Researching Creativity: Another Escape Magazine

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There’s a new wave of young creatives changing the publishing landscape, with different business models, a different editorial approach and a sophisticated use of photography. Rachel Maria Taylor and Jody Daunton editors of Another Magazine (A Creative Exploration) give us some insight on their journey into the lives of people living by their creativity

I was in a museum bookshop in London a few weeks back with a legendary design critic, (legendary in my thin-slice of world) and he picked up a couple of these new wave, designer-lead magazines, sceptically eyeing the impact of design on the content.

Browsing a gorgeously packaged magazine, he pointed to a paragraph as wide as the furrow on his brow – “Not very reader-friendly.” Indeed as far as traditional editorial design is concerned some of these magazines read like the product of people without a background in editorial design and perhaps in our smartscreen age, haven’t spent much time with print magazines either.

But there is also an advantage to designers becoming magazine editors and publishers. They bring an instinctively visual approach to magazine construction and out of this way of framing up things you get an entirely original vision.  Consider Another Escape magazine.

Editors and Creative Directors, Rachel Maria Taylor and Jody Daunton are two years out of college. Taylor studied illustration at Arts University of Bournemouth while Daunton studied photography at University of Brighton.  They work full-time and also have two assistant editors and an editorial assistant who work part-time.

The subtitle of Another Escape, ‘A Creative Exploration’, is a genuine descriptor of a magazine that feels like a journey, from the title that emerges from the image of landscapes on the covers, to the four magazine sections signalled by the icons over the title.

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These little symbols neatly referring to Inspiration/ Exploration / Process / Response appear on the edges of the pages as you flick through the magazine.

Issue three comes with two different photographic covers one by Jack Latham (see up top) and the other by Elias Carlson (below).

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Taylor and Daunton have a sharp eye for photographers with a strong sense of atmosphere and narrative. Latham’s cover has the compositional framing and colouring of an illustrator, the image is framed by the smoke coming in from the edge of the image, then the eye travels from the right edge of the image to the Forest Ranger keeping a careful eye on the fires. Maria Taylor’s feature text explores the ecology of the forest where limited fires serve many functions – clearing the ground of debris and overgrowth for example, giving the soil more exposure to sun and rain.

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It’s a great narrative feature, with enough informational text to give the a sense of ecological complexity, but the power of storytelling is delivered by the images and the page storyboarding.

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This delicate, apparent light-touch editing, but actually very decisive, is the creative strength of the magazine. The low-key tone enables the reader to grasp the intangible process of creativity In a world when we are all trying to get some attention for ourselves / our brand / our magazine /our blog, the shoutiness around ‘creativity’ can cloud the really interesting detail.

The editors of Another Escape are so on top of the different kinds of relationships involved in creative making – between research, materials, skillsets, personal story, studio space, persistence – that they both demystify creative process while at the same time making tangible the magical transformation that happens when people create something.

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And the freshness of the magazine partly comes from reaching beyond the conventional artistic or professional notions of creativity – an expanded notion of creativity.

This issue features: artist Aimee Lee exploring the heritage of Korean paper-making – hanji; the perfumers at work in the world’s only ‘wilderness’ fragrance distillery; and the extra-ordinary conjunction of craft, materials and social trend that merges in James Marr and Ian McMillan’s Bamboo Bicycle Club in Hackney London who build bikes from bamboo and run workshops helping others to do so.

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There’s an editorial and visual restraint in Another Escape, that comes from its vision of creativity as a delicate unfolding can only be grasped through editorial gracefulness. Research doesn’t make up its mind before it uncovers what’s at stake.

Another Escape is a great example of a ‘new wave’ magazine whose editorial, design, structure, relationship of image and text, is not driven by traditional journalistic approaches or (except in superficial ways) by the narrative rhythms of editorial design. These kind of visual experiments are rich in possibility and worth supporting.

You are not long out of college, you are a small team, do you take on work outside the magazine?

Rachel: We do our own distribution and marketing and the whole editorial teams work between the two of us. We don’t have time for anything else at the moment.

Jody: We have done freelance work. The magazine started as a side project and just exploded for us and Rachel went full-time, stopped doing freelance, quit her job and then about six months later I was working part time on it and also full time on a more traditional job to pay rent and then I said you know what, we both need to work on this full time to make it work.

Rachel: We are still in that trial period where we have given to a certain date to see what happens and then we have to make a decision whether if it’s financially viable or whatever. We are in Bristol and we are staying with family which is helping with overheads, before that we were in Brighton where we were working and it started to get a bit too much. We don’t have time to do commissions at the moment.

Jody: We had a small print run of 750 which sold out in 6 weeks and we reordered 1250 and they sold out. We have been slowly pushing it further and further. It’s an experiment really, every issue changes slightly.

Rachel: Everything changes a little bit in each issue, we have our core stuff that we are interested in like values and like Jody said before it is very much an extension of our own interest in things. This one has probably been the most focussed and probably the scariest as it has suddenly become very real.

There is a great sense of mystery to the magazine. Ideas have space to breathe not just design-wise but just in terms of how each story relates to other stories in the magazine.

Rachel: With the surge of independent publications at the moment we are trying to think what we can do that’s slightly different to the other magazines and we channel that through the four sections of the magazine: Inspiration, Exploration, Process and Response. That came about as were looking for a way to split up the magazine and we didn’t want to have the traditional news/events/features. We wanted timeless content so we looked to the creative process to explore the ideas of making and the response to that. That was our starting point. The way we structure it is the only thing that’s the same in each issue and it makes up our logo.

 

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It also makes the magazine very fluid. Once you have those categories the reader can join the stories in these sections together in different ways?

Jody: This particular issue is our first themed issue. One of the key starting points was people who are quite passionate about what they do and actually turn their interests into their livelihood. We looked at ‘creativity’ and thought you don’t have to be a photographer and illustrator, you can just be creative in your life.  So in this issue for example we looked at a driftwood kayak maker looking at a piece of driftwood and thinking how can I make that into a kayak.

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It’s a challenge to what is conventionally seen as creative. That kind of creativity  is deep-rooted in most people. As a reader, we don’t target a particular demographic, we don’t look for designers, we look for people who are curious about the world and actually think ‘I could make everyday of my life different, I can do something different’. It works to be a vehicle to discover something new.

Rachel: That’s what stems from our blog what we originally started as a documentary style collaboration at a time when we were at a loss for what we wanted to do with our lives and careers and by investigating what other people were doing and how they were making their creative endeavours, their livelihoods, was really inspiring to us. When we started telling people about it and with the small print run that we did before, people started to take to it so wasn’t just us who felt at a bit of a loss, what’s next in the big wide world. It wasn’t just our peer group, people of all ages. That’s where it came from.

It’s about creativity and livelihoods, people earning a living from their creative endeavours not just hobbyist?

Rachel: It is very much a state of mind, not just what you do and the people in the exploration section they are very optimistic and proactive and not just in a go-get it way, it can be very subtle. This guy is quite radical [the storyteller]not because he is doing something radical every day just an amazing spirit.

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Jody: This is one of the things that has worked quite well for us the fact everyone has ambitions and underlying dreams and things that they want to do. It’s quite relatable other people being passionate. Personally we are not going to make a driftwood kayak but you can read about someone so engaged and enthralled with what they are doing you can take your inspiration from their aspirations.

One of the visual threads running through the magazine is that you are very interested in the materiality of the creative process, the materials, ways in which they are shaped and shape the user, the environment they come from.

Rachel: A lot of magazines try to style their shoots and make it very a very idealised way of living and that was one thing we didn’t want to do. If we are featuring someone it was to spend a day in the life of that person to see how they work.

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The lighting and cropping of the imagery is really thoughtfully conceptualized in the arrangement, design and layout. You picture these people surrounded by interesting shapes, immersed in their environment, making decisions

Rachel: We want to relate the narrative,  ‘A’ the stories, and ‘B’  their lives.  We want the reader to understand they are being taken on a journey through the text and photographs and ideas being presented.

Another Escape Volume 2

Another Escape Volume 2

I think because if your visual training as an illustrator and photographer you are bring a very different eye to traditional editors. The way you tell stories, you use images to deliver information in a very tangible way.

Rachel: I would agree with that about our backgrounds. In my studies I was less towards illustration, I was more narrative storytelling that was my thing, my obsession when I was studying.  Jody was much more straddling documentary and fine art, more interested in documentary photography style but on a fine art course.

You both create a new visual space or way of making from two different types of practice. How do you brief photographers?

Rachel: Normally we tell photographers the nature of the project and work collaboratively,

Jody: We get a lot of submissions. While we don’t work as a portfolio magazine we strive for more editorial-based work and it’s difficult at times to explain that to photographers who submit. We keep moodboards and portfolios of photographers we admire and it’s a case of coming up with the stories and the concepts and teasing out the ideas from that.

Rachel: When you are working with other people if you are more upfront about your shortcomings then you can counter that they can do this or that. From a storyboarding point of view, from roughs and drafts and things like that, because we understand that process we can scribble something down and say ‘do you think this will work?’ and people don’t feel so nervous. Some people might say it’s untidy and rough, you can say ‘it’s a thumbnail a rough it doesn’t matter’. When you show that side, the collaboration is more fluid and you can come up with better ideas. I think with this volume we have done that more so with, as we get a clearer sense of what we want to achieve, the overall creation of the volume we feel more confident in what you do and don’t do.

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Where did the name ‘Another Escape’ come from?

Rachel: The title was the name of the blog we had at university. The true story behind it is that because we were both collaborating and in two separate universities it was a chance for us to do something. A friend said to us “once oh are you off on another escape” and I thought yeah and it kind of stuck.

Jody:  And it does reflect the content as we want it to be another escape from the everyday. We want the magazine to work as a momentary pause from your chaotic life. A five minute downtime after work, switch off the phone, the TV and get immersed in a magazine. We use the design elements of the magazine to allow that to happen, the white space, the navigation and also we tried to have content that is timeless.

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Initially we had events, stories that were time-stamped whereas now we have content that is more about the concpet of the story rather than an event that is taking place in time. We have straddled the area between a book and magazine. The price is £10 which is a fair amount of money for a publication but you get a magazine which isn’t disposable, is advert free it’s all about the content and the overarching ethos of Another Escape.

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Editorially, in terms of the cover and layouts it’s very open, not at all directional like traditional magazines, no subheadings.

Jody: We wanted to go with a considered minimalistic design aesthetic but we didn’t want to have it so simple that it does solely rely on the images to present the content .

Rachel: I think each section is finding it’s own identity more as well as we go on. That is something we are trying to work on more.

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In traditional magazines text, design and image is all about ‘communication’, this is much more open, you leave a gap, a space for the reader to fill.

Jody: We do have the idea of leaving some of the story down to the reader, I guess it’s quite a clichéd thing to say especially in terms of photography – leaving it down to the viewer to take what they want from the image. It’s really about exploring simple ideas. We like to take complex issues and present the information in the way you might have with a friend.

Print run?

Rachel: 6,000 print run this issue. Double our last issue. We’ve have one and two sold out.

Jody: That’s the thing with the timeless content, we don’t want the magazine to feel disposable. So we’re are having to say sorry, we don’t have any more.

You treat subject matter in very different ways, it’s not the literal explanation of an idea, it’s more layered

Jody: Like you said if a piece is themed around wood, it was very crucial for us in the planning of the piece on wood that we didn’t have five different furniture makers who use wood. It’s kind of a cliché. We really wanted to pull apart the idea and go from drift wood kayaks to bio-mimicry…

It is quite tricky with more and more magazines coming out to have an original take. A lot of the time we finish an issue, get it back from print and we have a week down time while it’s at the printers to read through other magazines and think we’ve got something similar to this…

Illustration, Rachel Maria Taylor

Illustration, Rachel Maria Taylor

Everyone is reading the same stuff, sharing the same stuff, seeing the same pictures, so how do you add value? You kind of twist a story round, turn it upside down, and let readers look at it in a slightly different way. So your feature Biomimetics isn’t new but in this context you make it go to work as an idea in an interesting way…

Rachel: That is something we want to work on with the next one. We’ve got an idea for the theme and stories.  But as you see they may be stories that may be obvious but we are looking at it from a completely different angle and hoping the reader will see it with fresh eyes.

Jody: 18 months in now, 6 months before our first issue planning and the concept and now it’s a year since we launched our first one and it’s getting to the tipping point where it’s our only job.

Rachel: Ask us again in 6 months. When we find a plateau for our print run that will be quite good because from a financial point of view it’s always trying to make up for the next one.

To buy the new issue of Another Escape and to find out more about the magazine click here 

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