Makeshift issue 12
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What is Makeshift?
Makeshift is a field guide to hidden creativity. We publish four issues a year in print and online. Each issue uncovers unique and unlikely stories of street-level ingenuity from a huge variety of places.
What makes it different to the rest?
We recently relaunched with a new design and editorial direction. This forced the team to confront why we print when so much media is consumed digitally. We decided to push forward what we call the “metastory” each issue tells across articles to convey the issue’s theme. For the Navigation issue, we strung together stories as diverse as blind pedestrians navigating Mumbai and a guy building a spacesuit in his living room, into something that makes the reader glad she has the whole issue instead of one click-bait story she found on Twitter.
Who makes Makeshift?
Makeshift is pieced together by a distributed team of 15 part-timers across six countries, with contributors scattered across 80. I made issue one from New York with my co-founder Myles Estey in Mexico City, and then we met in person for the first time at our release party. It’s a great case study in building a distributed organisation on a shoestring where everyone feels empowered and motivated to create their best work.
Who reads it?
We appeal to anyone looking for creative inspiration in unlikely places, whether for their own projects or out of personal interest. Our readers span a bunch of different industries and geographies. They tend to be super engaged, and we can always count on them to share interesting stories with us, which is awesome.
Why do you work in magazines?
I love the way a magazine can capture a cultural movement and a particular perspective on the world. The epitome of this for me is the Whole Earth Catalog, which was like the internet before the internet but then faded away when it was no longer relevant. It captured a point in time so perfectly. I come from a background of research on informal economies, or underground grey and black markets. These businesses are inherently untracked because they’re not licensed, yet they comprise two thirds of global employment. Makeshift is my way of starting to pinpoint and document the creativity going on in these noisy markets that hasn’t been recognised elsewhere.
Aside from the print magazine, what else does Makeshift do?
That’s the indie mag trend now, isn’t it – making money from something that’s not the magazine. Makeshift has done everything from field research for the UN to galleries to a graduate design course. The most popular part of our course was an “informal economy scavenger hunt,” where students trounced about New York in “dollar vans” and talked to street vendors of all sorts. We’re excited about turning this activity into a series of one-day workshops through the Makeshift Institute, our consulting and education arm.
What would you change about Makeshift if you could?
We need to grow. We need people working continuously on creative applications of social media and public relations. As a media company, there’s a huge opportunity to build a bigger digital brand on top of what we’ve done in print, but we haven’t been able to maintain the consistent schedule needed to get the exposure we need. We count on our readers to share Makeshift virally, but I wish we had the bandwidth to do more ourselves.
Where do you see Makeshift in five years?
I love what we’re doing with the magazine, so I’d like to see that grow to a point where it can really feed into and support the newer work we’re doing with the Institute. At the same time, I want to keep the culture we have now where team members are nomadic and engaged in projects outside of Makeshift because that’s what keeps things fresh and interesting.