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Highlights from magCulture’s Modern Magazine 2017

Newspaper programme for Modern Magazine 2017 conference from magCulture. Printed by Newspaper Club.

Newspaper Club was excited to support the The Modern Magazine (aka ModMag), magCulture’s annual conference on independent magazines which happened on 2 November. This year – the 5th edition! – it took place at charming Conway Hall in London and we managed to catch some of the talks.

Takahiro Kinoshita at Modern Magazine 2017


First up we heard from Takahiro Kinoshita – editor of Japanese culture magazine Popeye (keeping an eye on pop culture, see?). Popeye launched in 1976, inspired by the Whole Earth Catalogue, and has evolved from a vast catalogue of Western pop culture items into a thematic magazine full of features, graphics and illustrations.

The issues from the ‘70s featured some fantastically expressive but neat hand-drawn covers – graphic designers in need of illustration ideas should check them out.

Here’s the cover of an issue about frisbee:

Popeye Magazine frisbee issue

The magazine is targeted at Japan’s ‘City Boys’ – here’s the manifesto:

Takahiro Kinoshita of Popeye at Modern Magazine 2017


It was striking to see familiar elements combined in unfamiliar ways: one edition of Popeye was inspired by the “urban myth that where you find a good bookshop, there you’ll find a good curry house”. One to remember when you’re next in Tokyo.

Liv Siddall of Rough Trade at Modern Magazine 2017

Rough Trade

Later in the day we heard the inspiring, and often hilarious, story of how Liv Siddall created a monthly magazine for Rough Trade record shops. Starting from scratch with a tiny budget, Liv turned constraints into creativity – whilst also making podcasts and filming bands playing in the stores.

The magazine’s regular features and graphic approach were distinctive, fresh and often quite brilliant. In a short time she managed to create a feeling of community around the magazine – across employees, bands, designers, and customers.

Sadly, Rough Trade pulled the plug on the mag a couple of months ago in favour of spending more on digital marketing (though why they couldn’t make digital use of the magazine’s fabulous content and community is a puzzle).

Here’s Liv looking a little distrait across some of the final issue’s print run:

Liv Siddall of Rough Trade at Modern Magazine 2017

We're looking forward to seeing what she’ll do next.

The New Yorker

The last talk we caught was by Nicholas Blechman, Design Director of The New Yorker.

Takahiro Kinoshita at Modern Magazine 2017

We enjoyed an illustrated tour of the magazine’s offices in the World Trade Center. Here’s the view to street level:

Nicholas Blechman of The New Yorker at Modern Magazine 2017

We also learnt some remarkable facts: the magazine’s layout hasn’t changed since 1925; the fact-checking department is as capable of stopping publication as any legal department; they insist on spelling cooperation with an umlaut on the second ‘o’ and debut with an acute accent on the ‘e’; and the display font is based on a beautiful woodcut intended for letterpress printing:

Nicholas Blechman of The New Yorker at Modern Magazine 2017


We can’t wait until next year. Until then, you can get closer to the world of independent magazines at the Magculture shop (where you can also pick up leftover copies of the programme!)

Photography by Owen Richards and Gareth Williams. 

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