The first desktop copies of the next issue of Monocle arrived at Midori House on Wednesday (you’ll get yours soon, I promise). It’s the October issue and it has had a design and content overhaul. Nothing weird, just a wise update – more in the vein of buying a new, well-fitting jacket rather than discovering a sudden penchant for kaftans and cha-cha heels. But, even so, the change of outfit came with a few challenges, quick changes of shots and tugging – I also maybe let out a weird whining sound at one point that made me look like more like a constipated moose than a comfortable editor. .
Creating a magazine is an amazing thing that even after all these years seems like a privilege to do, but in order for everything to run smoothly you need finely tuned choreography. Take something as simple as choosing a photo. Matt, our cinematographer, will first make a “pick” of the bigger shots, picking maybe 20 or 30 shots out of several hundred. Then Rich, Sam or Maria will design the feature and in doing so also make their selection – sometimes deciding to use just one image. Then it’s my turn, and maybe I’ll push for a little or a big change if a picture doesn’t quite tell the story that I think we need to convey. The editor-in-chief of the page, perhaps the writer and the photographer, and undoubtedly a certain Zurich resident, will also participate. And, finally, our production manager Jackie can dive in as we prepare to go to press to warn that an image wouldn’t print well. Choose again.
After years of working together, it usually happens effortlessly, but not always and not always on a redesign issue when changes are made late at night and people are heavily invested in a story. He shouldn’t either. Making a page, even just picking out an image, requires conviction, passion, and a deep understanding of when to fight your corner and when to step back and let Rich and Matt do their jobs. (Rich, our Creative Director, is very generous with me, sometimes even allowing me to suggest how a story might be presented. He knows things are bad when I start drawing on a sticky note.)
But back to Wednesday. The magazine was there in front of me on my desk but at first I tried to ignore it – I would have been much more relaxed to see this upset moose standing near my perch. After a few urgent calls and emails (“Do you have the cherry kaftan by any chance?”), I opened it cautiously. Turns out there weren’t any empty pages, nothing backwards, after all.
On Thursday, we held a conference call with the writers on the road, Tyler, the sales team and the team in London, to go over every layout, every ad placement. And, finally, the pages started to look like pages, not quilts of tricky decisions or a myriad of alternate routes. Some magic had happened.
You might be surprised at how collaborative creating a magazine should be, regardless of the masthead height. There is a balance between trust and humility, passion and patience, necessary on the part of everyone in the room if you are to do something worthwhile and remain friends in the end. But, of course, it’s tough and at times like these there’s at least your inner moose to channel.
And now, after all of that, comes another test: when you turn the pages and hopefully don’t ask yourself, “Why the hell did they choose this picture?” “