For the past 12 years, Monocle has sought to use the best paper and printers – now they’re even better. So what’s changed and how does it work?
Have you had a feel? Have you wondered why the pictures look a bit crisper? Do you get the sense that something’s changed? You’re right.
Last month marked monocle’s 12th anniversary and, during that time, we’ve worked with great printers and paperstocks that have helped us stay true to one of our founding principles: that magazines should invest in the crafts behind their existence. This includes journalism and photography, of course, but also putting ink on paper. We’ve always used ambitious printing to underscore our ideas, often using different weights and makes of paper in a single issue. Now we are changing.
The decision to move our printing from the UK is, in part, a response to the UK government’s seeming indifference to the needs of businesses as the country prepares to leave the EU. As this magazine went to press, nobody had a clue whether we would be in or out of the EU at the end of March. For small and medium-sized businesses such as monocle, that thrive on the ease of their products and staff crossing borders, politicians have seemed disconnected from commerce – and people’s lives. Would paper shipments fail to arrive on time if the UK crashed out with no deal? Would issues trucked from the UK sit in Dover for days? So we are now printing in Germany – this magazine is the very first issue to come off the presses near Hamburg.
We also used this moment of change to think bigger. We loved the tactile paper that had seen us from launch to here but was there something new that could offer even greater clarity? Jackie, our production director (see below), brought samples back to London. Richard, our creative director, ordered dummy issues and everyone got to have a good sniff and feel. And finally we had a winner, one that ups our game in a market where too many fail to understand the value of paper. And why stop there? Our editors and writers have made some subtle but important changes on page too, while our art team have looked afresh at layouts and fonts.
We hope you like the issue and, as always, we welcome your feedback.
This is where the magic happens. We edit and produce 10 issues of monocle every year, plus the forecast, the escapist and our seasonal newspapers. It’s in this building that our books team develop our travel guides and annuals; it’s also home to Monocle 24, our radio station.
Twelve years ago, when we were in the process of launching monocle, we wanted to be different. Our papers were no exception: we used uncoated papers when gloss was the norm and we used a traditional packaging paper (think a fragrance box) for our cover, which was definitely not the norm. This decision led to an eventful first issue (the only issue to not have a UV varnish on the front cover).
Upon launch we had a flurry of enquiries from all corners of the world asking us about the paper we were using and where it came from. But we had to keep schtum: the mill couldn’t make enough paper to meet demand, so we would have been threatening our own supply by revealing the details.
Over the past 12 years we have introduced more papers in different formats, constantly trying to push ourselves (and the printers) to keep monocle at the top of the pile of what people admire and use as inspiration. But the tactile paper we launched with changed over the years; it’s no longer the same uncoated stock we loved. So it was time for a rethink.
As many paper mills are going bust, the pool of suitable uncoated papers has been reducing rapidly – and gloss paper was not an option. This is how I came upon the new matt-coated paper you are now holding. The coating gives us that extra lift on the colour that we were looking for while maintaining the tactile feel of an uncoated paper – and the warmer tone makes it easier on the eye.
We think we’ve got it right – and we hope that you do too.