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Kirsten Algera, editor-in-chief of MacGuffin Magazine

Kirsten Algera, editor-in-chief of MacGuffin Magazine

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Who are you and what is your background? 

I am the Editor-in-Chief of MacGuffin Magazine, a design biannual featuring unexpected stories about the life of ordinary things. Each edition is based around a single object, uncovering the personal and sometimes curious relationships we have with the stuff that surrounds us. 

In what city? 

We are based in Amsterdam.

MacGuffin Magazine…

Coming from the world of design, we always wondered why most of the design platforms are focused on innovation, new products, and VIP designers. There seems to be little interest in the ‘afterlife’ of design and anonymous makers. We think the design needs a broader approach than the commercial one offered in most of the design magazines. So we decided to make a magazine that could offer an alternative approach to describing the design, one that would use an object as a starting point to explore the enormous range of (personal) stories it generates when it’s used: from the mundane to the downright exotic.

Editorial wise… 

We borrowed the word ‘MacGuffin’ from filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. It was a term he coined for the things in his movies that set the story in motion. We absolutely share his idea that an object can be a sublime story device. It perfectly incorporates our idea to celebrate the narrative quality of objects. This is why every issue focuses on one object. In the past, we explored the life of the bed, the window, the rope, the sink, the cabinet, the ball, and the trousers. 

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

We want the magazine to feel like a small exhibition, something you can keep and carry with you. The print is essential to achieve this. It offers us the possibility to have longer reads, but also to focus on visual essays on the subject. Graphic design is a very important part of MacGuffin Magazine, and Sandra Kassenaar is not only our graphic designer but also a member of our editorial team. Vice versa Ernst and I are not only editors but also art directors. So we always aim to intertwine content and form.

How’s the public response? 

If you look at our print run, the fan mail and the awards we get, the response is great. Since 2015, MacGuffin has been lauded with thirteen international Design and Magazine Awards: Best Magazine of the Year, Editor of the Year, Art Director of the Year, Best Design Research: we’re deeply honored. But we value the fact that MacGuffin is used as an educational model in design schools, and considered as another way of looking at the design. The best compliment we ever got was a student of the Design Academy who used MacGuffin as a verb; “Let’s MacGuffin this”. Seventy-five percent of our readership is < 30 years, so we hope we are facing a bright future. 

Can you give us a tour of your local media scene? 

Amsterdam is a wonderful, vibrant city with lots of international creatives and one of the worlds best magazine stores: the Athenaeum Newscentre. So we’re happy to be based here, although I have to say our scope is definitely international and we’re more abroad than at home.                                                       


Business: Good print mags get a lot of love, but is not always translated with sales or advertising. How’re the sales? Advertising-wise, is it a normal approach of selling ad pages or more a brand ad approach? 

 Since the first issue, our print run has grown 700 %, so we’re really happy that the magazine is a success. We were lucky that the first issues were generously sponsored by a cultural foundation in The Netherlands, like the Fund for Creative Industries and Fonds21. They gave us the opportunity to develop the content and editorial formula. Advertising-wise, we have the impression that the interest in traditional ads is on the wane. Brands are much more interested in collaborating, either in the form of an advertorial or in the form of presentations, exhibitions, feedback, et cetera. We are happy with this development; I think it is delivering much more for both parties.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a magazine? 

“If you don’t have a budget, have a point of view”, like famous editor Tina Brown used to say.

Upcoming projects 

We aim to expand MacGuffin into an international platform that includes the activities we do next to the magazine: exhibitions and installations, field clubs, workshops, and art direction projects focused on “The Life of Things”. Recently we did a project in China that was the starting point for this. For the Guangzhou Triennial, we made a site-specific installation and movie, working together with design and architecture students from the area. The installation depicted the intricate relationships between different cultures in Guangzhou through everyday life objects. We plan to do similar projects this autumn in the Middle East.

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