Print In The Digital Age

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By Drop
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A independent publisher's journey from online to print.

There's something ritualistic about spending time with a print publication. The smell of the paper, the weight, the texture of the pages. It is a multi-sensory experience that just cannot be achieved by looking at a screen. A printed magazine is more than just words and imagery presented on beautiful stock with a nice shiny cover. It's a statement of beliefs and values that exists as a lasting physical record of the time we live in.

My own love affair with print started at university when, during extended breaks between classes, the only thing I could do to waste time was go to the local magazine store. I'd collect three or four titles I hadn't heard of before and sit in one of the comfy replica Eames chairs and start reading. This was how I first discovered publications like 032c, POP and Fantastic Man and inevitably what led me to want to start a magazine of my own.

032c Spread — Design & art direction by Meiré und Meiré

032c Spread — Design & art direction by Meiré und Meiré

After university (I studied graphic design) a string of monotonous hospitality jobs left me bored, unhealthy and in need of a creative project I could sink my teeth into. In 2013, as a continuation of an assignment I worked on during my studies, I decided to launch Drop (named after The Pharcyde song) and with no money, experience or contacts an online format was the obvious choice. 

From day one the most important thing to me was providing creative freedom. My vision was to provide a platform where people could explore ideas and concepts that excited them without any boundaries or restrictions. A place where experimentation and collaboration were able to dance wildly and give birth to unexpected results. 

Being based in Melbourne and not knowing many people in the creative industries made it quite difficult to develop content early on. So I just started reaching out to people I admired, started a dialogue with them and was blown away by the response. The photographers and stylists I'd come across in my favourite magazines we're actually emailing me back, and more amazingly they were interested in working on a story. My favourite designers, architects, artists, musicians and creatives were more than happy to set up an interview time and speak with me over Skype. These people didn't care that I had no budget for their shoots or that they weren't going to be printed on paper. They genuinely wanted to be involved in what I was trying to create, and that was when I fell in love with what I do.

The offices of HORT photographed by Amos Fricke

The offices of HORT photographed by Amos Fricke

Building an online publication has been challenging at times but it has also given me the opportunity to collaborate and work with some incredibly talented individuals, most of whom I've never met face-to-face, and some who I now consider friends. I've also been lucky enough to have honest, open and intimate conversations with some of the worlds most respected creative talents about their personal lives and work. Most importantly though, the journey has taught me about what is possible when you ferociously believe in what you're doing, which brings us to now. 

Creating a print publication has been the goal since day one. I sometimes used to sit and try to imagine what it would look like. What would be on the cover? Who would the contributors be? What materials would it be made from?  I decided a year ago that I would stop imagining and start doing.

Qui Yang by Ester Grass Vergara

Qui Yang by Ester Grass Vergara

It's sometimes difficult to convince people that your first print edition is going to be worth contributing to, because of course there is nothing for them to compare it to and most people are by nature, risk averse. A few people I reached out to were hesitant or politely declined but I was pleased to find that the majority of responses were overwhelmingly positive. I spent months and months contacting photographers, stylists, writers and designers who I knew would be able to bring something unique to the table and now, after launching a crowdfunding campaign to bring Drop to print, I am honoured to have the support of an immensely talented group of people.

Design & art direction was something I really wanted to push the boundaries with so I emailed Mirko Borsche who has previously worked on some of my favourite publications including TUSH and ZEITmagazin. His studio Bureau Mirko Borsche doesn't play by the rules and ever since my university days I've been obsessed with the forward-thinking and radical work they produce. I didn't really expect a reply so when Mirko emailed back saying they loved the idea of collaborating and working with Drop long-term I was ecstatic.

ZEITmagazin MANN no. 01 — Design by Bureau Mirko Borsche

ZEITmagazin MANN no. 01 — Design by Bureau Mirko Borsche

Deep down I knew that producing a print edition would be expensive but I wasn't prepared for the shock I would receive when I began requesting printing and shipping costs. In addition to this I strongly believe that for the creative industries to thrive there needs to be financial investment so it was important to me that our contributors would be provided renumeration for their work. Having no personal capital or financial backing I knew that the only option was crowdfunding and asking the creative community for support. As part of a crowdfunding campaign you are required to offer rewards for people who back your project but after lots of research I was left kind of underwhelmed by what people were producing. I decided to approach three of my favourite product designers in Berlin and ask if they would be interested in designing a series of limited edition pieces for the campaign. 

David and Frank from Geckeler Michels decided to create a pair of powdered aluminium document trays with geometric cutouts, Christian Metzner wanted to design a new wine glass with a beautiful hollow stem and Manuel Raeder presented a pair of stunning granite book stands. Dear Kickstarter, the standard has been lifted.

FAÇON Wine Glass, Designed by Christian Metzner — Photography by Amos Fricke

FAÇON Wine Glass, Designed by Christian Metzner — Photography by Amos Fricke

RELIC Document Tray, Designed by Geckeler Michels — Photography by Morgan Hickinbotham

RELIC Document Tray, Designed by Geckeler Michels — Photography by Morgan Hickinbotham

BOOKSTAND, Designed by Studio Manuel Raeder — Photography by Patrick Desbrosses

BOOKSTAND, Designed by Studio Manuel Raeder — Photography by Patrick Desbrosses

It's now one week into the campaign but regardless of the outcome, the support of everyone involved (in addition to friends and family) has made the hundreds of hours invested in this project seem irrelevant. It has been a rewarding, challenging and surprising journey that has taught me some immensely valuable lessons and created a powerful sense of conviction about the direction Drop is taking. I could not be more grateful to those people.

To support the campaign and view the full list of contributors please visit Drop's Kickstarter page.

Cover image by Patrick Desbrosses from our interview with Till Weideck.