Kinfolk, Kindling and kitsch: Nicer Tuesdays is back for 2022
During our momentary return to Nicer Tuesdays online, we had the pleasure of speaking with Naomi Anderson-Subryan and Alex Hunting about past experiences, current projects and future ambitions.
At our first Nicer Tuesdays of 2022, which was held online, we heard from two wonderfully passionate London-based creatives: Maker and illustrator Naomi Anderson-Subryan, and designer and art director Alex Hunting. Speaking with our editor-in-chief Matt Alagiah, they discussed the ins and outs of their respective practices, giving attendees an insight into how they work, what drives them, as well as the best piece of advice they could give and have received. Naomi kicked off the talks with a presentation of her past projects, reflecting on the themes at play and how her love of everything kitsch informs her illustrations, collages and ceramic work. Alex Hunting followed with a Q&A that probed his redesign of the iconic slow lifestyle publication Kinfolk, as well as the design thinking behind its new offshoot Kindling, a magazine for “people with children”.
Naturally, childhood was a recurring topic throughout the evening. Naomi recalled for us her memories of being dragged around car boot sales with her mum, hunting for strange and quirky objects for her growing collection. She explained how years later, these activities gave her a fondness for bric-a-brac, knick knacks and all manner of decorative objects – so much so that she was inspired to start her own collection. Meanwhile, Alex spoke on the importance of making design accessible for Kindling’s readership, allowing older readers to engage their children with moments throughout the magazine that speak to them visually.
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Naomi Anderson-Subryan: Lets Go Walkies 2 (Copyright © Naomi Anderson-Subryan, 2020)
The power of facial expressions in a telling a story
Speaking from her home in south London, Naomi told us about how transitioning from drama to illustration in her studies had a significant influence on her resulting practice. It turns out that the “theatricality”, as she calls it, in her paper and ceramic-based work, is a direct result of her experience with acting. “Facial expression is one of my favourite parts of creating characters,” she explained, “and it ties back to acting and the idea that you can say so much with just with an expression.” This is evident in her projects Ceramic Mantel Dogs and Pride and Prejudice, both of which were inspired by the ‘fireside dogs’ that were popular in Victorian-era Britain and made predominantly by Staffordshire Pottery. In Naomi’s reimagining of these historical ceramics, we can see the melodramatic expressions of old theatre acting on the faces of the animals.
Speaking on other reference points within her work, Naomi explained how animals have become a central focus for her: “I love bringing them to life and giving them a voice.” In general, anthropomorphism and the personification of nature and objects can be found frequently throughout her practice. Anxious dogs, sad ice creams and smiling meatballs are just some of the examples that pop up as you look through her impressive cast of characters. Reflecting on the huge array of ceramic pieces she has made, she offered up a quote by Kentaro Poteliakhoff, the founder of Rooms of Clapton, that she felt encapsulates her affection for them: “It feels like there are a million conversations happening between them.” And, observing their many facial expressions and personalities, it’s certainly easy to imagine these conversations.
Naomi then took the audience through a selection of her commissioned projects, discussing the concept behind each one and revealing that her collage piece for The New York Times was a dream come true. She also spoke about the importance of staying true to yourself when working in a commercial capacity and why it's crucial to find a happy middle ground between your vision for the work and the client’s often less ambitious ideas. She finished her talk with some sage advice to other creatives out there who are struggling to feel inspired: “Inspiration is about tapping into who you are, what makes you you, and visualising that.”
Designing and redesigning for editorial – how to know what works and what doesn’t
To round off the night, Alex Hunting joined us from his studio for a Q&A with Matt. He began by discussing his recent redesign of the esteemed lifestyle publication Kinfolk, which was carried out last year to coincide with its 10th anniversary. To mark this milestone in the magazine’s history, the team decided it was time for a facelift. Five years after its last redesign in 2016, which Alex was also involved with, he finally got his wish to rework the iconic cover. “I wanted to get rid of the white framing device the last time around, but we had already changed so much. This time however, the whole team was on board and the 10th anniversary felt like the right moment to make that big call.”
He also ran us through the huge typographic overhaul that took place last year, giving Kinfolk a new look and feel both inside and out. Working with Shick Toikka type foundry to reimagine the magazine’s typographic system, Alex said he briefed founders Florian Shick and Lauri Toikka to “create a very sharp, refined and contemporary feeling serif family” that would be used throughout. He was keen to “pack as much character as possible into that genre” and explained that they went back and forth with a plethora of references before settling on the final vision for the typography. A key aspect of this new system was a diverse range of ligatures that could serve both as general decoration and as a way of capturing the reader’s attention. “They create these really lovely moments where you do a double take, because your brain reads the text but something's not quite right. Shick Toikka really understood these technical details and got the brief right from the start. They were amazing to work with.”
Next up for discussion was Alex’s work on Kindling by Kinfolk, a new sister publication that taps into the significant number of independent magazine readers that are parents. Designed to be read mainly by adults but also by children in parts, it experiments with a much more playful and accessible style and format than its predecessor. “Kinfolk has quite a weight to it as an object and is meant for the coffee table, whereas Kindling, although it still has high production values, is smaller and feels a bit more ‘throwaway’, so you can pass it around and your kids can scribble on it,” said Alex. He also spoke about certain editorial devices found throughout its pages which invite children to engage. These sections have been given apt titles such as ‘Fun Stuff’ and ‘Kids’ Corner’ and contain content designed specifically for them.
One of the most interesting takeaways from the process was how research into educational resources and even scientific journals ended up informing the finished product. “A lot of this revolved around understanding the visual language of education and learning,” explained Alex. This resulted in various outcomes – one example being the use of simple, geographic shapes for infographics and text containers found throughout Kindling, communicating information in an approachable way and drawing on educational activity books that many children are familiar with. This thinking is evident elsewhere in the magazine too, through its use of school textbook typography and a general aesthetic that veers away from the slick minimalism of its older sibling. “We could have designed it in a way that was much more in keeping with Kinfolk, and some people may be surprised that we didn’t, but we wanted Kindling to be much more accessible and, basically, much more fun.”
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