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Define Magazine: a collective case study

Define Magazine: a collective case study

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Check out the new issue Define: home. Now available at

Can you tell about us, about your magazine 

After co-creating Kinfolk and going through that process, I knew it was something I wanted to try again – creating a magazine. As a graphic designer, I create work for clients and often find myself wishing for opportunities to almost go back and do what I did in school – working with prompts on small personal projects – create something all my own without the client filter. I had a hunch that other artists had similar feelings and that’s how Define came about. It’s an experimental arts magazine – centred on a different word each issue. Each word is then defined by a unique set of artists through various mediums. We also do features on artists whose work fit the theme. So far it’s been exciting to see artists in both issues 001 and 002 explore the same theme through different perspectives. We hope it’s a magazine that resonates with artists and art admirers so that we are able to accumulate a collection of definitions that create a beautiful anthology to be enjoyed and re-defined for years to come.

And editorial-wise?

The wonderful thing about Define is that it’s not a lot of art direction from us. It’s all about the voice of each artist. To be honest, it’s a little frightening while waiting on content – I’m never sure it’s going to be cohesive, but so far it’s worked!

When choosing content, I tend to be drawn to pieces that are more conceptual rather than literal – pieces that make me think about it days later. Or pieces that show a perspective I’d never thought of before.

Our mission? To create a world wide conversation and artistic experiment with each issue. For shape, we did a #defineshape hashtag contest with VSCO and had over 4500 entries. It was incredible to see all the different interpretations and perspectives. I hope as we grow, we can create more and more partnerships like the one we had with VSCO — to create large scale experiments within our artist communities.

Tell us about yourself:

 I am a freelance graphic designer and art director. I have a tiny home office where I work part-time. I’m a full-time mom of two beautiful children – Jane 2 years-old and Miles 4 months-old. My husband is my partner in just about everything. He’s managing the business side of things for Define and then is getting his PhD at the university of Chicago when he’s not hanging out with us and making Define shipments and answering stockist emails. We live along Lake Michigan, so that’s usually where you can find us during the warmer months.

Why choose print? What kind of paper you use and why? What about typography?  

As a graphic designer, I just love to hold and feel the finished work. There is something very different about printing your work vs. putting it online. I’m much more thoughtful if I know it’s going to be printed. We realized this was a gamble when we began. Printing is a large expense for a new company, but it was a risk we felt was worth taking.

How’s the audience response? 

Wonderful! We’ve been so impressed with the submissions – it’s exciting to see artists get inspired to create from what we’re doing. Currently we’re stocked in 18 shops in 8 different countries around the world, which we’re thrilled about since we only just launched issue 002. We get new stockiest inquiries every week, so we’re hoping to see that number grow.

Good print mags get a lot of love that doesn’t always translate to sales or advertising. How are the sales? Advertising wise, do you have a traditional approach of selling an ad page or more of a brand ad approach? 

Great question! We launched the magazine pretty quietly. Issue 001 is quite small – we created it almost as an experiment just to see if people would bite. When they did, we decided to go for 002. We’re really happy with the way our sales are growing with Issue 002 as opposed to 001. As for advertising, we don’t have any right now. We’re looking to partner with brands however in the future to make the advertising more interactive rather than a simple ad at the beginning of the magazine.