Let's reach this milestone together!

Dear Reader,

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.


The wisdom of calligraphers.

Calligraphers are wise people. Get to know all of these fine folks in the forthcoming issue of UPPERCASE.

Let the design marathon begin!

It's my annual Labour Day Weekend design marathon! These are last few days before the fall issue heads to the printer. Your subscription would be great encouragement... thank you. (If you're a brand new subscriber, start with #22 and I'll ship that to you on Tuesday and #23 will follow in October.)


The cover reveal!

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 spine pattern for fall

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?

In Tags

Calligraphy Auditions: deadline is July 21


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.

UPPERCASE magazine
#201b - 908, 17th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
T2T 0A3

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.


dip, splatter, scratch: intimate calligraphy

{ via @fatwreck RT @garywhitta }

The call for calligraphic submissions is open!


Calligraphy Auditions

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.