Did you know that UPPERCASE's spines were originally inspired by Little Golden Books? I've always loved their eye-catching golden spines and wanted my magazine to have a similar recognizable shelf presence, even when displayed spine out. Using a silver foil for issue 23's spine brings that idea full circle. It's nice when childhood inspirations still apply to your adult life!
You can pick up a nice collection of UPPERCASE magazines, including the current issue, at Brick and Mortar Living in British Columbia. Brick and Mortar is "a quaint little shop in the heart of historic downtown New Westminster, filled with local designs, unique gifts and nostalgia for the home" whose mission is to "bring a sense of community, warmth and merriment to the adventure we call shopping." I love independent shops like this! Go visit them this weekend if you can.
For a stockist near you, please check this list. If you'd like to recommend a shop or would like to stock UPPERCASE, please be in touch!
The fall issue has arrived! Draped in its silver foil spine, and complemented by an understated but dramatic colour palette throughout, it is certainly a visual departure from the full spectrum approach of the summer issue. As curator of the magazine—and as art director / graphic designer—I felt like I needed a bit of a palate cleanser after the full-on exuberance of issue 22. So issue 23 offers something a bit darker, a bit simpler… but just as delicious! Like a crème brulé or a café au lait for dessert.
The reason I loved Seb Lester's grocery list for the cover is that it demonstrates the commitment required to master penmanship—even composing a mundane list is an opportunity to practice. There’s the popular saying that “practice makes perfect”. Certainly as you view the amazing displays of calligraphic talent in this issue that adage might ring in your ears… there’s no way any of these letterers and calligraphers could have achieved their level of ability without countless hours of practice. But does it make them perfect? No. Not at all. No one is perfect and no one’s creative output is perfect.
UPPERCASE content is selected and designed to be inspirational… there’s no doubt that after reading through this issue, you’ll want to pick up a calligraphy pen. But if you’re new or rusty, let me tell you want will happen… your first letters are going to be terrible! Your calligraphic aspirations will not flow effortlessly from the nib. Your hand will cramp and your letters will be awkward. Frustrated, you’ll inevitably compare your writing to what is displayed in this issue. But don’t despair! Come back to it the next day and try again. I guarantee that you’ll be a better calligrapher. And the day after that, you’ll be three times as good.
After creating 23 issues of UPPERCASE, it is still very far from perfect. There's a big list of things I want to try, redesigns I want to initiate, column ideas waiting in the wings. Budgetary and time constraints that affect what I can do... And there's probably a lurking typo or something that I missed. But each issue shows a lot of what I've learned over the years—and even things I've learned since the last issue came out in July. That's what I like to focus on. Practice makes progress.
Everything takes practice. The goal isn’t perfection.
October starts the mad dash to the end of the year. For those of us in the business of making physical things for sale, so begins the marathon season of craft fairs, ramped-up marketing, 24-hour online selling and the retail frenzy of Christmas. It’s an important time of year—when a year can turn from loss to profit—but it’s also an exhausting one when the joy of creating and making is overshadowed by the reality of selling.
I’m not a good saleswoman. When UPPERCASE was a physical store from 2005-2009, I’d just let people wander in and do their thing. I’m not one to initiate small talk or sales talk, preferring to let the products sell themselves on their own merits. Sure, I’d be pleasant and answer questions and have conversations, but it was always an effort on my part. It felt unnatural to me, as nice as a customer was. When I closed my retail shop at the end of 2009, it was a relief. Not just from the financial strain of carrying the cost inventory and paying the magazine’s print bills, but that I could turn “off” for a while. I took a year of maternity leave before I returned to the shop and opened the doors, but this time solely as a publishing office.
That year at home with my new baby and running my magazine was one of tremendous growth. Maternity leave was profitable, even with shouldering the cost of rent on a space that I didn’t use for those months working from my basement with my baby at my side. It was proof that an online business of selling magazines, subscriptions and books could be viable enough to support my family. I’m so grateful that, a few years on, this remains true.
My intent is always for the magazine to stand on its own merits and not need me to “sell” it overtly. Sure, I have to ask for subscriptions and support here in the newsletter and on social media—it’s vital to do so—but really I want the magazine to sell itself. Right now, Issue 23 is being packed up and prepped for shipping today, all set for its October 1 release. I hope you’ll see for yourself how lovely it is.
I’m looking ahead to 2015 and issue 24, to be released in January. I’ll have to have content finished up next month for design in November, printing in December. This will mark 6 full years of UPPERCASE magazine. If my time developing UPPERCASE magazine were a college education, I’d have a Master’s degree by now!
I’m often asked how I get so much done in a day, as a one-person magazine company. Honestly, it depends on the day and where we are in the magazine’s cycle. My day is always a juggle of what is imperative and what I want to be doing, with the must-do always winning out. What I have learned, though, is that time cannot be controlled. It is basically unmanageable. Time is disobedient—it won’t stay put when you ask. So the way around this is that you have to be everything that time is not: you have to have discipline and set deadlines. You have to control how much time you spend on a task. You have to create a checklist of goals and dates. You have to stay strong in the current lest you be swept away.
Musing on the number 24 and the passage of time, I’m curious about your 24-hour day. What do you have to do in order to make time for being creative? What’s your day like? Submit your day in creativity here.
This message was originally published in my weekly e-newsletter—view the full graphical and extended version here. To receive the newsletter every Tuesday, sign up and I'll send you a free download of the UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide. Oh, and if you're brand new to the newsletter, there's a welcome discount code for you, too. Thanks!
When I first started UPPERCASE magazine back in 2009, I had no experience in managing a quarterly publication. I certainly didn’t know anything about “circulation management”, renewals and such. My primary goal was to reach 400 subscribers by the time the first issue shipped, and, when that was met, to reach 1000 subscribers by the calendar year-end. This would be enough subscription income to break even on the first year’s production costs. At the time, it was hard to see past the first year and those first four issues. But we made it! And then, I was faced with the reality that most businesses face: customer retention.
Though new subscribers were coming, those inaugural 400 were up for renewal. Half of them never renewed. Ouch! When it comes to percentages, I can’t help but fall back into my grade-school measure of success: high percentages mean good grades. 50% certainly felt like a failing grade. And it’s hard not to take it personally and think, “Why don’t people like me?" I know now that typical renewal rates for magazines are low. There’s always something newer out there, more competition for readers’ attention and wallets. (Here’s a fact: UPPERCASE was launched before the iPad came out!)
It will always be two steps forward, one step back. The magazine’s renewal rate averages 33%. I’ve had to acclimatize to this fact, and temper my expectations and be mindful of this number and how it affects my business on a cyclical basis. Each quarter brings an attrition, but with new subscribers steadily discovering UPPERCASE, as long as the overall number of subscribers is growing, then it’ll be ok. I have a core group of extremely loyal subscribers who renew consistently and purchase gift subscriptions for others, and I am very grateful for your continued support! I hope that all the interesting articles from our contributors, great imagery and inspiration-filled issues will convince readers to keep subscribing. I hope that you also find value in these weekly newsletters, my blog and social media streams.
The magazine has grown surely and steadily over the years and as of this moment, there are 3,879 active subscribers who will be receiving issue #23 in a few weeks. It would be awesome to reach a milestone 4,000 subscribers! Please share this message with your friends and colleagues and on social media and let’s see if we can do it together.
So, how do you ensure that you’re bringing in both new customers while keeping the existing ones happy?
After nearly six years and 23 issues, I’ve found that what works best for me is simply: do the work. First and foremost, create something of value. Pour your heart and soul into it. Invest yourself, invest your own money. Be open and honest. Be available and accessible. Put yourself on the line. If you prove every day that you’re committed, people will go all-in for you.
This message was originally published in my weekly newsletter. To see the newsletter, click here. Sign up for newsletters right here and you'll receive a free download of the UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide.
How will a sweater look with a particular yarn? What will a quilt look like when it's done? How will inks layer in a silkscreen? How will a sketch translate to final art? How will the ceramic vase look when glazed and fired?
When you embark on creating something new, it's all about having confidence in your ideas—and the ability to visualize what you want. The same is true in design for print: although you can approximate how something will appear in print, there are plenty of instances when you have to use your imagination, have faith in your idea and just go for it.
I've been imagining the next cover to have a shiny silver foil on the spine and on the number 23. Like this:
In contrast to the summer colour issue, the fall edition is decidedly toned down in hue—but not in inspiration or creative excitement!
Celebrating things monochromatic—and the graphic appeal of black and white—issue #23 contains a special calligraphy and lettering section featuring Seb Lester (the cover artist who created this fun calligraphic grocery list), master penman Jake Weidmann and profiles of Joy Deneen, Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls, Erica McPhee, Barbara Calzolari, Neil Tasker, Pietro Piscitelli and Molly Jacques. The experts offer tips for beginners and our talented pool of readers share their amazing calligraphy work as well.
This issue also has articles about modern-day heraldry and how to use tradition and crests to design your brand; silver spoons painted and collected; the dynamic mother-daughter duo Tag Team Tompkins; a field trip to an in-house sign painter at an old-fashioned department store; a visit with the enigmatic inhabitants of a House of Cardboard; and a trip to a Parisian calligraphy guild.
I've got one week left to get the design finished up and off it goes to the printer!
Want to keep that summer feeling? You can still subscribe starting with issue #22. I'll mail it to you right away and then you'll get the fall issue when it is released in October. Or if already have a copy of #22, subscriptions starting with fall are available here.
The fall issue is heading to print just after Labour Day and I look forward to revealing the cover design, featuring the work of Seb Lester, on Tuesday! (Subscribe to my newsletter to see it first.) In the meantime, here's the pattern design I've developed, inspired by the content within the issue. In addition to the special calligraphy and lettering section in the fall issue, we also explore the influence of heraldry on traditional and contemporary art and design.
Starting from the observation that a calligraphy nib is somewhat shield-like and also thinking about the souvenir spoons that are featured in the Collections spread, I did some studies of the nib shape and shield shapes, ultimately going in this simple repeat so that the overlap of the shield vaguely references the split in a nib. It can't be too detailed or illustrative since it will be reproduced quite small (and in silver foil! I hope!) on the magazine's spine.
I can see foxes and bears in the motif as well, can you?
Call for Submissions: Issue #23
The fall issue of UPPERCASE magazine will have a special focus on the art of calligraphy. I'd love to see your work and share it with our readers!
The submissions for "Calligraphy Auditions" are in two parts. Your digital submission and a mailed-in example of your work. The best submissions will be featured in the print edition of the magazine as well as on our blog.
Mail in a 5 x 7 example on card stock (either in an envelope or sent as a postcard) showing off your calligraphic skills by writing about why you love calligraphy or demonstrating what makes hand-lettered messages so appealing. The card should be exclusively calligraphic.
#201b - 908, 17th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
The online application form will close on July 21, 2014, so you must complete that before mailing anything. Mailed submissions should arrive before July 25, 2014.
To submit your work, click here.
The summer issue is freshly printed, but I'm busy working on the next one! In contrast to the colour issue I've just completed, issue #23 (October) will be monochromatic with a special focus on calligraphy.
I have to admit that I've devised this call for submissions so that I can have the pleasure of receiving your amazing examples of calligraphy... The submissions for "Calligraphy Auditions" are in two parts. Your digital submission (a bit about yourself, photos of you, your studio and work) PLUS a mailed-in example of your work showing off your love of the art of calligraphy. Certainly one of the most endearing aspect of calligraphy, particularly in correspondence, is the joy that a hand-lettered message provides its recipient. I look forward to receiving your submissions and appreciating them in person!
Please read the complete details on the submission page.