What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating a magazine as a finite series?
It’s been a really interesting challenge, principally because one of the more luxurious factors with magazines is that they can evolve slowly, over time. Issue by issue, you can always interrogate and improve your magazine. With Weapons of Reason we know that everything needed to be locked down and working from the get-go, which meant a very long development lead-time.
I wanted all eight issues to be completely considered from the outset and to complement each other as a set, both visually and editorially. For that reason, we’ve spent a lot of time deciding our eight cover themes, which include technology, society, conflict and leadership. So this whole process has been advantageous, because creative people always respond well to boundaries, and this is a particularly immovable boundary.
The distribution channels for the publication are wide-ranging – how has the fact that the first place you're likely to encounter the magazine is not the on newsstand changed your approach?
In truth, the consumer magazines that we used to make (Little White Lies and Huck) did not spend a great deal of time pandering to the needs of the newsstand with coverlines, special offers, and that kind of thing. We had faith that given enough time, our magazines would connect to their audience, and they did. But this limited us too, because in the UK there’s a huge difference between being stocked in all WHSmith stores, and being stocked nationwide in newsagents.
We know the economies of scale in printing publications, and with Weapons of Reason we just want to reach the absolute maximum number of people possible – as much as our funds will allow. So it hasn’t really changed our approach to the magazine at all.
This magazine is in many ways about provocation, about engendering some sort of response – what, if any, is your barometer of success?
We won’t have either advertising or cover sales figures to consider, so it’s interesting to think about how we measure the success of the project. The great joy for us in making magazines in the past was the collaborators they brought us into contact with. Suddenly people have a reason to get in touch – to write, illustrate, photograph, stock, or partner – or just talk about what we’re doing. This is happening already, which is brilliant.
Through our website and Twitter, we’ll be able to see how many people follow through in taking the actions we suggest, or if people suggest new ways to get involved. More than anything, we just hope that Weapons of Reason allows us to engage in a dialogue with as many like-minded people as possible.