Inque Magazine is a literary force that will memorialise our time
Editor-in-chief Dan Crowe, and Pentagram partner, designer and former New York Times Magazine art director Matt Willey uncover the process behind issue two of the magazine that will only have ten.
Who doesn’t feel it? Being perplexed at how we’re going to define this generation. Living in the age of information, where stories from near and far are accessible at just a click, and the allure of the most revered crumbles under increased access to their lives and methods, it’s no wonder that a highlight reel may not be so easy to assemble. But, in the case of Inque magazine, literature is a powerful force that can remind us of the power of our collective now, in just ten years, with a projected ten issues, in a feat to memorialise the 2020s. “Every issue is its own adventure; tracking down new writers, or finally getting in touch with someone I’ve always wanted to work with,” Dan Crowe, the magazine’s editor-in-chief tells us of his journey to commissioning the likes of Annie Ernaux, Sheila Heti and Stephen Fry for its second issue.
Dan, as with all of us, has seen an increase in writers, publishers and magazines throughout the literary sphere. “But, sometimes I wish for there to be an explosion of a new and interconnected group of authors, like a new Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Salman Rushdie hegemony, a diverse and younger school,” he tells us. “And, this seems to occur when there is a coherent force to fight against, a common enemy, and everything just feels so fractured now.” In an effort to bind this generation’s efforts, designer Matt Willey creates with the knowledge that Inque may never make sense until the decade-long ride is over. “It takes on a shape; there’s a beginning, middle and end. Like in Agnes’ photo booth series; she will change over the course of a decade, she will age, life will change and things will be different,” Matt adds.
Matt’s foray into editorial design came during his time working with Vince Frost on literary magazine Zembla. “I think of Inque as Zembla’s spiritual successor,” he tells us. Designing the magazine, completely alone, with “no rules and no one telling me what I can and can’t do,” Matt finds the process particularly difficult, and often dubs it a blank-page syndrome. “I’m weirdly suspicious of things being easy. Much of the joy of working on Inque comes from doing the work.” With this, the visual makings of the magazine come about rather intuitively for Matt. Starting by drawing the headline, this time around he ended up with two typefaces, and decided to use both. “I was keen on doing something away from the computer screen,” he adds. After drawing out the typefaces, Matt used a pattern cutting machine to make stencils of them, before painting the headlines, enjoying the process for its unpredictability and bespoke nature.
On the editorial commissioning end, Dan doesn’t seek complete and utter control. He first chooses one timely and sociological essay, one art-related and one “off-the-charts weird, leftfield and possibly ludicrous,” he tells us. And, afterwards he starts to think about the smaller essays, asking writers want they want to write and generally finding ways to prop up the magazine. “The idea that an editor knows exactly what the publication needs is peculiar to me,” he tells us. “Ask the thinkers; ask the experts in the field. For example Jonathan Lethem is writing a new novel throughout the ten issues. It’s a different idea, and I’m open to ones like those that make it interesting,” he adds.
Both Dan and Matt’s approach to producing the magazine comes with a passion for displaying the things that will make this generation unique. It comes with putting their goal of preserving the memory of our time over any previously instilled approaches to their roles. Dan achieves this by seeking to collaborate at every turn, and Matt through surrendering to difficulty. And for this we are sure, that in the future, we won’t just be looking back at Inque to see the makings of this decade, but to study how best to approach a project that is so deliberately finite.
Inque magazine: Issue 2; photography by Agnes Lloyd-Platt (Copyright © Inque magazine, 2023)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) is a staff writer at It's Nice That, with a particular interest in Black visual culture. They have previously written for publications such as WePresent, and worked as researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.