The printed magazine – a ‘storehouse’ of ideas, observations, comment and opinion – performs largely the same function as it did more than 300 years ago, when it made its debut as a publishing concept. When Edward Cave brought out The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1731, he became the first to use the term ‘magazine’ in an analogy to the word used for storing munitions. His general interest title was, he proposed, ‘a monthly collection, to treasure up as in a magazine’.
Readership of magazines, not to mention the range of subjects covered within their pages, has been growing ever since. Today, the Manchester-based shop Unitom brings readers news of the latest issues of Picnic, Go Out, Worms and Fudge on Instagram. Turn the following pages and there are magazines for people with children (Kindling), fans of sport and style (Circle Zero Eight), while others cover single subjects in depth, such as film (Notebook) or architecture and homes (The Modern House).
‘Independent magazines have been going from strength to strength,’ magCulture’s Jeremy Leslie told Pulp Digital recently. ‘Whether a small self-funded side project or a carefully planned business idea, the indies continue to thrill and surprise.’
Leslie, who now stocks Pulp and distributes it worldwide, says that since the post-pandemic reopening of his magCulture shop in London he has found ‘both sides of the independent magazine market to be supercharged: there have been more new magazines launched recently than I can recall, and at the same time more customers keen to buy them’.
Magazines can also establish and nurture their own communities, becoming a focal point around which fans, enthusiasts, and like-minded individuals can ally themselves, just as magCulture has done. Publications now organise events and exhibitions, talks and conferences, and have even put their name into the built environment. Twenty years ago, a bricks-and-mortar bookshop launched off the back of the London Review of Books; a Monocle café sprang up a decade later, alongside the magazine’s very own shop, which this year moved to bigger premises. Similarly, brands of all kinds, from publishers to hotels, have been keen to exploit the appeal and status of the magazine. In Itinere, produced by the Italian furniture company Bolzan, describes itself as ‘a magazine about people, products and processes striving for sustainable models’.
One factor in the enduring survival of the magazine is its constant evolution. Magazines rarely stand still and it is within this exploratory area that print and editorial designers can really demonstrate their skills.