Slow down & come together: Graphius interviews Kinfolk

Slow down & come together: Graphius interviews Kinfolk

Kinfolk started out as an independent magazine based out of Portland, Oregon, about togetherness, food and the sharing of ideas. Now it’s a powerful force in publishing with a broader focus and a readership that’s spread across the globe. Graphius magazine asked its publishing director, Eddie Mannering, to join the dots for us.

Graphius Magazine: Did Kinfolk have a winning recipe from the start?

Eddie Mannering: Essentially, yes. The brand got a lot of traction right from the start. Kinfolk was launched in 2011, which was a strange, transitional moment for lifestyle magazines. With many older titles closing and the focus very much moving to digital publishing, there was a gap waiting to be filled.

kinfolk magazine spread

GM: What was different about Kinfolk?

EM: Kinfolk was really the first original-concept publication focused on community, coming together and slowing down. I think it resonated because it offered an antidote to the huge digital shift at the time. Sometimes publications catch a certain moment and Kinfolk did that.

GM: Kinfolk has a very specific identity and vibe, but the topics it covers are broad-ranging, from home, interiors, work and style to culture. What’s the kind of content that makes you think ‘Kinfolk readers would love this’?

EM: We’re interested in stories about care, creativity, community and culture, those topics remain the core brand values and are what we have always focused on.

indie magazine printing

GM: In 2015 you moved your headquarters from the USA to Denmark. You also have offices in Japan and South Korea. What do these location choices reflect about the magazine?

EM: At the time we moved to Copenhagen a lot of our contributors were located in Scandinavia. A lot of the content was in sync with the values in Japanese and Scandinavian cultures.

GM: Now that it’s such an international publication, to what extent do you get to work with the whole team?

EM: I’m based in the UK but regularly travel to our office in Copenhagen and further afield to New York and Seoul, where we also have a community space. I feel privileged to work with such a talented group of individuals who are all the very best in their field.

GM: Your role is publishing director. Normally quite a stressful job  – or is it all scented candles and slowness when you work at Kinfolk?

EM:
I’m not sure my job feels slow – there’s always so much going on! I’m lucky because my role is so varied, and no two days are the same. One day I could be discussing the cover design of our latest book with our creative team and the next working with one of our advertising partners on sponsored-content. Of course, things can feel stressful when we’re on a tight deadline or things don’t go to plan, but that’s what makes the job fun, right?!

GM: True, deadlines and the need to improvise can also stoke the fires of creativity. Something your readers know all about: in 2016 Kinfolk’s co-founder Nathan Williams mentioned in an interview that around 70 per cent of the magazine’s readership worked in creative industries. Is that still the case?

EM: Yes, people working in a creative field are still a large proportion of our readership. Kinfolk is read by all sorts of people interested in design, fashion and culture.

GM: This seems to be reflected in the appearance of the magazine. The covers are sleek and unfussy, with no splashy headlines or overcrowding of elements … everything seems meticulously balanced.

EM: The covers of Kinfolk have always been quite minimal, not just the layouts, but also the styling. This is a key element which has carried through from Issue One. Even though the design has evolved hugely and matured over the years, and we’re always looking at ways to tweak things.

magazine print design

GM: This clean aesthetic suggests a certain ease and dignity. Perhaps this impression is also due to the absence of certain topics in the magazine. Does Kinfolk try and remain apolitical?

EM:
Yes, wherever possible. Our content focuses on social issues and not political, although sometimes the lines can be blurry. In looking at ways of life, social issues come up frequently and we address these, but we try to remain apolitical.

GM: Speaking of contemporary lifestyles, how does your online content relate to the print magazine?

EM: We’re very much a brand focused on print, so what you see online is a mirror of what’s in print. We offer digital subscribers access to back issues (from issue 14) and other online exclusives. We still believe Kinfolk is best enjoyed in print. That said, we’re working on a completely new website that will launch next year. This will have some truly exciting innovations and will expand hugely on what we offer digital subscribers.

GM: When it comes to printing, Kinfolk has a trusted relationship with the London-based printer Park Communications, which recently became part of the Graphius Group. Why has Park been your go-to?

EM: We’re grateful to [managing director] Alison Branch and her team at Park for helping to streamline the printing of Kinfolk. We moved all our pre-press colour work to Park, which has meant our creative team have more time to work on each issue. This in turn reduces pressure on our publishing schedule. They’re also able to deliver the quantities we require much quicker and to a better standard than others.

GM: Park is also known as a standard-bearer for sustainable printing. Is this issue important to Kinfolk and its readers?

EM: Absolutely, sustainability is a hugely important part of our business. Park are renowned as one of the UK’s most eco-friendly printers and will shortly be fully carbon neutral. They only use renewable energy and their inks are vegetable-based. All the papers we use are FSC certified and our packaging is made from 100% recycled materials.

GM: Another factor both Kinfolk and Park have a lot to say about is the importance of quality. Could you give a practical example of how that is manifested in your collaboration?

EM: Sure. Take the example of our Fall 2022 edition, which saw the first ever insert in Kinfolk. This was produced as part of a partnership with the champagne house Krug. It took a lot of dummies and paper trials to get it just right. But that’s why we value our relationship with Park: they understand how important quality is and will work with us until we’re happy with the result.

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Park is proud to be the UK-leading printer of indie magazines. Read more about magazine printing with Park, here.

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