Anja Charbonneau has spent much of the last decade immersed in the world of indie mags. She worked as a freelance photographer and then creative director at lifestyle title Kinfolk before setting up Broccoli, a publication celebrating cannabis culture, in 2016.
Now on its 18th issue, Broccoli’s success has led to a new career for the Portland-based editor-in-chief and creative director, and the rest of her all-women team, evolving to include other magazines, art books, and printed goods designed for ‘countercultural dreamers’.
“We released our first two photography books in 2020, and by 2021 we made our second magazine, Mushroom People, all about the fascinating world of fungi,” Charbonneau tells CR. “By 2022, our original identity as a magazine started to melt away to reveal a new future as a publisher, and that year we experimented more in print by releasing our first oracle deck, also mushroom themed.”
Broccoli’s latest spinoff comes in the form of Catnip, a new, 216-page publication that aims to scratch the surface of cat culture and uncover the many reasons why we’re so obsessed with our feline friends. Aside from being Charbonneau’s favourite animal, she felt there was a lot of scope to delve into the feline world from an editorial perspective.
“They’re so multifaceted, symbolic, and hilarious, so it felt like a treasure trove of story and art potential. It also felt easy to imagine the reader, cosied up with a cat on their lap, flipping through the pages,” she says.
“The final piece of the puzzle was to gauge advertising potential, because our magazines rely a lot on ads from interesting brands to help cover our initial production costs, and luckily there are a growing number of design-forward, thoughtful cat brands out there who we were able to approach.”
Inside Catnip’s pages, you’ll find everything from cat horoscopes and reader pic submissions, through to features on the subversive art of catnaps and photographer Masayuki Oki’s series on the feral cats of Japan. “Editorially, we always include a broad mix of story formats and seek out curious, evergreen ideas that will survive the test of time. We wanted Catnip to be fun, it’s a very positive title overall, though of course it has poignant moments,” says Charbonneau.
“For the art direction,” she continues, “I was inspired by thrift stores, the way the shelves can hold a jumble of retro items that might feel disparate, but somehow work perfectly together. The cover is inspired by books and magazine covers from the 70s, while inside ASCII art, pixelated typography, and cat shapes all nod to 90s internet culture.
“We included a few novelty print treatments to make it feel extra feline, like clear spot gloss paw prints running across the cover and certain inside spreads, plus a die cut claw mark scratching through the editor’s letter, and a special fold-out mewsletter ‘for cats, by cats’. It was so fun to make,” says Charbonneau.
While plans are already in the works for the second issue of the mag, don’t expect to see it on newsstands just yet, she adds. “When we make big magazines like Mushroom People or Catnip, we’re investing 100% of our ideas and creativity so that the magazine is as strong as possible, and could remain special over time as the only issue.”