The mission behind The Culture Crush print edition is to experiment with print and capture some of the peculiarities of the analog process; from printing everything out to arguing about the difference between thumbtacks and pushpins. Of course, I have been working on print magazines from long before there were computers in art departments, so many things that come naturally to me were very hard for the next generation of editorialists to understand.
Things like sequential order have a very different meaning when you are designing for print rather than the click-through, digital way. Quick lectures turned into what felt like longreads. Also, fighting against this need for order in general, and shying away from messiness, from textural, not-so-perfect imagery, was a big thing.
I wanted to do newsprint just for all of those reasons. Unretouched film stills? Check. Hand drawn elements? Check. Typos discovered after it was too late? Check. Last minute spreads thrown in on the way to the printers? Check. But then, when the paper started to roll off of the big old beautiful printing machines and we checked through, low and behold, there were weird smears, ink that had transferred from one side of the page to the other… It was kind of a mess. But what a beautiful mess! And all of my Millennial doubters were swayed and amazed that yes, there is a big difference between the way you approach print editorial, for all of those reasons and more.
The hardest part for them though was something that I had never even thought about until recently. It’s what I call “the fear of hitting send.” It’s that moment when I said, “That’s it. Everything looks good, and we have to get these files to the printer so we can make our deadline.” There was a collective, “Wait!” A panic. A fear. A loathing. Funny, I feel the opposite way. I feel relieved, done, finished, let’s move onto the next thing. So what’s all this about? I was having this conversation with John Maeda, design partner at Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins, where he advises their portfolio companies, many of which are run by Millennials, on both their products and cultures. We talked all things digital versus analog and agreed that there was a particular disconnect this generation has with the send button.
He said, ”I remember in the old days, when I designed a book, you designed the book and then you’re done. It went to press and you were finished. When the web came around, you design websites and you are never finished. It’s a great business because you can keep charging for editing, but you never get to let go of it. So, with the old creative way, you could finish something. This new way, you don’t get to.
It’s the same as fashion, fashion has the show. The show is the deadline. So, these industries that let you finish things let you experience so much more than those that let you make infinite variations. I think the younger generation is shocked that we got to finish something. They say, ‘Really? It’s all done?’ That’s a good value to have. The UNDO-GENERATION doesn’t know that.”
Suddenly what’s old starts to feel new, just remixed and looked at through different eyes and with a different experience. I mean, what is technology anyway? I look at the Steinway Piano we have here in our studio and I think, wow, that’s analog sound, but its also complicated technology. There is no way to improve on that, that sound is as good as it gets.
Again, as John Maeda recounted, “It’s the same thing in fashion. People think that fashion has no technology, but the way people can make a garment is an ancient craft that requires a lot of special tools, and think just of the textiles as well. When I gave a talk at RISD a long time ago to my students about the history of computers, I showed them punch cards and said ‘I’m sure you don’t know what these are’ and they said, ‘What do you mean? That’s what you use for a Jacquard Loom!’ The Jacquard Loom actually was the first computer. So I like to say that technology is already in everything we do, but we may have owned it long enough that we forget about where it came from.”