There’s a certain, and increasingly large, group of people who salivate over the smell of fresh ink, hoard well-bound pages like they would classic novels, and rightly consider the idea that “print is dead” to be very much six feet under. It’s those sort of people you find at ModMag, Magculture’s annual event dedicated to all things magazine-related. This year’s lineup was an eclectic one that ranged from design publishing darlings Unit Editions to multi-platform creativity behemoths It’s Nice That, Italian newspaper La Republicca, graphic design and typography bible Eye, Shortlist and Stylist magazines, and James Hyman, the man behind the vast Hyman Archive.
One of the undisputed highlights was hearing from creative director at The New Yorker, Nicholas Blechman, who took us on a deliciously intricate illustrated tour inside the mag’s offices, offering details about who sits with who, the mailroom man who’s been in the job 35 years (and as such, offers up pointers on design decisions), who has the messiest desks, and of course the nuances of the publication’s distinctive and beautiful three-font typographic choices. What was reassuring about hearing from Blechman—a man in surely one of the most envied publication and design roles in the world—was that in the beginning, like the rest of us, he didn’t really know what he was doing. When he first made Nozone, a magazine that ended up running from 1990 until 2008, he had created a 36-page magazine, without realizing they had to be printed in page multiples of eight. So he simply printed four extra pages in the middle, then ripped them out by hand.
These sort of stories about muddling through and learning on the job—sometimes getting it wrong, sometimes getting it right—were a charming thread running through ModMag, and it’s surely that sort of behind-the-scenes insight that makes the conference ever-charming and inspiring. Here’s five other things we learned.