Magazines, Typography

4 kilos of indie mags

Notebook: 15 Feb 2016 | MAGAZINES

Last month I visited the fabulous magCulture shop in Clerkenwell, London. They stock over 250 different independent magazines. Knowing that it would be a while before I was down that way again, I stuffed my rucksack full of as many goodies as I could carry and I came away with 4 kilos of delicious and sweet smelling indie mags. This weekend I finally got round to looking at them. Here’s what caught my eye:


ELEPHANT is a big, chunky, quarterly magazine all about art and culture. It’s published out of Amsterdam and has been going since 2009. The original design was by Matt Willey (Avaunt, The Independent, Port) but in 2014 it was redesigned by Atlas Studio with a brief to make it look ‘less like a design magazine‘. Either way, it’s still a pleasure to handle with its sharp and tightly engineered design. Like many of the indie mags, it makes use of a mixture of different paper stocks to define different parts of the mag – it has two clusters, or ‘wells’, on an uncoated stock which are trimmed 10mm shorter on the width – and these pages are used as showcases for two different artists.


NOBLE ROT is a quarterly wine and food magazine launched in 2013. I love its smaller size and its lively upbeat design which makes it very readable and accessible. It’s stuffed full of great illustration and is clearly a showcase for up-and-coming illustrators. A 16-page photo essay all adds to the jolly pace. Design is by magCulture studio‘s Holly Catford


RAPHA MONDIAL was launched in 2015 and is a bi-annual magazine for the lifestyle cycle brand Mondial. It’s sub A4 in size but solid and meaty and good enough to take a bite out of. It’s typographic ‘contents page’ covers have quickly set it apart from other cycling and independent magazines. The design has masses of style and attention to detail and is by Jack Saunders and Alex Hunting. Fashion and photo essay pages are interspersed throughout the main body of the magazine and are pulled out on a glossy stock. Here’s an excellent video review (by Stack magazines) of the first issue.


PULP describes itself as ‘A quarterly journal of people and paper’. It’s published by Eye magazine for the Italian paper manufacturer and supplier, Fedrigoni. The design is by Eye‘s Simon Esterson and Holly Catford (see Noble Rot above) and bears all the hallmarks of Esterson’s carefully crafted and understated style. It’s a beautiful little magazine and I particularly like the cover story (issue 6) about the young Italian designer Giulia Garbin who we learn is also a part time DJ with a liking for Jamaican rocksteady music (Anyone who spins Phyllis Dillon’s brilliant Perfidia has to be a fan of mine…).

riposte 5

RIPOSTE bears the tag, ‘A smart magazine for women’ and it features bold, creative and fascinating, independent women. It has the feel, more of an arts journal rather than a glossy women’s magazine and it’s one of a cluster of indie women’s mags that include the likes of Oh Comely and The Gentlewoman. The design, by Shaz Madani, is simple and pared back and makes use of two distinctive typefaces: a version of Gerard Unger’s serif font Amerigo and a slightly quirky sans that feels somewhere between Futura and Univers in style. I have issue 5 and it includes a 16pp ‘tip-in’ photo-essay called ‘Growing up in the Gaza Strip’ with striking images by the photojournalist Monique Jaques plus a must-read article on Nova magazine.


Mid Century Magazine 7

MID CENTURY is another smaller sized magazine that is a delight to handle and that I couldn’t help but pick up as soon as I saw it. (It has the same qualities as DCM [Design Council magazine] from 10 years ago. See link) It’s a bi-annual mag for all those who love the mid 20th century style in furniture, interiors and architecture. It’s printed on a beautiful silk stock hidden away inside the matt cover, and it has re-ignited my love for silk paper (which has fallen slightly out of fashion in favour of uncoated). Pictures are bold and luscious and the typography is refined and easy-to-get-along-with. The design is by Esterson Associates (see Pulp above). A distinctive stencil font (Le Corbusier) and Futura Bold are used for headlines and Century Expanded for text.


WORKS THAT WORK describes itself as ‘A magazine of unexpected creativity’ and it is a rich and fascinating mix of diverse subjects connected by the theme of ‘unexpected creativity’ that have ‘improved our lives’. It’s another smaller sized, bi-annual publication published by Typotheque, a Dutch based design studio and type foundry. The design is simple and understated and uses the workaday fonts Lava and Neutral. Paper stock chops between high gloss and the uncoated Munken (what is it about Munken paper that makes it smell so delicious?)



cover junkie

GYM CLASS, MY FAVO(U)RITE MAGAZINE and COVER JUNKIE MAGAZINE are three publications that focus directly on magazines. For those that haven’t come across it, GYM CLASS is a terrific mag that is all about other magazines. It’s produced by London based designer and magazine fanatic, Steven Gregor and the latest issue is packed full of good reads including features about Avaunt, Good, New York and Riposte magazines and a longer read about US Vogue‘s Anna Wintour. MY FAVO(U)RITE MAGAZINE is a one-off publication from magCulture. It’s a couple of years old now but it is still a fascinating collection of favourite magazines from editorial designers from around the world. The COVER JUNKIE MAGAZINE from is another publication from a few years back but it’s a must-have print item for any lover of magazine covers. is a website devoted to collections of great magazine covers and their one-off magazine, which is a great bit of design in its own right, is a collection of covers from 2011.



I’ve saved my favourite magazine purchase until last. It’s issue 5 of  THE HAPPY READER. For those that follow my blog, you may recall that I raved about issue 2 back in September last year (here’s the link). The Happy Reader is published by Penguin and it celebrates the pure pleasure of reading and the calming luxury of being offline. What I love about it is its beautifully crafted typography – the designers have mixed an old style sans with a classic serif, and have added some subtle and deft typographic touches, such as additional letter space, extra long em dashes and underscoring – which give the impression that it has been typeset in hot metal. It’s another smaller sized publication on an uncoated paper, but it’s bound with a couple of staples and only costs £3 which all adds to its appeal – both throwaway and precious at the same time. Love it!

The magCulture shop is at 270 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PE and is open 11am–7pm Wednesdays–Fridays and 12–4pm Saturdays. Tel 0203 759 8022


Why a new wave of independent magazines are thriving The Telegraph

What Can Businesses Learn From the Independent Magazine Renaissance? The Huffington Post

Is analogue the new digital? Jonathan Arnold, Archant Dialogue

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