An interview with two pioneers of fashion media: Xerxes Cook, editorial director of POST – the first independent, iPad-only magazine – and Vadik Marmeladov (and co.) at Bowyer, a group of designers and programmers looking to change the shape of the publishing industry.
Ryma Chikhoune: You’ve created the world’s first independently published magazine for the iPad. What are the freedoms and setbacks of having no print counterpart?
Xerxes Cook: A crucial advantage of not having a printed sibling, is that we do not have to worry about importing and re-purposing existing content, which may not necessarily lend itself well to the iPad screen, and this design conventions from print informing our layouts – text acts differently on the iPad. We want to recreate the instantaneous reaction one gets from the double page spread – this is why our magazine has been in horizontal format only, and our double page spreads are usually video works, combined with sound. Magazines, or really the idea of magazines seem to be thriving, one year after the iPad was introduced. Within magazine commentary, there seems to be a big discussion as to how people want to use their iPad – to simply read in another format with a bright screen, or to experience something that exists nowhere else, an experience that combines sight, sound, movement and touch. We consider the iPad to have given birth to a new medium, and we are fully dedicated to exploring the artistic possibilities afforded to us by this new device. As Brian Eno, who contributed to the Stella McCartney App we developed, once said, ‘In order to find the world interesting you have to be constantly manipulating it’.
Ryma: Would you explain the evolution of POST, and how you see it evolving?
Xerxes: Because of the way someone uses their iPad, on their lap while lying on the sofa, flicking through pages with their fingers, we consider it to offer the next stage in the evolution of the book or the magazine, one that negates the spatial removal of keyboard and computer desk. Also as studies show, people use their iPad most when they come home from work – Post offers entertainment, an experience and a mediation on a theme which in some way is also a meta-commentary on how we believe we are using this new technology. We would like Post to be recognized for experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what is known within publishing – we’re not here to deliver news, but instead an experience that you can’t find anywhere else.
Ryma: Who is the Post user?
Xerxes: The term ‘early adopters’ has become a bit of a cliché, but we find that we appeal to people within the fashion and art worlds, publishing, the technology sector and also as our first two issues have been themed around scientific concepts – Matter & Gravity – we are also tapping into the popular interest in astrophysics that has really grown in the past year in no small part to a number of excellent and accessible series’ on the BBC. We felt a responsibility to sate the public’s appetite for science, and also ‘wow’ factor of new technology – and while this may never really plateau, we are now looking at combining technology with themes that fall out of the realm of science.
Ryma: What are some of the most innovative ways you’ve seen the iPad being used to connect with clients?
Xerxes: The obvious ones are augmented reality and e-commerce – in terms of the most innovative, all I can say is watch this space! In this business we have to keep our cards close to our chest.
Ryma: What arguments do you have for the Luddites of the world?
Xerxes: None! I’m sure they have much less stressful lives that those that have burdened themselves with technology. Luckily though people have begun to recognize the difficulties with all these new devices and developments like cloud computing etc shall ease some of this burden. You can’t really ever argue that anyone needs an iPad, unless it is related to a medical condition like partial paralysis – it’s just that the simple interactions offered by these devices makes the services of the computer more accessible, ie, your food shopping, skyping a friend, watching videos and so on.
Ryma: What is the future of digital publishing, and how will it affect the nature of the print industry?
Xerxes: I am a real sucker for paper and I wouldn’t want to see the collapse of print magazines or books – Post after all, was born out of a love for these magazines. But perhaps we will see less of these generally inconsequentially niche biannual/ quarterly fashion magazines that only really survive of the strength of selling a few adverts – and not cover price profits – as marketing and advertising budgets are now being redirected online. Personally, I see us getting our personalized news online, and saving beautiful printed paper magazines for our coffee tables.
Ryma: How would you describe Bowyer’s objectives?
Vadik Marmeladov: I like the term that we use to describe our approach—luxury digital objects. We believe that the digital environment could be an accessory. Just like you have several pairs of shoes or a nice bag, you’ll have apps (or whatever the name would be) for a special occasion or moment of your life. They would not be practical at all—you’ll just “need” to have them. This shouldn’t be cheap digital commercial pieces that come standard from brands now, but the extension of their brand and story approach, real craftsmanship presented by advanced development and CG. Basically, our main objective is to build this bridge, a language between two worlds—developers, scientists and art/fashion business.
Ryma: Could you explain your programming and development approaches?
Sergey Filippov: The basis is research; it makes development solid and meaningful. Our model is the university research lab, one of these websites that ends with .edu in their URL. I would like to spend a good year developing engine to do an interactive fashion shoot. Working and research together not just with directors, video editors but with stylists and even models.
Vadik: From my perspective, I like developer slang. For example, guys use the word “delivered” or “shipped” when a task is finished. Each time I hear this it makes me very excited. It turns out that we deliver art and we ship emotion! There is no more Art Director or final layout in mock-up design, because developers make 50% of decisions and ideas. So the process of creation is thrilling. It’s like building a NASA spaceship designed by Pininfarina and a space suit by Chanel.
Ryma: As you well know, the iPad has greatly changed the landscape of publishing. What are the most innovative ways in which luxury brands are using the tool to engage with clients?
Vadik: That is exactly the thing, they don’t! Check out almost anything digital that was produced by any fashion or luxury art brand. I think the problem is that they are so big and so bureaucratic that they cannot make a quick and fresh decision, which the digital world requires. Every day there is new trend, new technologies to follow, to research and then apply to daily work. These elephant companies try to work with agencies, but they are not quick enough either. So, they spend copious amounts of money on stupid flash websites and interactive PDFs in the app store.
Ryma: What trends have you observed in digital publishing?
Vadik: I think that developers and publishers will finally venture from transferring PDFs into the app where they simply replace static images with video. It definitely will go in the direction of reinventing storytelling and information curation, which is totally opposite from present trends—regeneration of existing Internet content. It is a bit tricky, because text, the amount of text, and journalism itself should be adapted for the “touch” and “swipe” but not “click”, which are a big difference.
Sergey: There is new term coming out — creative developers. They are more educated in terms of style, culture, arts and beauty in general. They know how to work with text, they understand design tricks and the elegance of it.
Ryma: What is the future of digital publishing?
Vadik: I would like to follow Steve Jobs answer on this kind of question: “I have no idea”. Nobody knows where technology will bring us. Maybe they are going to come up with digital paper or endless battery or just a plutonium phone body we need to follow. I mean, that’s it! A fashion shoot now depends on interface behaviour and the OS behind the device. This drives me crazy.
Sergey: From my point of view, what with tools becoming easier and everyone able to build a fully functional website in a minute with WordPress, it’s becoming not that important anymore. You can use a Facebook page as your website. Why not reinvent the whole system? Why should we have to undergo a laborious login process with a password in 2015? I think that this is a future: to invent new technologies just to use in a particular project. If you’ve got a web store, why not reinvent and improve payment technology that would become a norm? It’s like Avatar, where they build a whole new generation of cameras and software just to shoot one scene.
Photo courtesy of POST