PORT magazine launches

The self-styled “intelligent magazine for men”, new UK quarterly PORT is out today. We spoke to editor Dan Crowe and co-creative director Kuchar Swara about what it takes to bring a new men’s title into being and why they still have faith in print

The cover features Port 1 typeface, created by Matt Willey

The self-styled “intelligent magazine for men”, new UK quarterly PORT is out today. We spoke to editor Dan Crowe and co-creative director Kuchar Swara about what it takes to bring a new men’s title into being and why they still have faith in print…

Swara, who works out of Swara & Co., and fellow creative director Matt Willey of Studio8 Design have been hard at work on the design of the launch edition of PORT magazine, the cover of which features a portrait of Daniel Day-Lewis, whose report from Gaza runs in the issue.

In the flesh, PORT mixes classic and contemporary elements – there’s the more traditional magazine illustration of Dan Williams’ Secret City pages, alongside great imagery from photographers such as Neil Gavin, Robin Broadbent, Tara Darby, Tobias Harvey and Markus Bühler-Rasom.

An interesting feature of the magazine’s design is the use of single page, typographic-heavy openers to larger features. It makes for a more thoughtful and considered approach to the reading experience, something that (unlike the majority of men’s titles) actually slows the pace down a little.

Equally, the PORT iPad app, designed by Jeremy Leslie, offers a seamless transition to digital. The pages are elegantly reformatted to fit the tablet; it’s devoid of gimmickry and pleasingly reflects the clean design of its printed edition. The launch issue is currently free to download for the iPad, here.

We spoke to Swara and editor Dan Crowe about their thinking behind PORT.

Section openers also employ the Port 1 face

Why launch a new men’s magazine now? And why in print?

Dan Crowe: Men’s magazines have been getting worse and worse over the years. They used to be strong, publishing great fiction, interesting photo shoots and intelligent commentary, but it got to the point where we were looking at what was out there and couldn’t name a single one that we bought or enjoyed. So we thought we’d do one for us to read.

Kuchar Swara: We think there’s still a strong appetite for print. It has qualities that digital formats can’t really compete with. In terms of men’s titles, we don’t really feel that there’s a magazine in the market which covers the range of topics that the modern male reader will want to buy regularly. Most men’s magazines focus too much on either celebrity, style, design, business or sex. It seemed to us that both the consumer and advertisers are ready for a new title.

Dan Crowe: It’s as if people assume the world of objects has been obliterated by the digital revolution: this is, of course, not the case. Magazines are still great things to hold and consume. Magazines like PORT are in a really strong position. Our pre-bookings from our distribution company were huge.

How will the design and art direction of PORT reflect these attitudes?

Kuchar Swara: Both myself and Matt [Willey] felt that whatever we designed had to be different. The character of the magazine, through its design and art direction would be vital in setting a tone of voice that establishes our position in the market. The range of topics are quite diverse; we knew that it would be important for the design to tie the sections together calmly and seamlessly, to allow the content to speak for itself, and to be readable, functional and portable (i.e. light and able to fold back on itself).

Port clearly has a belief in the power of bold, stand-alone typography. What’s the thinking behind the typographic right-hand page openers to the larger features?

Kuchar Swara: Matt and I both had similar reference points and a shared passion for bold typography. We went through some old type specimen sheets, choosing a few that we thought were interesting and relevant to the aesthetic we were after. Matt has a real passion for bespoke fonts and drew Port 1 which is the stencil typeface that we use on the cover and section openers. The other font – used to open the features – is MFred which Matt also drew.

We were concerned that the traditional makeup of type against pictures to open spreads can sometime be dangerous, as the type can overshadow the imagery or maybe even the content. So the formula is broken; we’ve separated the big type opener and big bold image so we could have the best of both worlds.

Dan, can you expand on the reference you make on the PORT website to the extended interviews that ran in magazines in the 1960s. Is that period of time an influence on PORT more widely?

Dan Crowe: It’s the attitude that magazines had back then: give a feature the space it needs. Nowadays, publishers don’t allow features to run longer than a certain amount of pages as money could be made selling to advertisers. There are profiles in the Esquires of the 1960s, essays in Playboy by Hunter S.Thompson, that run to 40 pages. I love that. People say that our attention spans have reduced and that’s why we don’t have such long features anymore, but the truth is that publishers have lost focus on what they are producing.

Profit has become the key focus and so the quality of content has dropped. We wanted to respect what was happening back then, get back to proper, large scale, superbly reported and photographed stories.

PORT is available now, priced £6. The PORT iPad app and full website has also just launched. More at port-magazine.com.

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