An indie magazine publication by Subsail

This interview was first published in the Coverage newsletter on June 12, 2018.

Rucksack is a magazine I can't seem to put down at the moment. It's one of those. Founded by editor Laura Pendlebury and creative director Mirko Nicholson, Rucksack is a beautifully put together magazine: the second issue looked at journeys, with amazing photography and wanderlust-inducing travel writing from around the world.

I wanted to find out more about the mag's origins and how Laura and Mirko have used social media to grow the magazine (that's where I first stumbled across Rucksack last year).

Dan R: Rucksack started as an online journal before you created its print counterpart. How was it, making this addition, and how do you now balance the two content channels?

Laura P and Mirko N: The online journal began as a way for us to celebrate and share all the beautiful images and stories we began receiving as it grew in popularity. We always had the idea of a printed magazine at the back of our minds, so the progression from online to print seemed like a natural move in the end. Developing the first printed magazine wasn’t too dissimilar from the work we were creating to publish online, it was just on a bigger scale and with less room for error.

Having the online journal already established meant we had already spoken to lots of talented photographers and writers before beginning to put the magazine together, so it actually made the initial process much easier. Balancing the two content channels only becomes a bit trickier when we are putting the final touches to the printed magazine, which happens twice a year. The rest of the time having the online journal works as a perfect supplement to the content we produce for the magazine, and we use it as a great source of inspiration for potential future titles.

DR: What are your backgrounds, and how do they work well when publish a magazine together?

LP & MN: We both work in full-time careers in completely different industries to magazine publishing. The magazine is definitely a creative outlet for both of us; a chance to design and make something from scratch completely by ourselves. We definitely have very different skill sets, which seem to compliment each other pretty well when putting the magazine together. One of us will focus more on the written content and stories we use, whereas the other will be much more involved in the design and final layout of the magazine. It is pretty lucky that we both enjoy the different areas so much, as it splits the job in half and means we are so much more time-effective.

DR: It was interesting watching the magazine being released after you already had a decent online following. How do you see social media affecting your brand, reach and ultimately sales?

LP & MN: Social media—Instagram especially—has helped us hugely with selling the magazine online. It was brilliant to have secured the attention of such a creative and innovative community as it gave us confidence that the magazine would be something people might actually buy for themselves.

I think the beauty of social media lies in its ability to reach so many people across the world, no matter where they are. You can get an almost instant response to something you have worked so hard to create and it is great to be able to interact with our readers so easily.

We also use Instagram as a constant source of inspiration for the way we want our own images to look, and it helps us decide the kind of design and edits we prefer. It has been an amazing way to connect with people; photographers, writers, readers and brands.

DR: The first two issues focussed on Winter and Journey. You’ve described the Rucksack as having "no limits, no boundaries”; what’s next?

LP & MN: We never want the theme of each magazine to become limiting; it needs to have scope for depth and exploration so that each page reveals a new take on the same topic. We try and use themes which help explore ideas rather than a specific place or location. We find this tends to take away any limits or boundaries and opens up the potential content we can use much more.

With the theme of ‘Winter’, it was a case of us becoming tired of the wet, dark and cold London weather. We wanted to explore the beauty of the season to help us get rid of the negativity that can often become attached to it. It was a similar idea for ‘Journeys’; travelling somewhere is often the part of the trip people enjoy the least, so we wanted to explore the lost excitement that can be found from it.

We try and remain pretty flexible with our choice of theme, and don’t tend to make a final decision on our focus until quite late. We don’t want to plan for or map out too many ideas ahead of creating the next magazine as you never know who you are going to work with or what you are going to experience.

Volume 3 will be ‘The Island Issue’, which was initially inspired by our trip to the Faroe Islands earlier this year, but our focus throughout the issue will cover a variety of places and ideas as well. We are still unsure of the exact direction of the magazine itself, and I think it is this which ensures it has no boundaries or limits. We have not set expectations or targets so we are able to move with its gradual evolution and growth with great flexibility.