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Jeremy Leslie On Magazine-ness

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We asked the almighty talented “go to designer about anything you ever wanted to know about magazines”, the designer behind our Writers in Residence set of books, Jeremy Leslie, to tell us more about his thinking behind the ambition to design a set of books that live somewhere between a book and a magazine. For the first time in our very short life span we thought you’d want to hear from someone other than us. Over to Jeremy:

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Much of what I do revolves around the common theme ‘what is a magazine?’ It’s a question I often deal with in passing on the magCulture blog, since so many of my favourite magazines regularly test standard definitions of what we call a “magazine”. The question earned an entire chapter in my book The Modern Magazine and continues to exercise people when I talk at events.

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One way of defining magazine-ness is to look at the magazine in the context of other forms of publications. Where does a magazine sit in relation to newspaper and book? Right now it appears newspapers are morphing closer and closer to magazines, another subject for another day, but the relationship between magazines and books is far more intriguing.

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Many of today’s independent magazines test the line between magazine and book, both in volume of content and appearance. If the weekly celebrity mag occupies one end of a spectrum of visual cacophony, the quarterly/biannual independent magazine sits at the very opposite end. Calm, graphically sophisticated and generous in their use of space, these magazines can be mistaken for books. Some even reach for made-up words to emphasise their bookish-ness. So we find ‘bookazine’ and ‘mook’ being applied to print publications wanting to acknowledge their debt to both forms. These words are fake. Make your mind up!

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All of this was on my mind when I sat down with Anna and Britt over a year ago to discuss a new series of publications that were to apply a magazine sensibility to the book. If the prospect of working with great writing and photography was exciting enough, playing around with the crossover between magazines and book for Visual Editions even more so.

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During development we moved up and down the magazine-ness scale, the page size, paper stock and cover design all being informed by the desire for crossover. Inside, the approach to the words and images sought the same, the photography being given a larger role than merely illustrating the texts and magazine-like page furniture being applied where possible.

The result is a series of publications that I hope speak for themselves. Magazine design has informed each edition of the Writers in Residence series to varying degrees, but in the end they are books. Not bookazines, mooks, or even magazines. Books.

Jeremy