Q&A: Winter Magazine

2014-04-29 16.02.57All images courtesy of A Mag For All Seasons

Inspired by their city and the seasonal changes it goes through, Kevin Braddock, Kati Krause and Ana Lessing wanted to produce a single edition of a magazine, where they could experiment and illustrate some of these wonderful ideas. After enjoying the process so much, we are very excited to hear that the magazine will now be a series, with Summer, Autumn and Spring arriving at the end of this year and 2015.

This interview is an inspiring insight into the power of collaboration, a strong creative network of and the future of the print industry.

You are oh so very young, but the first issue is gorgeous, how has the first release been for you?
With “young” you mean the magazine, we presume, yes? Because we (the publishers) aren’t really, which may also explain why the release was accompanied by such terrible hangovers. But seriously, now: making the first issue of A Mag for all Seasons has been great. In fact, Winter wasn’t even meant to be the first issue – it was the supposed to be the only issue. But we enjoyed making it so much and were so happy with the result that we decided to turn it into a series even before sending Winter to print. Summer will follow later this year, and we’ll make Spring and Autumn in 2015.

We really loved your juxtaposition of ’It all began with the end of summer’ and the start of something so exciting. How did the project turn from an idea into reality?
We had the idea in autumn 2013. The winter of 2012/2013 had been particularly harsh even by Berlin standards, and by the end of summer, everyone was in a state of mild panic at the impending winter. So we decided we wanted something good to come out of this collective suffering. After we had the initial idea, we developed a structure: every piece of content should be about something the contributor associates with winter, not about winter as a whole. We wanted the contributors to explore the extremes and opposing emotions of that season, to create an art project on a universal topic – the human and very personal response to seasonality. And then we didn’t do much else until mid-January, when it hit us that if we wanted this to become a reality, we had to move fast. So we started commissioning and designing, got in touch with printers and potential sponsors, and finally launched a crowdfunding campaign. Initially we met once a week – we were all working full-time – to lay out and distribute tasks. In the final stages, we worked evenings and weekends, whenever we had time. And by March 5, we sent our baby to print, to be published on March 20, the last day of winter as per calendar. Having a very clear deadline was extremely helpful, and we encourage everyone working on their own project to set one, ideally with external pressures.

What keeps you motivated to create, and keep creating work?
Funny, we’ve never really thought about that. For some people, creating is probably what for others is a hobby – a way to gain personal fulfilment and, yes, avoid boredom. We have a network packed with really talented, imaginative people, and we like collaborating. You might think that working nights and weekends to make something would be tiring, but it’s the contrary: creating and working with others gives you incredible energy. And every project spawns another. There’s something quite beautiful to that.

The magazine is really well designed, where did that art direction come from?
The design was developed by Ana Lessing, one of the three co-founders, who is an art director, photographer and dancer. It was important to us that the design encapsulates the same juxtapositions and extremes as the concept and content. That begins with the format and paper stock and extends to the fonts and the treatment of content. The fact that the art direction came from within the team of founders was a great advantage, since it means the visual creative process isn’t separated from the rest. Content and form come together in our team, the design isn’t just the packaging.

What do you think are the important issues facing yourself, and the print industry at the moment?
The most important issue for us is figuring out how to produce the Summer issue with planned summer vacations in the way! And, more seriously, how to push the creative boundaries of the magazine even further, to explore just how far we can go in encapsulating a season in a print magazine.

The most important issue for the print industry is to figure out how to make print sustainable again in its new form. We think we’ve firmly established by now that print isn’t dead, it has simply had to become more conscious of its qualities. Print books and magazines are transforming themselves into collectors’ items, objects that one wants to keep. This will work mainly in conjunction with digital or multi-media publishing strategies. The problem is that this new print works with lower circulation and higher production values, eating away at profit margins, while we mostly haven’t figured out any sustainable business model for digital media at all. And since costs are increasingly covered through sponsorship rather than advertising, how to maintain creative, editorial and journalistic independence in this new business environment.

Do you feel the pressure to adopt digital platforms and social media?
No. A social media strategy wouldn’t make much sense for A Mag for all Seasons, since we’re not trying to build a community or generate conversation about specific topics. Rather than do something badly, don’t do it at all. However, while we don’t feel pressure to move to a digital platform, we’re exploring options, simply because there are a lot of great things out there and we find the opportunities quite exciting.

How has your creative network influenced the production of Winter magazine?
Whoa, in so many ways. Creative networks encourage you to make and do things in the first place, since they show that it’s not impossible. Also, our creative networks were the first people we approached for contributions. The interesting thing there is that all three of us have very different networks, meaning we’ve been able to bring together some very different people who would never have ended up in one publication under different circumstances. Finally, our networks helped greatly when it came to the crowdfunding campaign, not just in direct support but also in spreading the word.

Where did you find your contributors?
As said above, mainly amongst our networks. We chose people whose work we admire and who we thought would fit for the theme. Some we approached with very concrete ideas, others with general proposals. But we also made a “wishlist” of people we didn’t yet know but would love to work with, like Warren Ellis and Teju Cole. We also did research, for example on photographers who’d recently won prestigious awards but are themselves not very well known yet. That way, we made sure we covered a very broad spectrum – stylistically, geographically and in terms of experience.

What have you got in store for us all with the next issue?
We can’t tell you that yet. But our idea is to really push further with every issue, to create a different magazine and really see how far we can go with print, both in form and content. We regard A Mag for all Seasons as a playground for experiments.

And lastly, we’re a bit in love with Berlin, what is it about the city that is just so cool?
Too much has been said and written about that for us to join the debate. From a general creative standpoint, it’s a city that gives you freedom to explore and the opportunity to collaborate, plus plenty of inspiration. More importantly for us, you get four actual seasons, and seasons how we imagine them – freezing winters, roasting summers, a fresh and wet spring, and golden autumns. That’s why it’s the perfect place to make a magazine for all seasons.

Kevin Braddock, Kati Krause and Ana Lessing


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