plant medicine. I would say that the most powerful plant medicine in my life has been iowaska. I wasn’t, obviously, on the iowaska when I had the idea for Double Blind, but I will say that I wouldn’t be who I am without it, and every single decision that I make in my life is a result of who I am and what I care about. And that is a result of iowaska.

On what they would hope to tell someone they had accomplished a year from now with Double Blind (Madison Margolin): When Shelby asked me to be a part of this with her, we said, okay, we’re going to create a magazine about psychedelics and related topics. I really feel like Double Blind is something that, coming through us, I think it’s something that needs to exist, whether it’s us or anyone else, but right now it’s us. We’re building a whole media company, so we’re going to be doing the magazine biannually; we’re putting online content out later this summer. We have people already who are interested in creating podcasts for us. We have a video person who is enthusiastic. We’re starting to partner with different groups and also doing our own events. Double Blind is going to be in various brick and mortar stores.

On why they decided to have a print product specifically (Madison Margolin): Print is something that is beautiful and that you can hold; you can put it on your coffee table. It commands a different sort of respect than online pieces. Not to say that online doesn’t also command a lot of respect, but there’s something special about print. Shelby and I met in journalism school and both come from backgrounds in investigative writing. I took a major magazine course at Columbia and we really believe in the format. The design is really beautiful and this isn’t just about the story, it’s about putting something together that speaks to the whole package: the design, the art, and being able to highlight psychedelic-inspired art, poetry, and the stories.

 On how they put the first issue together (Madison Margolin): Shelby had the idea of doing Double Blind and it started out with me and art designer, David Good, and it really sort of snowballed from there. We have a photo editor, a poetry editor, and we got a publicist pretty early on, Zoe Wilder. As far as the actual print magazine, we wrote some of the stories, some come from contributors, other writers who we are familiar with in the space and who we asked to be a part of this.

 On how they put the first issue together (Shelby Hartman): I’ll say in terms of the stories; I said before that Madison and I both have a love for long-form journalism. So we knew that we wanted the print issue to have at least three really substantial, long pieces. But we also, being that it’s a magazine, we also wanted it to have a diversity of content, in terms of length and seriousness, because we wanted it to be an enjoyable experience for people when they’re sitting down and flipping through it. We began to brainstorm around the different pillars of what we wanted our content to be. One area that we’re really passionate about covering, as Madison mentioned before, is the corporatization of medicine and the extent to which psychedelics will or will not be a part of that and the implications that will have for the access that people will have to psychedelics.

On anything they’d like to add (Shelby Hartman): I’ve said this before, but we care a lot and we’re very open. For me, this isn’t about us; it isn’t about Double Blind. We really want to be a part of a larger movement that is about awakening and about healing. And so I’ll just put it out to any of the journalists or companies or artists, or anyone who might be reading this interview, that we’re very open. So if you feel inspired by what we’re doing then reach out. We’re available.

On what someone would find either of them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at one of their homes (Madison Margolin): I don’t really watch TV, but if I’m going to watch anything, it’s maybe a movie. If I’m not working, I really do try to spend time with the people I care about. Sometimes I work until the end of the day; sometimes I kind of peter out and I try to make dinner, or go to yoga, or go on a walk, or go out with friends somewhere. Sometimes I’ll smoke a joint before I go to bed because it helps me relax a little bit. Once I start smoking cannabis, I’m done. I cannot work anymore. I’m just not that kind of cannabis consumer, so to speak. I live in Los Angeles, so I love to explore the city and go to different spots that I’m curious about.

On the biggest misconception people have about either of them (Shelby Hartman): I don’t know how this is going to come across, but to be honest, I think you asked what we do when we get off work, and I’m a musician and I play ukulele. For a lot of years I would bike around with my ukulele and people called me “Ukulele Girl.” So, I don’t know if that’s still the impression people have of me, but I also go to Burning Man, this is going to be my eighth burn, and I bring my ukulele there and I bike around the festival with it. I also  play at people’s weddings and things like that, so people see me I think as this sort of whimsical, extraverted person, and I guess that is a part of me. But there is another very serious part of me that is on this deeply personal healing journey and is just trying to be okay like everyone else.

On the biggest misconception people have about either of them (Madison Margolin): Especially as a journalist who covers cannabis and psychedelics, people think that I’m much more of a heavy consumer than I am. The majority of my work, up until this point, has been in cannabis because there is just so much to cover there. I don’t know this strain from that strain, things like that, and the same with psychedelics. People think I’m some sort of psycho nut that eats all of the acid I can tolerate. (Laughs) That’s just not true of me. I’m really observant of how often and how much I take. I know people who have a tolerance for psychedelics or other drugs that I probably won’t ever have. I do have a really deep intellectual and spiritual attraction to them.

On what keeps them up at night (Shelby Hartman): Starting a company is a lot and I have no doubts about whether or not this is what we should be doing. It feels so right. And the reception that we’ve gotten from luminaries in the field who have been at this for decades is so humbling. And the number of people who have come up to us and said how this is the time for this and it needs to be done, there is no doubt about it. But we’re a startup and we’re not just a startup, we’re a media startup.

On what keeps them up at night (Madison Margolin): I actually sleep very well, but when I wake up feeling anxious about things, it’s really about how any business is difficult to get off the ground and media especially. The landscape for it hasn’t really been the most encouraging just seeing the way that other publications have started and failed or how even publications that have been around forever are now in the process of getting rebought or shifting. And Shelby and I both went to journalism school and a lot of our professors are coming out of an era of journalism that was so much different than what we’re growing up in and what we’re practicing now. So, it really is a fresh landscape and I think it’s going to take a fresh perspective and a fresh business approach to maintain and build a thriving media company.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with cofounders, Shelby Hartman and Madison Margolin, Double Blind magazine.

Samir Husni: What is the genesis of Double Blind?

Shelby Hartman: Madison (Margolin) and I both began by reporting in cannabis. And at the same time, obviously, alongside our professional journeys we all have personal lives and personal journeys. Both of us have been on personal journeys of healing for a long time. And for me that has included a variety of different Psychedelic medicines which have really transformed my internal landscape and the way that I move through the world.

I was always very fascinated by these medicines and wanted to report on them. And there was a natural opening for me to do so; I wrote a story for Vice on MDMA therapy for  post-traumatic stress disorder. And that provided me with a window into how rich this topic was and how much burgeoning research  there is going on in the field right now. Since then it has only grown. Over the last five years it has really become what I see as a legitimate area of coverage. There is just so much. And we really felt like given how much there is that it was time for a media company and a magazine that was solely devoted to covering these topics.

Samir Husni: And where did the name come from?

Madison Margolin: Basically, it’s a nod first and foremost to the double blind critical studies that are happening with psychedelics at various research institutions. Double blind meaning that neither the subject of the study nor the researcher knows whether the person is taking a placebo or the actual substance, whatever that is. But also we think that with Double Blind, it’s provocative and open to interpretation; what does it mean to really lift your blinders; what are we blind to? And a double blind indicates this level of truth that isn’t readily apparent. And that’s the background of the name specifically, the science and then also allowing people to have a little more philosophical take on Double Blind.

Samir Husni: There are so many magazines in the marketplace today that deal with cannabis. From MJ Lifestyle to Kitchen Toke and many others. How do you differentiate Double Blind from all of the other medicinal lifestyle magazines using marijuana and other alternative remedies that are in the marketplace today? What is your unique selling proposition?

Madison Margolin: We’re specifically not a cannabis magazine. The main focus, obviously, is inspired by psychedelics, but we also see psychedelics as a lens to look at other issues like mental health, spirituality feelings, social equity, and environmental justice. But specifically because we know that there already is so much saturation in the cannabis space, we want to really delineate that we’re not a cannabis magazine.

We do focus on plant medicines and cannabis is a plant medicine, there is even an article in our issue that compares the up and coming psychedelic industry to the cannabis industry and looking at the lessons that psychedelics can learn from the route that cannabis has taken to legalization, to decriminalization, and things like that.

But aside from being the template and seeing how cannabis has paved the way, I sometimes feel that it is a gateway print. It opens people up to this whole other, broader notion of how plants can be part of our lives and healing. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg for us. We’re trying to really go into a greater variety of plants and a profoundness with that.

Shelby Hartman: I’ll just add to that by saying there are similarities between cannabis and psychedelics in that they both are showing extraordinary promise for healing mental health conditions that basically the Western medical community at large has failed to heal. If we look at post-traumatic stress disorder, there is a huge number of people who have just been failed by the currently available treatments on the market. The same goes for depression and for anxiety; the same goes for addiction – nicotine addiction, opioid addiction, alcoholism.

And so there is a similarity there, but really the way that they function is fundamentally different. And I don’t think this is something that is talked about very often, particularly in the cannabis industry. I don’t want to diminish the extraordinary value of cannabis, but really cannabis is something that has to be used regularly. So, if you’re a veteran with, say, post-traumatic stress disorder and you’re using cannabis to quell your nightmares so that you can sleep, you have to take a small edible every day or you have to vape regularly. Whereas with psychedelics, you really only have to do a psychedelic two or three times it’s been shown by the research, and then you’re essentially cured. So, the whole experience of what it is and how it works is very different.

Samir Husni: Every time I hear the word psychedelics, I’m thrown back to the sixties. Is this a magazine in the making that had to wait 50 years before it came into being? Or is it a different psychedelic magazine than was published back in the 1960s?

Madison Margolin: I think society at large has this notion of psychedelics that’s largely built on the image that was made popular during the sixties with Timothy Leary, who was at Harvard doing psychedelic research there with Richard Alpert , who became Ram Dass, and a lot of other researchers. And the proliferation of the psychedelic culture through The Grateful Dead and the Summer of Love, and things like that. I think that was an incredible contribution to the psychedelic movement and to people’s perception of psychedelics, but that’s not really the only thing that we can use to look at these substances.

Psychedelics weren’t just discovered in the sixties, they’ve been a part of humanity really since the beginning of time in the form of plant medicines. Really only the synthetics got popular in that time period, but from the beginning of time people have been doing ceremonial healing for mental health and spiritual purposes in India, South America, the Middle East. Really anywhere there are plants, there are people using them medicinally.

What people are saying now is that we’re in the middle of a so-called psychedelic renaissance, in that people have gotten over the trauma of the sixties (Laughs) in that the 1960s really were wild and pushed boundaries and limits. The reaction by the government was the drug war. That’s the one thing that people should keep in mind, is how powerful psychedelics are to really inspire people like Nixon to misunderstand all drugs that are out there that can do a lot to heal you.

Since around the 1980s, especially when Rick Doblin founded MAPS, which is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, through the ‘90s and now, psychedelic research has been picking up again with people getting FDA approval to look at psilocybin or MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and going through these double blind critical trials.

And especially now, as there is more and more of that science  happening and getting approved, plus now with the decriminalization of psilocybin in Denver and of all entheogenic plants in Oakland, the magazine is coming at a time when people are starting to come back into the popular consciousness again, but not necessarily through pop culture first, but through science first. And that’s shifting the popular culture at large.

Shelby Hartman: And the science came through policy.

Madison Margolin: Yes, exactly. And one thing that I think we need to cover is that people are going to read about a study in any major news outlet, but we want to go deeper, such as what are the implications of that study; what are the biases that your average news article is maybe not privy to; how is this going to effect the culture at large; who has access to it; is it going to be affordable; what are the political and socioeconomic dynamics that are at play here, especially as these become more popular thanks to the policy changes and the scientific progress that’s being made.

Samir Husni: Did anybody ever ask you what drugs you were taking when you decided to launch a print magazine in this digital age?

Shelby Hartman: (Laughs) As I said, alongside my professional journey I’ve had a personal relationship with psychedelics and plant medicine. I would say that the most powerful plant medicine in my life has been iowaska. I wasn’t, obviously, on the iowaska when I had the idea for Double Blind, but I will say that I wouldn’t be who I am without it, and every single decision that I make in my life is a result of who I am and what I care about. And that is a result of iowaska.

The actual story is that I was sitting on my meditation pillow when I had the idea for Double Blind. I meditate every morning and it has become a hugely important part of my life. And I started meditating about four or five years ago after my first iowaska ceremony, because I sat in a ceremony and, obviously, what psychedelics do is they give you a window into your own mind, and what I realized when I looked into my own mind was, “My Goodness, there’s a lot going on in there; I really need to get this under control.” (Laughs) So, there is sort of a relationship there, but no, I wasn’t like on acid in the forest when I had the idea for the magazine. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: If you and I are talking a year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with Double Blind?

Madison Margolin: When Shelby asked me to be a part of this with her, we said, okay, we’re going to create a magazine about psychedelics and related topics. I really feel like Double Blind is something that, coming through us, I think it’s something that needs to exist, whether it’s us or anyone else, but right now it’s us. We’re building a whole media company, so we’re going to be doing the magazine biannually; we’re putting online content out later this summer. We have people already who are interested in creating podcasts for us. We have a video person who is enthusiastic. We’re starting to partner with different groups and also doing our own events. Double Blind is going to be in various brick and mortar stores.

What we’re trying to do is build an entire media company and something that people can go to as a place where they can learn about psychedelics and about what’s happening in psychedelic culture and science.

Samir Husni: But why print specifically; why did you decide to have a print product?

Madison Margolin: Print is something that is beautiful and that you can hold; you can put it on your coffee table. It commands a different sort of respect than online pieces. Not to say that online doesn’t also command a lot of respect, but there’s something special about print. Shelby and I met in journalism school and both come from backgrounds in investigative writing. I took a major magazine course at Columbia and we really believe in the format. The design is really beautiful and this isn’t just about the story, it’s about putting something together that speaks to the whole package: the design, the art, and being able to highlight psychedelic-inspired art, poetry, and the stories.

Shelby Hartman: I’m sure, Samir, that you having one foot in the editorial world and one foot in the business world, part of your question comes from is it even realistic to do a print issue in 2019? And obviously we see around the country that legacy newsrooms are struggling; I briefly worked at The Times-Picayune, which was the first major daily to stop printing every day. And I have mentors and friends who are in newsrooms around the country that are struggling, so I get it. But Madison and I, for right or for wrong, are doing this because we care, because we really, really, in our heart of hearts, care.

Psychedelics, and we sort of hinted at this before, they’re not just about psychedelics, they’re about healing. And they’re about mindfulness. And they’re about being more present in our lives. And in that spirit, it makes 100 percent sense for us to have a print edition because, I’m not going to get on my soapbox about technology, but we all know that as much as it has provided an opportunity for us to connect and create in efficient ways, it’s also really at the heart of what is detracting so many of us from the things that matter most in our lives. To have a print issue, to us, really sort of pushes back on that.

We’re not just doing 500 word stories with sensationalistic headlines; we’re doing real journalism with 1,500 words or more and three or more resources and fact-checked quotes and studies where we look at the sample size and we look at who funded it. We wanted to put these stories out in a format that encourages people to sit down and absorb them with the care with which they were created.

Samir Husni: Can you talk a little bit about that process of curation; how did you put this first issue together?

Madison Margolin: Shelby had the idea of doing Double Blind and it started out with me and art designer, David Good, and it really sort of snowballed from there. We have a photo editor, a poetry editor, and we got a publicist pretty early on, Zoe Wilder. As far as the actual print magazine, we wrote some of the stories, some come from contributors, other writers who we are familiar with in the space and who we asked to be a part of this.

Shelby Hartman: I’ll say in terms of the stories; I said before that Madison and I both have a love for long-form journalism. So we knew that we wanted the print issue to have at least three really substantial, long pieces. But we also, being that it’s a magazine, we also wanted it to have a diversity of content, in terms of length and seriousness, because we wanted it to be an enjoyable experience for people when they’re sitting down and flipping through it. We began to brainstorm around the different pillars of what we wanted our content to be. One area that we’re really passionate about covering, as Madison mentioned before, is the corporatization of medicine and the extent to which psychedelics will or will not be a part of that and the implications that will have for the access that people will have to psychedelics.

We already see right now that esketamine, which is a component of ketamine, was approved by the FDA for depression. There are some clinical trials looking to develop a synthetic version of ibogaine, called 18-MC. There is a for-profit company called Compass that’s basically looking to patent the way in which they synthesize psilocybin. So we’re already seeing for-profit companies in the pharmaceutical space that are interested in capitalizing upon the healing potential of these plants and potentially limiting the extent to which they’re acceptable to patients. So, that’s a really important area that we’re going to be following and we knew that we wanted a big feature on that. Madison put that one on and made it the pillar of our first issue, and it’s the first story you’ll read in there.

And then we also really wanted to talk about some other topics that we’ll be following, so we needed a story on each of those things. We knew we wanted to do a story on the relationship between personal and planted healing, looking at how when we heal ourselves we also begin to be more conscientious about the environment. That was the inspiration for our big piece on the relationship between “awe” over the natural world and starting to care about it or environmental justice.

And then we wanted to cover philosophy and consciousness; we want to cover intersexuality and social justice, so we have a piece in there about queerness; we have a piece about people of color and trauma experiences, such as people of color and racism. And then we have some fun, shorter, illustrated pieces that we hoped would make the overall issue more enjoyable for people to look through.

Samir Husni: Is there anything either of you would like to add?

Shelby Hartman: I’ve said this before, but we care a lot and we’re very open. For me, this isn’t about us; it isn’t about Double Blind. We really want to be a part of a larger movement that is about awakening and about healing. And so I’ll just put it out to any of the journalists or companies or artists, or anyone who might be reading this interview, that we’re very open. So if you feel inspired by what we’re doing then reach out. We’re available.

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?

Madison Margolin: I don’t really watch TV, but if I’m going to watch anything, it’s maybe a movie. If I’m not working, I really do try to spend time with the people I care about. Sometimes I work until the end of the day; sometimes I kind of peter out and I try to make dinner, or go to yoga, or go on a walk, or go out with friends somewhere. Sometimes I’ll smoke a joint before I go to bed because it helps me relax a little bit. Once I start smoking cannabis, I’m done. I cannot work anymore. I’m just not that kind of cannabis consumer, so to speak. I live in Los Angeles, so I love to explore the city and go to different spots that I’m curious about.

Samir Husni: What is the biggest misconception that people have about the two of you?

Shelby Hartman: I don’t know how this is going to come across, but to be honest, I think you asked what we do when we get off work, and I’m a musician and I play ukulele. For a lot of years I would bike around with my ukulele and people called me “Ukulele Girl.” So, I don’t know if that’s still the impression people have of me, but I also go to Burning Man, this is going to be my eighth burn, and I bring my ukulele there and I bike around the festival with it. I also  play at people’s weddings and things like that, so people see me I think as this sort of whimsical, extraverted person, and I guess that is a part of me. But there is another very serious part of me that is on this deeply personal healing journey and is just trying to be okay like everyone else.

Madison Margolin: Especially as a journalist who covers cannabis and psychedelics, people think that I’m much more of a heavy consumer than I am. The majority of my work, up until this point, has been in cannabis because there is just so much to cover there. I don’t know this strain from that strain, things like that, and the same with psychedelics. People think I’m some sort of psycho nut that eats all of the acid I can tolerate. (Laughs) That’s just not true of me. I’m really observant of how often and how much I take. I know people who have a tolerance for psychedelics or other drugs that I probably won’t ever have. I do have a really deep intellectual and spiritual attraction to them.

Shelby Hartman: I actually think that’s one of our biggest strains as the founders of Double Blind, that we are very moderate and intentional about how we use drugs. I do believe, of course, like I’ve said, that they have extraordinary power, but I also believe that they have to be respected and they have to be taken seriously and they have to be taken in the right context. We come at this not from an advocacy standpoint, although it may have sounded that way in the interview, but really also as journalists.

And we want to listen to everybody and we want to report on the risks of these things, because we think ultimately that to be just waving the “everybody should be smoking weed and everyone should be doing psychedelics all the time” flag is actually  going to be damaging to the overall movement. It does have the potential to help people who really need help.

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

Shelby Hartman: Starting a company is a lot and I have no doubts about whether or not this is what we should be doing. It feels so right. And the reception that we’ve gotten from luminaries in the field who have been at this for decades is so humbling. And the number of people who have come up to us and said how this is the time for this and it needs to be done, there is no doubt about it. But we’re a startup and we’re not just a startup, we’re a media startup.

I was joking the other day with a business advisor of ours that I’m speaking to investors and I’m speaking to journalism mentors and just all kinds of people, but I’m also a one-woman shipping department. And I’m also going back and forth between the postage offices and sticking labels on envelopes myself, and there is the feeling, which is probably common to all startups, not just us, that this is very delicate and I care about this so much that I don’t want to make a wrong move. Not just because this is my life, but because I think we’re really doing a service to all of the potential readers out there who are going to care about the stories that we’re doing.

Madison Margolin: I actually sleep very well, but when I wake up feeling anxious about things, it’s really about how any business is difficult to get off the ground and media especially. The landscape for it hasn’t really been the most encouraging just seeing the way that other publications have started and failed or how even publications that have been around forever are now in the process of getting rebought or shifting. And Shelby and I both went to journalism school and a lot of our professors are coming out of an era of journalism that was so much different than what we’re growing up in and what we’re practicing now. So, it really is a fresh landscape and I think it’s going to take a fresh perspective and a fresh business approach to maintain and build a thriving media company.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

 

 

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