Flip phones, vintage selfies and kitschy graphic design: Meet 1413 magazine, a “tickle fight” with Chinese culture

Turn back time to the start of the millennium. There's a flip phone in your hand and you take a selfie. Welcome to the latest issue of 1413.

15 April 2020

“Do you want something fresh and actually from China?” This is the question that rings out in a sing-song American twang. “Introducing 1413 magazine, the reeeeeal magazine made in China, explore authentic Chinese stories in diverse visual narratives,” the cheesy narrator continues in the satirical film that is the actual (and all round fantastic) visual introduction to this mag. A bilingual “tickle fight with Chinese culture”, 1413 is a nostalgic throwback to 90s pop culture – flip phones, kitschy selfie glamour, you get the picture – mixed with original graphic design and editorial content.

Founded by Zeng Lishan, otherwise known as Lisa, and Wu Yijing, otherwise known as Echo, the pair met while studying graphic design at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. 1413 started out as a college press in 2015, when the founders were roommates. Though their university was “a pretty cool art school” in their eyes, it was not reflected into the official school journals, which Lisa says were “soooo boring”; full of irrelevant information or politics and not at all reflective of the creativity flourishing through its halls.

Lisa and Echo wanted a different kind of mag, one that showed the individuality of the students, and with this in mind, they applied for funds through the school, and decided to make their own publication, incidentally in Room 1413. And yes, that is where the name came from. “That was the most productive time for us,” recalls Echo, who is now finishing up a master’s degree at the School of Visual Art’s in New York. And it certainly was busy. Together, Lisa and Echo created four issues of the mag before their graduation in 2017. All issues sold out, swiped off the shelves of the campus bookstore, and the virtual shelves of the online store.

The first four issues covered issues as far and wide as life after art school, to the secret break-up stories of current students. They delved into some of the faculty’s most interesting departments, profiled a cosplayer and dancer that used to attend, discussed the financial difficulties of being a designer, and, very juicily, explored the landscape of love on campus. After they graduated however, everything changed. For one, Lisa and Echo no longer lived in the same city. While Echo was in New York, Lisa went back to her home city of Shenzhen, and started working as a brand designer.

Plus, they no longer had any funding. On top of their new jobs, not to mention their respective new lives, creating the fifth issue remotely presented a whole new set of challenges. “It was a very confusing time,” adds Lisa “and it took us almost a year to make issue 005, themed on the selfie.” Against the odds of overwhelming work schedules and no financial support, the fifth issue is finally here! It took a lot of phone calls and a lot of evenings as the two founders wrote and edited most of the content from afar.

It didn’t stop them from making the magazine they intended however, and with Echo flying over to Shenzhen for a month to help finish with the printing and shooting technicalities, the latest issue gives rise to the weird and wonderful aspects of the selfie, with a quirky 1413 twist of course. With foil paper for the cover as a makeshift mirror, the Selfie issue remembers the first selfies of the millennium, discusses the influence of beauty apps in China and interviews several artists making work about today’s selfie culture.

“We did everything just the two of us,” reiterates Echo. “We grew up with the company of both magazines and the internet. When the internet was born, it took the responsibility to bring information to us; in turn, print has become this kind of old but fresh media for people who crave something tangible and intentional.” 1413 offers a balance between these two media – it’s a happy place between internet culture and the creative industry, showing an appreciation for Chinese culture through playful design and editorial content.

It’s just the start for 1413, as one day, Lisa and Echo hope the magazine can become a full time occupation rather than a hobby. There are plenty more ideas in the bank that they hope to play out – both in the conceptual and visual sense. And all in all, the two founders hope to play into Chinese visual systems to create a publication that feels different from any other Western publication, while providing a visual joke here and there, too.

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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