5 November 2012

B.Informed Publishing Nostalgia

During my recent extended visit to Philadelphia, I was able to dust off some old zip discs and CDs to find the digital pieces of a publishing puzzle which was smashed apart back in 2004–5. At that time, a small group of Philly friends and I were producing and publishing the urban lifestyle magazine B.Informed. We were working hard, being creative and simply having fun together making this thing and getting it out there. Suddenly, and to our surprise, people actually started to like it. Thanks to shameless cold calls, physically pressing the flesh, sending out press kits in the mail, handing out sample issues at events and spray painting our upside-down Phillies logo across town, B.Informed acquired some exposure as well as advertising money, and by issue #5 we were distributed across the U.S. and Canada by Tower Records, Ubiquity, Armadillo and Doormouse.

Sketch for unchosen "B" logo.
This was less than 10 years ago, but even then, online social networking and publishing barely existed, so our printed magazine had to spread through old school distribution. Self publishing back then was much more risky, because it meant large production runs with fingers crossed that issues would actually sell. That's exactly what we did. We pooled our own cash along with the advertising money and found a printer up in Queens. I remember the four of us, Amani, Jeanine, Ryan and I borrowing my mom's car and driving up to a print house in the industrial section of Queens (right next to the graffiti spot, Fun Factory). We would check proofs late into the night and then drive back to Philly with the car rammed full of thousands of magazines, the frame almost dragging on the Jersey Turnpike. Issue #5 was especially challenging, because we had to sit and stick the thousands of free CDs into the magazines by hand once we got back to Jeanine's apartment.

Original sketch for the chosen upside-down Phillies "B" logo.

To me, #5 was the quintessential issue. As art director, the design was where I wanted it. Ryan Hendon was producing beautiful black and white photos (yes, this was still the pre-digital era), and because he worked in a photo lab, we were getting quality prints. Jeanine Lee, our editor was fearlessly planning and writing content that was important to each of us at the time. Amani was a hustling machine and kept finding new ways to ram our foot in doors of the U.S. publishing monster and beyond. We were meeting, interviewing and photographing our personal heroes while producing content we could really be proud of. We worked for ourselves and we were building our own little dream. It was incredible.

People thought our logo stencils were anti-Phillies baseball statements :)

Issue #5 was our breakthrough issue. It gave us a taste of success, which felt great, but it just as quickly signaled the end. We never agreed on content or direction from that point on, because selling more magazines seemed to become the main priority. The fun was gone, our friendships crumbled and B.Informed Magazine died.

I recently visited photographer Ryan Hendon in San Francisco after barely seeing him since those days back in Philly. Talking with him now as well as with Skeme, who co-produced issue #5's insert album "Watch for the Fuzz", made me feel like it was time to share this again with the world. Looking back, it was a time in my life that I am grateful for. Looking at the magazine, I am still proud of that gritty, black, white and orange issue number five!

My father posed for this shot with a fake moustache!

I pieced the magazine back together with InDesign from an old Quark Express document. It was a mess at first, but now the images are all found and re-linked and the copy is flowed. I even resisted the temptation to fix some of my original bad typography! Below is an online version that you can read, download and share at will. It also contains a link to download the entire album "Watch for the Fuzz" produced by Fredy Blast and Skeme Richards of Sesion 31, but you have to read their article to find it ;) Sorry, but the below digital magazine can probably only be read on a computer (not iphone friendly).