Behind the scenes: Nous magazine

by Steve Watson in February 2015
Current affairs

Sitting somewhere between a large zine and a small magazine, Nous is made in Manchester and uses each issue to explore a different theme related to mental health.

By turns playful and heart breaking, it’s a beautiful and very personal piece of publishing created by ex-Manchester Met student Lisa Lorenz. I caught up with the editor and creative director to find out more about her project.

Nous-magazine

According to the cover, Nous is about “modern mind culture and empathic thinking”, which seems to boil down to mental health. Does that sound right?
Yeah – it is. I just tried to find a broader term so people aren’t scared of picking it up. Nous lets people get a bit closer to the discussion without feeling overrun by it.

What made you want to start the magazine in the first place?
I’m from a small village in southwest Germany and my family has a history of mental health issues, so when I came to Manchester to study at MMU I had a vague idea that I wanted my masters to involve mental health.

I’ve always been interested in magazines and publishing, and how it affects people if they read something physical, so I decided to make a mental health zine. I finished the masters in 2013, and ever since then I’ve continued to make Nous.

Nous-magazine

It has a lovely handmade quality – how do you make it?
Each issue I decide on a theme and send out an open call for contributions. The theme is usually influenced by what’s happening around us politically and socially, so for example the next one is panic, and that’s influenced by what’s happening in Greece, for example, with the recent elections and the financial issues, and how that could influence mental health.

The university lets me use their risograph, and we produce it in a small team. We print 500 copies, and each issue has its debut at the Manchester Print Fair, then after that I send out copies to zine shops and bookshops, and sometimes when I go travelling I just leave one in places so people can find it.

Nous-magazine

Do you have aspirations for it grow bigger? Or do you want to stay riso printed and limited edition?
It would be nice to grow, but it wouldn’t feel the same if it’s not hand printed. We touch every page; we staple it, we trim it, so it’s really personal. It would be interesting to see how it develops and changes if we make it a proper magazine.

I love the effect of the riso printing, especially with the type you’ve chosen. It almost has the feeling that it’s not there. It’s very…
Quiet? Fragile?

Exactly – and you wouldn’t get that in the same way if you printed offset.
That’s right. And it’s not as commercial as it would need to be if I had to find funding for a big project. I’m a bit scared of making that step!

Nous-magazine

At absolute heart, regardless of whether it’s in this form or any other in future, what’s the thing you want people to take from it?
I’m just hoping that it encourages people to talk about their own problems and listen to other people in a more open-minded way. Because at the moment I think the topic of mental illness is still a bit scary for a lot of people, but it doesn’t need to be like that.

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