Every time a new erotic title comes through the door we wonder how long they’ll survive. There’s so many “intelligent” magazines out there with a penchant for nudity that we assume only a few will last more than a couple of issues – even if the quality is superb. One title in the erotic stable that continues to grow and develop is Odiseo, a publication from Barcelona’s Folch studio that’s more of a book than a magazine. In it you’ll find a sensitive approach to erotic subjects and a wealth of illuminating opinion pieces all of which subvert what we’ve come to define as erotic in the digital age.
Now in its fourth issue it’s blazed a trail for imitators and put together an exciting blueprint for what a really intelligent porno title can be. Ahead of the launch of issue four later this week, we asked Folch’s Pol Perez how they’ve created this success for themselves…
Why did you decide to produce Odiseo in the first place?
Odiseo puts together two ideas we had long wanted to realise: the first, to explore the territory of erotic publishing and of erotica itself; and the second, to develop an editorial project that dealt with opinion, as opposed to offering the latest news on whatever topic was at hand. We had never thought of doing something that would put together both worlds, but at some point we simply connected the dots and Odiseo came to fruition.
What is it about an erotic magazine that particularly appealed to you?
What certainly wasn’t appealing to us was the “girl with a thumb in her mouth, lying in bed and acting casual” stereotype. This is not something we knew immediately – in fact, it is something it took us one issue to realise – but the idea illustrates quite well what we want to do with Odiseo: to explore eroticism in different and, hopefully, new ways.
Do you define yourselves as an erotic magazine?
We do define ourselves as erotic, but not as a magazine. As opposed to most magazines we do not seek to publish current content, but rather speculative essays dealing with topics that may or may not be of relevance in the near future. This, in conjunction with the lack of advertising, naturally shapes Odiseo as a hybrid in between a magazine and a book; it retains the periodicity but does away with the obsolescence.
You’ve produced four issues of Odiseo now. How has the publication developed with each issue? How come it’s evolved into more of a book?
From the beginning we wanted to reach the goals mentioned above, but we didn’t get there right at the outset. Our first volume was wrong in terms of several aspects – among them, a form that didn’t quite reflect the content, and the fact that the photographs epitomised what we didn’t want to be. In light of this we came to the conclusion that volume two needed a swift redesign and a different take on photography; and thus we switched to a publication that resembles a book rather than a magazine. From our perspective as designers and editors, there lies the greatness of periodicals; their ability to continue improving.
How does the magazine balance with what you do as a studio? Does client work take precedent over internal projects?
Odiseo lets us engage first-hand in processes that, while not strictly regarded as graphic design, have enormous importance in our job as editorial designers. Having experience with the quirks of distribution, being able to develop written content from scratch, or simply knowing ways to commission content, are all assets in our day-to-day work. It is a project we do for pleasure, but our commercial work benefits from it.
On a different level, Odiseo also helps in our quest to become less of a design studio and more of a skilled group of people with ambition. If anything it gives us a better chance to be regarded as a studio with the ability to do work, both in design and outside.
The studio has worked on a wide variety of successful independent magazines. What lessons have you learned from them that you apply to Odiseo?
Above all, to be true to our independence, and to not put external agents in a position where we no longer have the control. Something we also try to abide by that was learned from prior experience is to have strict control of the dimension of the project. Odiseo is feasible because of its small scale. If we attempted to grow too quickly, or to include a lot more contents, it would require so much attention from us that it would no longer be able to coexist with the actual work of the studio. So we try to keep it low-key, which in turn allows for both commercial and self-commissioned projects to coexist and feed into each other.
What should we expect from Odiseo moving forward?
In terms of photography, we aim for an increasingly conceptual approach to eroticism, further moving away from gender classification and from the type of image we have described above. With the writing our goal is to gradually raise the bar – to gain credibility and experience – and carve out our own niche among other independently-run opinion outlets.