A magazine called Elephant

Marc Valli, owner of the Magma design bookshops, is to launch a new visual arts and culture magazine called Elephant. Why?

Marc Valli, owner of the Magma design bookshops, is to launch a new visual arts and culture magazine called Elephant. Why?

The first issue of Elephant magazine, with design and art direction by Matt Willey of Studio8, will be published in October. We asked editor Marc Valli why Elephant and why now?

CR As the owner of Magma, you better than anyone know it’s a pretty tough time for magazines right now, so why launch a new one?
Yes, times are difficult. Sales of books, expensive showcase books in particular, have been hit by the credit crunch. Yet from where I’m standing (and that’s often behind a shop counter) the magazine market looks more alive than ever. The drop in advertising revenues is hurting a lot of people, I know, but again, maybe that will encourage some renewal. Hopefully some of the fat old magazine clichés will die out and some fresh new ideas will emerge. In fact, if I curse the credit crunch on a daily basis (every evening when I get the sales figures from our shops), I cannot help but think it’s a healthy and necessary process. At the same time, it’s very scary…

CR What’s the idea behind Elephant?
MV The visual art world seems to be sadly divided between, on one side, the world of contemporary art, with museums and galleries and collectors and, on the other, the applied arts, or commercial art. I feel these divisions do not reflect the reality, and the richness, and the complexity of the current visual arts scene. More seriously, I think this division has meant that some of the most interesting work went right under the radar. I want Elephant to sit squarely in the middle. I believe that by looking at different art forms from that position, you can create a whole new kind of discourse. I had this dream of doing the kind of magazine a group of beat friends would have done in the 50s, before the art world became the art world, and the creative industries took over, a time when artists didn’t measure the worth of their work according to auction prices, but by the opinion of their peers. I think the credit crunch may have taught us a few lessons… Maybe this is a time for less cynicism.

CR Who is the audience?
MV Difficult question. Some magazines have a very narrow target audience. I don’t think that’s really the case with us. We would like to reach as wide a market as possible. It’s a risk. I suppose in my mind, I see the audience as being made up of people who are enthusiastic and curious (I was going to say ‘young’, but you don’t need to be young to be that), not snobbish, but very ambitious about the quality of the art they look at, use, collect, think about, and produce.

CR How will it be structured? Will it be the same each time?
Yes, the basic structure will remain the same. I think that creating a structure that makes sense of a diverse range of material is the second most difficult thing when starting a magazine – the first being coming up with a name…

We divided Elephant in 5 parts:
Part 1 is called Meetings and consists of long interviews with people that I see as visual thinkers, people who have ‘thought up’ or changed our time up through the medium of visual arts.

Part 2 consists of a series of Research Subjects. We pick a few themes and explore those. For example, in issue one we looked at how artists and illustrators have started to use collage again. We also tried to revisit the idea of art in the internet. Visual artists seem to have fallen in and out of love with it rather quickly… We also looked at people who use text as the main subject of their artwork, and at the work Scandinavian fashion designers, and even bike polo and the culture of customisation that revolves around it!

Part 3 is called Studios. We visit the studios of a number of artists and showcase their work.

Part 4 (Economies) looks at how artists are taking matters into their hands and starting businesses based on their own creative output. How are things made?

Finally, in part 5, we take a city and write a creative guide to that city, showcasing the work of artists from that place and asking them about their relationship to that city: how they feel about it, why they moved there, where they hang out, shop, eat, etc.

CR Do you have anyone backing Elephant or is it your own venture?
MV Originally, the magazine was backed by BIS publishers in the Netherlands. But BIS is a relatively small book publisher and we have now transferred the magazine to Frame, who already publish Frame and Mark magazines. They are a very dynamic magazine publisher and we should benefit from their network and experience.

CR Where will it be distributed?
MV Worldwide, both in newsagents and shops.

CR Are you still publishing Graphic?
MV Elephant replaces Graphic. Graphic never found its feet as a magazine proper, and ended up as more of a book series, with every issue looking at one theme in particular. Making a whole magazine on just one theme can be tricky. Sometimes a theme works, and the issue sells, sometimes it doesn’t, and then…

  • Muiz

    It looks fantastic – really beautifully crafted by Matt.

    The cover has one of those 80s fanzine feels to it, but a lot sharper and cleaner.

    The elongated typeface seems have become a signature aesthetic at the moment and it works really well in here – especially love how playful the title pages are – The Greatest Things Come From Two People Talking / Universal Everything / stand out particularly in a very strong way.

    The dividing pages with the 3d typeface has a flavour all their own – not sure it works with the editorial design work – but perhaps that’s the point.

    Certainly be giving this a go…

  • richard

    you aint going to reach a large audience with that content, just a lot of graphic designers with room on the coffee table for another bit of print porn..but admirable none-the-less.

  • I also feel the whole 3d thing looks like it wasn’t suppose to be there.. The contents page on the other hand, absolutely love it. That huge font in contrast with the really small one, and the grids, they look so good together.

    Technical issue: i keep getting an error about the feed of cr-blog on my safari, cant open it “because the content is not in a known feed format”. Any suggestions?

  • alex

    well bat one off to the print porn then.

  • There is something truly appealing about this wonderfully crafted typography, its got a great appeal and is very satisfying to look at.

  • As interesting as the design is, I have to question whether it really can compete with other graphic design magazines out there, especially ones like Creative Review, in times like this. It’s a brave venture, but not one I think will pay off.

  • Lucio Caramori

    Looks great.
    Curious about the content, specially what it’s saying about where I live, Sao Paulo. :)

  • Looks good. I’ll be buying the 1st issue. Had the pleasure of speaking to Matt Pyke when I was at university so the article on his studio should make for interesting reading.

  • M.

    I think Elephant might as well find it’s place. It just needs to find it’s own nische.
    Creative Review, Grafik etc are more like monthly showcase magazines imho. Not really digging that deep. Pretty empty to be honest. I hope Elephant can have longer and deeper interviews and articles and find it’s own voice.

    It definitley looks promising. I’ve already preordered the magazine from Magma Books.

    Best of luck guys.

  • I really wish people could discuss the value of what we make without constantly evaluating its commercial viability.

    Isn’t that the point of Elephant? To discuss those ideas outside that narrow (and boring) view?

    Who cares if it doesn’t make money? Kudos to them for making something great and putting it out there.

  • IOZ

    Peter Saville again yawn… he must be bored of himself by now… all too precious and slightly dated concept.. I mean elephant for a name come on.. boring boring boring yawn ywan yawnnnnnnnnn

  • Cozza

    How does this mag sit ‘in the middle’. It looks like another Graphic Design mag, for GD’s to masterbate over. No alternate art scene here, Peter Savelle again…yawn. Photography looks very safe and posed. Come on MV you have the will, but try a different way. Your not gonna reach a wide audiance, mind you there’s alot of unemployed G D’s out there that have time on their Macs

  • I liked Graphic A LOT, since does not seem so fresh :(

  • Phil Rennie

    looks great, nice format. should do well

  • James

    Looks nicely put together I’ll be picking it up, but Saville and Universal Everything? bit safe and boring and how many more articles about Universal Everything do I need to see this year? Love their work and they’re definitely an interesting company but give it a rest for a bit they must be profiled in about 10 magazines a year its getting ridiculous.

    I stopped buying Grafik because it was the same bunch of people showcased and every month

    I’d be more interested in reading a magazine equivalent of manystuff, where its often new and unknowns and a bit more daring work.

  • looks really nice and fresh

  • fantastic graphic anh photo work!!!
    I am from brazil and i’ ve been trying always to make the life money with graphic stuff. Not yet!!! but who knows.
    I’ve literally ffound you at fffound web site, invite me please.
    Just added, success always!!!!



  • Already been reading Elephant:


  • peter

    Peter Saville looks like he needs to go and drop his kids off at the pool!

  • john lyles

    not another minimalist glossy “cool magazine” stupid name as well, id rather save my money thanks

  • TDub

    This is a truly great start (with issue 1) – This magazine fills a niche that has needed filling for some time. Congratulations and good luck!

  • Bill

    Graphic was rubbish in all manner of ways, and the main difference looks like Mat Wiley. Same pretentious rubbish otherwise.