"EIGHT magazine aspires to publish and promote young contemporary arts and artists. The magazine functions as a gallery or museum. You have now taken the first step to enjoy our exhibition space and experience the variety of young contemporary art and artists. Ranging from graphic artists, to illustrators, typographers, photographers and more, EIGHT offers exciting art and artists to all." From its home base in The Netherlands, EIGHT magazine has since 2011 created print masterpieces for readers. From those pages, it's easy to fall in love with artistes and discover Netherlands' and abroad's rich contemporary art scene. Interview with Jeroen Smeets, creative director at Eight and and running the art agency YOUR:OWN.
What's the story behind EIGHT?
I used to work as an editor-in-chief of a board sports magazine in the Netherlands called RELOAD. As great as that was, and as great as magazines are, I was looking for something more and I thought that magazines by themselves were missing something. I wanted to add an extra functionality to the magazine. With that in mind, I started brainstorming and figuring out what this should be. That eventually led to become EIGHT magazine. We publish a high quality, big format magazine with a sole focus on contemporary art and illustration. Our magazine measures 30 by 40 centimeters and for every issue we invite eight artists to make an artwork based on a theme. We print the artworks full page so that each page in the magazine becomes an art print that
you can take out and frame. Best of it all, the magazine is available for free at selected retailers in Europe.
How does that translate to an editorial policy?
We are not a traditional magazine that has features, interviews and other types of articles. Our content is boiled down to the essence. We feature eight artists who each create a unique artwork. For each issue, we collaborate with a sponsor, and together with them we pick a theme for the issue and we brief the artists on that particular theme. Previous themes that we worked with were 'Endless summer feelings', 'Art of Music', 'Team effort' and more.
As the editor of the magazine I curate eight artists that fit within the theme, and work with them on creating their artworks. We try to keep the style of artists as wide as possible, which keeps it interesting for myself because I'm always on the look out for new artists.
Why choose print? What kind of paper you use and why?
What was most important for me when I started EIGHT magazine was to make something tangible. And along the way we realized we needed to give our paper an additional functionality, aside from it being a printed material. That's why we focused on full page art on this big format, giving everybody the opportunity to take the pages of our magazine and hang them on their walls. We print on a 180 grams matte paper with a coating, to give the paper more body and make it a premium product.
What has been the readers’ response?
The public response has been very well. Our first issue had a run of 2000 copies and was gone in no time. I kept seeing people who posted photos of the artworks hanging on their wall, which was amazing to see. To realize that people understand it and appreciated it the way we envisioned it. I also know that some people have a couple of frames hanging in their house, and change the artworks as soon as a new issue comes out.
Business: Good print mags get a lot of love, but is not always translated to sales or advertising. How are the sales? Advertising-wise, do you sell ad pages or have a brand ad approach?
The way we work is that we sell the whole issue as a Creative Brand Document. Each issue has only one advertiser, which is the sponsor of the entire issue. However, we don't feature any ads in the magazine. Instead we look together with the brand to see what theme supports their brand the best, and translate their philosophy to creative output by our artists. Through a mix of our independent distribution and a custom made distribution for the sponsor, we make sure that our audience gets to see the issue, but it also supports the brand and their retailers. But it's not easy of course. It takes a bigger commitment from the advertiser, because they need to carry the costs of the magazine by themselves. And timing is essential, it needs to fit with the marketing plans from the brand. Usually it takes about a year of talking and figuring out how to make it work before the actual magazine comes out. On the other hand, I only need to convince one brand instead of twenty.
Any upcoming projects?
Right now, we are actually looking into putting a book together. I'm talking with a good friend of mine who runs an independent publishing house from New York. We're brainstorming a lot now on how to translate all of the qualities that the magazine has into a book. Obviously we don't want to make 'just' a book, we want to make it more tangible than that. Meanwhile we are continuously running our 'Artist of the Week' feature through our social media (Instagram and Facebook), which is a much appreciated feature in the meantime.