Le Dépanneur : corner store art - Baron Mag
Le Dépanneur is a biannual arts and culture magazine, founded as a platform for creative work and the cities that make room for it. This young publication now based in NY has already a strong following with issue 02 on its way. Interview with founder Emma Macdonald.
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Can you tell about us, about your magazine?

I started Le Dépanneur in my last year of school at McGill (in Montreal) for a few different reasons. I wanted to have a project that was totally independent from school, and Montréal has such an interesting arts scene – and quite an insular English arts scene – that as soon as I started thinking about a magazine there were people I knew I wanted to feature. At the beginning, a big part of it was wanting to show off the amazing things my  friends were doing (in music, film, food, photography, etc.) and it grew pretty quickly to include people who I didn’t know, but whose work I admired.

My family is big into print, and I’ve loved magazines for as long as I can remember; this was just the first time it felt like the moment to start one myself. I was also applying for jobs and deciding what I wanted to do after graduation at this point, and in hindsight it’s become a great project to have in that respect – but that actually wasn’t on my mind when I started.

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Editorial wise... 

The project has evolved into a look at how a city can encourage – or discourage –creative work. Seeing this happen in Montreal is partly why I started the magazine, so that’s kind of become the lens through which I’m now bringing other cities into the fold.

For example, in issue 02 I talk to Mac Demarco about his music, but also about how his different environments and moving around quite a bit has influenced his work.

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Editorial content is intentionally pretty varied. This is partly a reflection of my own interests, and also that I think interdisciplinary projects tend to yield the most interesting results. I like the idea that both Le Dépanneur’s readers and contributors can all bring different things to the table. And, I often find magazine issue “themes” either a bit forced or a bit gratuitous.

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Because it only comes out biannually, I make a point of limiting content that is too time- stamped (I would never do reviews, for example) but other than that it is meant to be a platform for any kind of creative work and discussion. The underlying interest in the influence of creative environments has come about pretty organically. The title has hinted at it from the beginning: a “dépanneur” is a corner store in Montreal, so the project itself reflects where it came from.

I look for creatives who in some way or another are immersed in their surroundings, and are doing work that either isn’t getting enough attention yet or is just beginning to. It’s exciting to have created an opportunity to give that attention, and comes with some responsibility as well.

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Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Austin, grew up in Vancouver, went to school in Montreal and now live in New York (and have brought the magazine with me). So, my interest in a city’s influence comes a bit from that.

Right now, I am working freelance on a few different projects alongside this one: doing research for David Zwirner Books – the publishing arm of the David Zwirner gallery – and writing for Architizer. 

I’m also about to start applying to grad schools for architecture. My interests are pretty all over the place – clearly – but basically I’m interested in design in different forms, and how much of an effect it can have.

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Print: Why choose print? What kind of paper do you use and why? Typography?

For me, making something beautiful in print held the whole appeal. When it came time to create a website for the project – which I think is totally necessary to have as well – I had a really hard time with it. I was like “ this isn’t why I did this!” The idea of putting something physical out into the world was what was exciting to me.

Issue 01 uses an 8-point CS1 cover and 28 lb. interior. The printers I work with usually publish art books, so it was a bit of a back-and- forth making sure it felt like a magazine; especially since Le Dépanneur doesn’t have ads, and because of this is not going to look like a commercial publication no matter what. T Magazine is my graphic design dream, so I didn’t want it to be too stiff. I knew I wanted a 9 by 12” format for the same reason.

I used Garamond throughout the first issue, but may make some changes in the second.

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I’ve been looking at Akzidenz Grotesk as an option recently. Design has been a huge learning experience: I was recently talking to another editor about how my first proof was with 12-point font, and how crazy that is! Issue 02 will keep the same feel but be a bit more consistent; every choice will just be a bit more intentional.

The only part of the design that I didn’t do myself was the title font. Having a strong visual identity for the first issue was important to me, and the cover was a huge part of that. So, a friend of a friend at Group SJR in New York – Namita Devadas – took on that part of its look. The rest of the layout was probably better off because of having gone through that process with Namita, and articulating to someone else what I wanted.

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How's the public response?

Public response has been really positive. I’m working to reach a wider audience with issue 02, but one of the greatest results of the project has been getting feedback, and meeting like-minded individuals whose attention it’s caught.

I distributed issue 01 myself – which has its pros and cons, but has definitely introduced me to people who will support the project going forward (having it stocked by Thirty Magazines in Houston has become one of the most unexpected and lovely partnerships, for example). For issue 02, I’ll also be getting in touch with a couple distributors further afield. Content has moved beyond North America now and ideally distribution will reflect that.

Le Dépanneur was just recently part of an art book fair in Stockholm, and I’m hoping to table at both the New York Art Book Fair and 8-Ball Zine Fair in New York this fall.

Being part of those events has such a big appeal – because of exposure, obviously – but also because you get the chance to meet the people who are drawn to your project. I wish I could ask every stranger who has bought a copy what they think (and have basically done so whenever I can).

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Business: Good print magazines get a lot of love, but that’s not always translated to sales or advertising. How are the sales? Advertising wise, is it a normal approach of selling an ad page or more a brand ad approach?

That’s been tough, and because only the first issue has come out, I’m still learning how the project can be sustainable. That having been said; sales have been really good. The print run was very small, but issue 01 has sold out in most physical stores and completely online.

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And, the project doesn’t have ads. In early days this was partly due to not having the manpower to figure out how to get them, but now it’s more of a decision. Because of the scale and release schedule of the magazine, every feature is so deliberate, and I think ads would take the reader out of the issue’s narrative – even if they were well suited. Claire Milbrath at Editorial Magazine (based in Montreal) was a big help at the very beginning in telling me different ways they make back printing costs; for them it comes a lot from events and merchandise, and I think that route will be a better fit for Le Dépanneur in the future as well.

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Upcoming projects.

Issue 02! The second issue will print early July, and will launch in New York in August. Issue 01 didn’t have a launch party, and I think its important to have one this time around; each issue is filled with such incredible people, and an event seems like a great excuse to get them all in one room.

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On top of that, it will be a good opportunity to have some of the visual work and music on display/played live as well. This so-called “resurgence” in print publishing seems to be partly because of a community of people it’s created, and that’s something I’d like this project to be part of more and more; especially since its only biannual, I think interim projects and events like this will be really valuable going forward.

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