Let’s Explore is a platform of curated inspiration; exploring the inspiring stories and travels of people who then create quality brands, products, food, magazines and design. Not interested in the marketing pitch, but rather in the ‘why’. Interview with Kilian Idsinga, founder of Let's Explore Magazine.
Can you tell about us, about your magazine
Let's Explore Magazine is a when-ready publication, that curates stories about inspiring people, projects, travels, brands and ideas, within a theme that changes with every issue. I started online, where I did the same. Only difference being, that it was not theme based. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to publish a printed magazine, as print is my first and biggest love. In the two years that the website was live, I build a community of people that inspired me and aperantly others as well. Once I felt that the idea for the platform and the concept made sense (I'm an incredible perfectionist, whatever I do has to make sense to me), I wrote down the theme for the first issue. This written down version of the theme worked as a brief for the contributors. The theme was 'BeLongIng' and what I wrote down, was how I interpreted the theme and its sub themes. From there, I challenged contributors from across the globe to submit their take on the theme. In the end,
I published 27 stories in a 176 page publication. As the stories came pouring in, I started on the initial design of the magazine. The two processes evolved side by side and made for an organic roller coaster. I shared several progress reports, for instance about the grid, in our online journal. It started as something I just wanted to share, being the type and grid geek that I am. Eventually, it turned out people really liked these work-in-progress posts, so I try to share as much as I can. The launch issue was structured in three chapters, as there are three sub themes. So some of the design choices were directly influenced by that. The next issue could turn out differently, so I'll be tweaking the design with every issue and therefor will keep sharing those WIPposts. I'm currently working on the theme for the next issue. Collecting, once again, specific interests of mine or the people I talk to via social media or in real life. Once these loose ideas are structured, I'll start writing down the theme, opening doors for new interpretations by contributors. The theme will be published on the website and will provide a possibility for storytellers to share their take on it, without much creative interference from my end. More on that later.
The stories that are published (both online and in print) are mainly contributor based. I strongly believe that everybody has an inspiring story to share and I want to facilitate that process. Like one of the stories in the launch issue states: "Your story matters". In the practical sense, this means that I try to limit my interference in the creation of an article. I will, though, make sure the story will fit the theme and sits nicely next to the other stories. The result of this concept is, that the writers, photographers and artists have a somewhat of a blank canvas to work with. Something that doesn't happen very often in an editorial project. I'm a firm believer in creative freedom and experimentation, so that's what I encourage the contributors to do. Don't set too many boundaries. For instance, the cover image of the launch issue, is part of an unintentional double exposed roll of film, made during one of the shoots for the magazine. As for my mission? I want people to be curious; enjoy beautiful, sad, encouraging and inspiring stories; but most of all, I want people – from the one end – to be able to share their stories in a gorgeously designed and published magazine. From the other end, I want people to be inspired by, enjoy and learn from the different views on a singular subject. It's not as difficult as it may sound. I'm not looking for answers to a problem, I'm looking for an interpretation of one theme, with an open mind, not judging but accepting a piece for the beauty of that piece.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Kilian Idsinga and I'm a graphic and editorial designer from the Netherlands. The past ten years, I've been designing magazines and books for a living. But I've been creating for as long as I can remember. Wether drawing and building as a kid or making music during my teenage years. It was hard to sit still, I was always busy. Actually, I'm struggling with that still. There are just so many things to do, te learn, to discover and to share with others. 36 hours in a day are simply not enough. Besides my full time design job, running this platform and publishing the magazine, I intensified my photography. Not only digital, but film photography as well. Like I said, there's so much great stuff to learn, to explore. It's something I inherited from my mother. She was an artist herself and had multiple projects going at ones. In painting, sculpting, writing or through installations. She did it all, besides running an occasional catering gig, hosting a B&B and taking part in cultural platforms in the city where she lived with my dad. I'm glad that she taught me how to live with a joy for life, exploring anything that captivates the heart and mind and taking full advantage of our time here. It's the base for how and why I put my heart and soul in Let's Explore Magazine. I miss her every day!
Print: Why choose print? What kind of paper you use and why? Typography?
(Explain) What I love most about print, is that it is able to offer a unique reading experience. The feel and smell of the paper as one leaves through the pages, the presence of a beautiful piece of curated content on my coffee table or on my bookshelves. Besides, it’s nice to be away from my screen every now and again! The selected, themed stories are published in a photography heavy, gorgeously designed and collectable publication. The magazine is printed on a heavy, matt paper stock, which is easy on the eyes for comfortable reading but complimenting the photography at the same time. Choosing the right paper is always a daunting task.
You go for a certain feel to each page, but that also results in a certain feel for the entire publication. And the two often don't go together for the full 100%. I wanted a heavy stock, through which the reader would physically experience the quality of the magazine with each turn of a page. The heavy stock would, at the same time, provide a solid base for the photography. When the paper is thinner, people tend to flip through pages faster, not fully noticing what's on each page. I wanted to avoid that, especially because there's such high quality photography in the magazine. The flip side to heavier paper stock, is that it becomes harder to open the magazine once more pages are added. Given the fact that I ended up with 176 pages, this was a big issue. I looked into a different binding, but couldn't afford that with this launch issue. Hopefully next issue though. Depending on how the pre sales will go haha. In the meantime, I selected a different paper stock, that has pretty much the best of all words, however, I do have an extensive wish list for the next issue.
How's the public response?
In one word: overwhelming!! I've been working on the platform for the past two years and been talking to a lot of people during that period about what my plans were. Besides that, I used those two years for building a "community" of inspiring on social media. Hoping, of course, they would join me in the next part of the adventure: venturing into print. So, all in all, quite a lot of people, without them knowing it, were responsible for kicking me in the but to keep on going. I'm incredibly grateful for that and all I can hope, is that I made that clear enough to everybody involved. The platform and magazine is, essentially, an on man "show", but that's not how I see it.
I want as many people as possible involved, in one way or another. During the crowdfunding campaign, I couldn't believe my luck, regarding how many people backed the project and how they went out of their way, to help me make this dream into a reality. I truly believe some lasting friendships were born thanks to the contacts made through the campaign. Even now, some three months after the completion of the campaign, people keep reaching out, to ask about how they can purchase a magazine and/or become part of the platform. The magazine is now stocked in 6 stores, in 5 different countries in pretty much every corner of the world. Of course, I’m hoping I can expand those, but small, calculated steps is what keeps me going at the moment. Even more so, because I still have my full time job! Besides inquiries about purchasing the magazine, a lot of people are reaching out to either contribute to the website (in the features section of the website) or are asking about the theme for the next issue. I bet you can understand that being happy about where things are going at the moment is a slight understatement :)
Business: Good print mags get a lot of love, but is not always translated to sales or advertising. How's the sales? Advertising wise, is it a normal approach of selling an ad page or more a brand ad approach?
Regarding sales of my launch issue, I can only say, it’s booming! It’s been three months since the launch and pretty much every single copy of the first print run of 500 copies has been sold. So needless to say I’m over the moon!! I’ve been reading and collecting (indie) magazines for quite some time now, and I must say, I very much like the way advertising is being approached at the moment. Looks like many titles are looking into ways for advertising to complement the content, instead of being an necessary addition to keep the magazine alive. Weather it be sponsored content, an ad section in the middle of the magazine or well designed ads that don’t intrude the overall look and feel of the magazine. The first issue of Let’s Explore Magazine is completely ad-free, although I did approach a couple of people and brands with several ideas about how to include advertising to the magazine. The initial respons was promising, so for the next issue, I will actually try and make that happen. How? Well, first of all, let me make the promise that content will always have first priority. I will not sell ad space, just to make money.
Having said that, I will have a couple of options regarding generating revenue with advertising online. I will offer limited banner space in our online journal. Besides that, I’m looking into having sponsored content in the features section of the website. Again, quality content first and I will always make clear when content is sponsored. A number of advertising options will be available in the magazine as well. Going from a mention in the back section of the magazine, to a full on collaboration/interview with a brand to tell their story. I’m still looking into how this will work and it will become clearer as the realization of the next issue comes closer. Of course I’m hoping for a number of advertisers, who fit the community and can add more than simply selling their product. But I’m not counting on that. So I’ve come up with an alternative. From the moment I published the first issue of Let’s Explore Magazine, I launched Let’s Explore Publishers.
It’s the creative agency that can help others, to make their project come true. If someone is planning to create a book, a publication or online platform I’m more than happy to use my skills as an editorial and graphic designer, and partner up with you to work on that project together. Let’s Explore Magazine is a project of my own, my resumé and in that sense my personal marketing tool. LEM is the result of hard work and dedication and it presents what I can and am willing to do. People and brands can expect the same dedication and hard work from me, if I’m working on their project. The money made from being hired, will go straight back into Let’s Explore Magazine, making sure I can keep a platform for inspirational storytellers alive an kicking. And above all, I can keep doing what I love doing most – be creative; design magazines, books and websites; and help others to tell their story –, without having to rely on advertising. I’m currently working on 3 Let’s Explore Publishers-projects, so it looks like the plan is working. And who knows, if things keep going like they are, I might be able to quit my job and do this full time.
I’m currently wrapping up the redesign of the website of Let’s Explore Magazine, to be relaunched very soon. I’ve added some new features to the website, the most important being the webshop. Besides being able to buy the printed magazine, I’m also offering LEMerchandise that was especially made for the launch issue and I’m working on a few projects for the webshop that, unfortunately, I can’t talk about yet. But it’s very exciting, to say the least. Besides the webshop, I have some amazing new stories lined up, to be published online. These are mainly submission based, so for anybody out there, wanting to share a story, please drop me a line. Once the website is finished and it can lead a life of its own again, I will be focussing on the Let’s Explore Publishers projects AND the new theme for the next issue. I’ll be announcing this theme not long from now and storytellers, once again, are more than welcome to send in their take on the theme. The best stories will included in the next printed issue. Don’t hesitate to send in your story. Even if you wouldn’t make the cut for the printed issue, there will be something special happening at the launch date.
And last but not least, I'll be going through my to-reach-out-to list of amazing storytellers I came across in the past couple of months. It’s a list I keep, of people who inspire me and I wish to collaborate with. I’ll be reaching out to them over the coming weeks, to see if they are up for a collabo, either online or in the printed version of the magazine. Exciting times ahead.