Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Natassa Pappa and I am the founder of Desired Landscapes magazine. My background is in graphic design, yet my studio expands the design practice through writing, walking lectures and urban research workshops.
In what city?
In Athens, Greece.
Desired Landscapes ...
Desired Landscapes is a bookish magazine reading into a diverse mix of cities. A pocket-sized collection of person-to-place bonds, urban observations and poetic snapshots, exploring the sense of a place and the notion of representation of the urban experience.
The idea emerged through my master’s thesis where I was researching the genre of city guides and more specifically maps. Desired Landscapes is somewhat of a research journal since then, as I am observing cities and look for the means of their representation through the eyes of the graphic designer. There is not so much bibliography on this topic, so this magazine works as a medium for like-minded creatives to test such perspectives.
We are looking for fascinating stories that have to do with the experience of the urban landscape and all the possible means of its representation – in text and imagery. We look back at history, as we project to the future. We care about raw personal narratives, obsessive research, distinct voices, and shift perspectives. Stories can be unconventional in nature, but they should always try to start conversations on the image of the city and today’s take on tourism.
Print: Why choose print? What kind of paper you use and why? Typography?
Editing all these little research discoveries in a print form reveals patterns and contrasts between cities. And this is where dialogue starts. To stress upon this method, all issues keep the same purple paper for the cover. Curious Skin is a very durable paper to protect this pocket-sized print and thick enough to host extra bold sans-serifs as a double foil. This design choice is a reference to the 20th-century city guides when typography could speak of a place’s character.
How's the public response?
We are only on our second issue, but the response till now was very positive. The exciting part is that our readers see the bigger picture and they are also interested in our expanded research to further printed matter, such as maps (eg: Into Stoas, und.Athens), but also to our walking tours (eg. Athens Walkthrough) and urban workshops.
Can you give us a tour of your local media scene?
For the last decade, Athens has an emerging scene in independent publishing, but mostly with a global audience. The good news is that this is slowing starting to show in the city as well, with more and more spaces embracing magazines.
Business: Good print mags get a lot of love, but doesn't always translate to sales or advertising. How're the sales? Advertising-wise, is it a normal approach of selling an ad page or more a brand ad approach?
Love and devotion, yes, totally. Good print magazines also call for expensive production too, which is not always reflected on their retail price.
I have chosen the most traditional approach, that of advertising, to fund the printing costs of our title, but this forms an editorial choice as well. There are titles today that aim for no advertising at all, but to me, these few pages are a great platform to first, define the profile of our readers (crucial for a new title), and then to inform them about services and products that they would enjoy. This is a romantic take on advertising, but this is how I see it as a kid growing up dreaming with 90s fashion magazines. The rest of the costs is covered by sales, our walking tours, events, and workshops.
What is your online strategy?
We are strictly a print-only magazine, that’s why there is so much focus on tactility. As mentioned above, the cover has a double foil and the bookbinding is made by hand to fit each reader’s touch.
Next, to that, we run a newsletter “Reading Cities Archive” every two weeks, with exclusive content from our collection of urban ephemera, such as postcards, city guides, maps, etc. We don’t publish any of this online. And then on Instagram, we hold one-to-one conversations with our readers, through a curated feed of posts and stories.
About design, what does your brand represent/reflect?
Of course in the world of niche magazines design can create fascinating results, especially for that moment that all titles fight in the kiosk. Lucky us we live in 2019, the age when it is more about the community and not the cover.
Our design is apparent in the details. Designing long texts with diverse imagery for such a small format was the biggest challenge, and this is where all our efforts were gone. I wanted a magazine to be easily read and carried around, that through its design will create a sense of comfort and anticipation.
What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day?
As Freya Stark writes “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” I am happy when I wake up to an inbox of new stories coming from cities I have never visited. This is the pay-off of this project. The people that you meet and the stories they have to share.
What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
From a long list, I will share the most crucial to me: consistency and perfection. Running a magazine keeps teaching me how to be consistent, while at the same time realizing that you can’t control anything. I leave the connection to perfection to you.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a magazine?
Running a magazine is a roller coaster which will treat you with the highest of feelings and the most stressful too. Staying passionate and naive – mostly naive – feels like the only way in.
Our second issue just launched, so for this fall we will be attending Indiecon and Imprint book fairs to meet our readers, as we will be editing issue 3.