After receiving some lovely comments on the design and content, (thanks guys), and numerous requests for extra copies, here at OFFSET we’ve decided to release the inaugural issue of our Ways And Means magazine online for all to see. To go along with the release we sat down with Ways & Means director and OFFSET co-founder, Bren Byrne, to find out more about his design process.
What made you want to do a magazine rather than a typical event programme? What did you want to change?
I have always had the ambition to produce something substantial for OFFSET in printed form, something special that reflects the quality of the other elements of the event. We are such a small team though and the workload involved in putting on OFFSET is such that in general we have had no time to focus on this, and in the past while we have done some nice looking things, in terms of content our printed material has been a weak link and a missed opportunity. Look, it served a role in giving attendees a guide to the speakers work over the weekend but it never satisfied any of us. The trigger for this new approach was watching Matt Willey give a presentation at OFFSET Limerick in 2014. Hearing him talk about his design practice and ideas really moved something in me. I knew that a magazine with interesting content was the new layer I wanted to add to OFFSET. Matt kindly egged me on as we sat at the bar each night and I took great encouragement from this. Of course I had no idea how much work would be involved so really Matt was trying to fuck with me…it worked.
This is the first magazine you’ve designed. Did you have a process before you started and did that change as you worked on it? Was there an overall design goal in place before you began?
My background is illustration not graphic design and while I have done a lot of design work over the years this was my first attempt at a project of this scale. I began the process by collaborating with Brian Herron on sketching out potential content. We drew up a list of interview subjects, features, etc. and whom we might ask to do them. Once the first wave of emails went out I started thinking of the design. The only idea I had in my head at the start was the type of paper I wanted to use and to try to use different stock for different sections and that it should be at least 140 pages (it ended up being 168). After that I was going to let the content determine the design to a large degree. I didn’t have a structure to my approach to the design initially; I used InDesign like a digital sketchbook and moved things around until I found something I liked. It would keep changing as the content started arriving in my inbox. I was also tempered by knowing I wouldn’t have much time.
What magazines do you look at for references? Did any influence the design?
We are all big fans in the OFFSET office of the ever increasing wave of titles being published currently like The Gentlewoman (designed by OFFSET2015 speaker Veronica Ditting), Riposte, The Great Discontent, Intern, Printed Pages for example and of course Matt’s work in PORT and The New York Times Magazine. While none were direct influences, the tone and style of some rubbed off I’m sure.
Did any of OFFSET’s speakers influence the design of the magazine?
Not really with the exception of Matt’s initial inspiration. I was very conscious that as a newbie magazine designer there would be a lot professional eyes on it, of course, but I was too stressed and tired at the time to really worry about it too much.
How did you create the content for the first issue?
I worked with Brian Herron initially in drawing up a list of potential collaborators to generate the content with us. Ideas for new features would keep popping up and as I didn’t have to pass it by a committee to get ideas approved, it all felt very organic. We knew we wanted an interview with Tomi Ungerer so I asked our mutual friend Steve Heller would he be interested. Coincidentally he was due to do a live interview with Tomi at the launch of Tomi’s one-man show in NYC. So they kindly agreed to allow us record and transcribe this interview. After that we essentially went through our speakers and tried to marry up people we felt would work in interviews and selected some that we would do ourselves. We tried when possible to produce our own photography and commissioned illustration work too. It came together pretty easily in hindsight.
Is there anything you would change if you had a larger budget and more time?
It would have been great to do studio/site visits with all our speakers if we had a budget at all or the time. We really wanted the magazine to feel like it was full of newly created and rich content, that we had made an effort and not just reprinted content from another source. Some of the features worked out well but with more time I think we could have developed more in depth articles, maybe even explored themes across the whole issue.
It’s Nice That said that ‘Ways And Means has set a new standard for festival freebies’. Is this something you want to continue for future events?
I was chatting to Rob from It’s Nice That (and editor of Printed Pages) over the OFFSET weekend and his generous comments were much appreciated. I think what they meant was in terms of content we raised the bar. It’s something we want to develop further for the next few issues and indeed the blog on our site. There is a lot of work to be done on the design of the magazine; I am under no illusions that any bar was raised there but it was a good start.
How long did it take to get from the idea to finished product?
From seeing Matt’s talk to holding a copy in my hand about 5 months, but really it was about 2 months from when I started jotting ideas and structure in my notebook. Once we had collected all the content I did the final design in a week.
Was there anything that stood out when making a magazine tailored specifically to one event?
I have no experience of doing it any other way but I imagine making it specifically for an event means that at least the parameters of the content are set to some degree.
If you could work with anyone in the magazine industry (illustrator, typographer, writer, etc.), who would it be?
Matt talked about his origins in making magazines and they all seem to involve daytime drinking and meeting in pubs. So I would happily go work with him at The New York Times Magazine and Avaunt if that were still the case. Working with illustrators, typographers and photographers and of course writers is an exciting prospect for the next issue. My wish list is long.
Ways And Means Issue One was produced exclusively for OFFSET 2015 attendees and is no longer available, you can however read the issue in full online below.
Magazine photography by Lauren Pritchard.
Images of Tomi Ungerer by Nicole Bachmann.