If you were to make a list of the ten most influential magazines of all time, I'd hazard a guess that Colors magazine might be in there, so it's a particular privilege that we get to produce Colors from Fabrica. I won't go into the past of Colors as that's widely available and discussed elsewhere—suffice to say it’s an incredible and inspirational past—but I wanted to touch on the present of Colors, to coincide with the launch of the new issue Colors #86 "Making The News" (find it here) and our new interactive installation that runs alongside.
When I took the helm at Fabrica, the team had all but completed the previous issue — "Going to Market", and it was a corker of an issue. It perhaps indicated that the current editorial approach of Patrick Waterhouse, Cosimo Bizzarri, Enrico Bossan and team had really hit its stride.
A careful but engrossing linear unfurling of dispatches from markets worldwide—in the widest sense of the word ’market’—it continued the Colors tradition of being “a magazine about the rest of the world” by bringing you stories, angles and images that you just won't see anywhere else. With a distinct editorial tone, stunning photography, illustration and design (for which the team just picked up an Art Directors Club design award), no advertising, and translated into multiple languages, it seemed to me to be a clear articulation of the idea of “slow journalism” (as in slow food, savouring process, craft, provenance, experience, character) which is a term I have probably borrowed from somewhere, though can’t remember who from (tell me below!)
Over the last quarter, Patrick and team created the new issue—just out now!—which focuses on journalism; on the wildy diverse practices involved in "making the news". And they've done an extraordinary job.
It's one of the most thorough, diverse, engaging, thought-provoking and just plain novel statements on the state-of-the-art of journalism I can recall—and this is from someone who follows Nieman, Columbia, Cardiff etc. The stories vary from the demise of the American professional journalist to the emergence of networked alternatives, ranging from the Israeli Defence Force’s twitter feed to a hand-built radio station from a 16 Year-old in Sierra Leone to Dronestagram. It covers Berlusconi’s grip on Italian media as well as Photoshop jobs on Iranian missile tests and the often-staged “realities” of contemporary photojournalism.
The physical experience of the magazine—which we feel still has real value on paper—is also quite something. The issue has a magazine within the magazine, via little pockets of editorial tucked under full spreads, as well as windows cut into pages to indicate how news photographs are framed, and the 'Yellow Pages' newspaper tucked in the back.
I urge you to track it down and take a look. You can find it in bookstores worldwide, but more easily perhaps via our new online store for Colors.
My role has been to do no more than supply a few contacts and make a few comments, but this is all the team’s work, so congratulations to them—it’s a landmark Colors issue, I think, and that's saying something.
More importantly, that also happens to be Jeremy Leslie’s view.
Since I started we’ve been working on getting it into the right places, both in terms of promotion and distribution. I'm pushing a strategy of taking more control in-house over distribution, subscriptions, back-issues etc. I saw this work at Monocle, when they stopped using Quadrant for subscriptions, after the first year, and handled it in-house, and clearly the strong independent magazine sector (about the only part of the business that is strong) does this instinctively.
So we've rebuilt the online shop using Shopify (particular thanks to Felipe Rocha, David Peñuela and Erica Fusaro for that) and are beginning to wrestle back control of subscriptions and back issues. Physical distribution remains a nightmare—it's just not easy to find Colors, and it should be—and this is one of our biggest headaches, as it is for any magazine. We have a good service via IdN in the Asia-Pacific region, but other regions remain patchy at best. We're working on it. If you run a place that would like to stock Colors, please let us know (email dan dot hill at fabrica dot it.)
And being Fabrica, we're also interested in totally reinventing the business. So we're exploring a modified version of the fine and compelling idea of “social distribution” borrowed from the excellent new title "Works That Work", from the esteemed Peter Bilak and crew. We’ll have Patrick Tanguay of the equally excellent and recent “The Alpine Review” at Fabrica shortly too, to pick his brains on how they handle their business, just as we had the great Marco Ferrari visit the Colors team recently, sharing his experience as creative director of Domus magazine, and particularly the iPad angles developed there.
Speaking of which, we’ll have a new strategy emerging there shortly too, around what Colors does digitally, alongside its paper incarnation. As a hint, we’ve created an interactive installation to work alongside this issue. As the issue is launching this week at the Perugia International Journalism Festival, one of the world’s most important, we wanted to create something that would use Colors #86 as a platform, to explore the same theme but jump of on its own tangent, as well as be something that festival goers could engage with.
Enter the Colors New Machine. Inspired by the cover to Colors #86, and designed by the resident Canadian in our interactive team, Jonathan Chomko, working with Mauro Bedoni, Aaron Siegel and others from Fabrica, it's an interactive installation which playfully deconstructs the notion of the increasingly automated and syndicated 'news machine', via a sort of Heath Robinson-esque 'Chinese Whispers'. You feed the machine via Twitter—tweet a story to @ColorsMachine and see what you get back—and it'll be sitting in a storefront on the main piazza in Perugia during the festival, so do take a look if you're there. Here's that video again: