Ditto magazine shines a light on the joy of making

by Grace Wang in February 2018
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Art & design

We recently rounded up our favourite magazines that explore creativity, work and entrepreneurship, and many of these titles celebrate the sense of fulfilment that comes with creating something meaningful. Tapping right into this, Ditto is a new magazine founded by a writer and a print factory owner.

Their auspicious pairing resulted in a meticulously considered piece of print, from the paper stock that optimally showcases photography, to the style of writing that was especially commissioned for print. We got in touch with founder Phil James to talk about capturing people’s personality on paper, the vulnerability of pursuing a creative career, and the things he learned from having a print expert as his co-founder.

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What’s Ditto magazine?
Ditto is a print magazine about the joy of making. Volume One explores various industries and skill sets, such as tapestry weaving, novel writing and sustainable farming. The running thread through all of our features is a celebration of the processes of creation, rather than the output.

It’s created in partnership with my good friend Paul Lyward, and it’s really a combination of our interests. I’m a writer and content manager, and Paul owns and runs Windsor Print, where Ditto is printed. We wanted to make a magazine that we would love to read, and to make it in a way that honoured that common thread; not looking at metrics or sales, but just enjoying the process of working with the photographers, writers, makers, printers and designers to create something we could all take pride in.

You say you noticed in the magazine’s interviewees “A dedication to the craft that outweighs the material benefits the craft brings”. Could you elaborate?
We feature people from a wide variety of industries. But for everyone involved we saw that the driving reason for creating wasn’t commercial or critical success – it was the feeling of mastering a technique, sharing a story or making something meaningful.

They all take a huge amount of care in their craft – they’re invested in it, connected to it. Creating something from scratch carries such a strong sense of ownership with it; no consumer or audience will ever be as close to what you make than you are.

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The features all take a very well-considered format — it’s not just all traditional interviews. Can you tell us about the editorial direction of Ditto?
The editorial format was really led by our subjects. Sometimes supplying parameters helps the clarity of a piece, other times encouraging a subject to express themselves is the best route to capturing their voice.

One of my favourite editorial pieces was with Nashville fashion designer Ashley Balding – the editorial is a free form conversation between her and visual artist Jordan Short. It’s a little surreal at times and quite spontaneous, but I can’t think of a better way to capture Ashley’s personality in print.

I loved Alicia Waller’s piece. What’s something you learned from her about pursuing a creative career?
Alicia is always that inspirational and challenging. Her piece is incredibly open and honest about the vulnerability required to pursue a creative career, in her case singing. One thing that really stuck with me from Alicia’s feature is her realisation that her creativity took shape when she “lessened the distance between herself and her work”. I think that’s such a powerful insight for anyone trying to create and present something powerful.

As a writer, I find it a tough lesson to heed. I often write with different voices, as different people, for different audiences, in different mediums, which all makes it easier to explain my creative choices as a response to a client’s needs. But to do what Alicia does; create something truly personal then share it with the world, that’s something to admire.


What are some benefits of the magazine being made in partnership with Windsor Print?
From the outset it totally changed the process of creating of the magazine. Our colour palette was chosen with Paul’s knowledge of how the pages would turn out, even our choices of which photographers to feature were influenced by how their work would display on our chosen paper. Their expertise continued to shape the magazine right through to creating custom packaging as it got sent out. Our amazing designers, Alice Rogers and Lieke Dröge created our graphic identity with great awareness of how the print would impact their vision.

Do you have any advice on printing for aspiring magazine makers?
I’d say you have to take advantage of the medium, otherwise it loses its value. People will spend longer with your work and will come back to it, re-reading and absorbing it over a longer period of time. This means approaching content creation in a different way to online; write and commission specifically for print.

Also, learn to love the printing process. If you can, visit a factory and consider how the methods will impact your magazine. And find a printer who genuinely cares about the quality of your magazine, it will show in the end product.


Top image by Paul Akinrinlola

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