“It’s illuminating, it’s different, it’s sassy”, is how new magazine Sofa describes itself. This publication by Ricarda Messner, publisher of Flaneur magazine and co-editor Caia Hagel is refreshing in its concept and design. The premise of Sofa is to “look into the near future in a different way, via different demographics and interest groups, with each publication.” Ricarda’s team for issue one includes Studio Yukiko and, most interestingly, a 16-year-old guest editor, Andy Coronado. Sofa doesn’t intend to “freeze frame an entire generation” but rather “shed a glimpse over tomorrow’s leaders in all their complexity”, according to the founders. We spoke to each of the main contributors of Sofa on how this magazine was conceived. Firstly, with the immense responsibility of visualising a generation alongside a varied mix of contributors, Studio Yukiko talks us through its design process.
Where did you gather inspiration for designing Sofa? The neon, clashing and rich colour choices and varied type design?
We’ve been watching too many Japanese TV programs lately.
There’s a real mix of hand drawn illustrations to very digitalised work, how did you manage to keep such an even balance of the eclectic mix?
Ricarda and Caia were very careful to include really different kinds of teenagers and opinions, inclusion was a key motto for Sofa, but a visual balance to reflect that was definitely on our minds. We were initially briefed to created a teen mag for the future, inspired by the 90s, to make it both as accessible to 16-year-olds as it is for nostalgic for the 30 plus. It was a challenge to balance that all, and still give it an individual voice. I think we commissioned and included work we thought was both of a really high standard but also felt unique, loaded with teen attitude. It was a bit like combining teenage bedroom walls into one magazine, working with photographers and illustrators we really admire but who work in very different visual styles, we dedicated a lot of time to the design to make it all work together.
How did you find mixing disciplines of photography, typography and layout?
As you mentioned previously there is a crazy eclectic mix of contributor styles and we wanted something to guide the reader through the magazine, that would re-appear adding bold continuity. We came up with the idea to have a teen mascot who would be both our cover girl and introduce us to the different sections in the magazine. We also had these pages completely sketched out with the bubble shapes and typography and with the help and expertise of photographer Agnes Lloyd Platt and her agent XYZ / We Folk, stylist and costume designer Larissa Bechtold and Ricarda – who remarkably street scouted our cover girl and of course our teen model.
Were any particular magazines an influence on Sofa?
We’re always looking at and collecting different magazines however SOFA particularly was the outcome of all different kinds of visual references. More general stuff that we collect, like a greek sports newspaper from a trip to Athens that has been on our desk for a while, some bonkers Japanese TV shows, and of course we mixed in some 90s German Teen mag, Bravo.
As founders of Sofa, editors Ricarda and Caia explain their process and inspiration.
What was the inspiration for basing issue one on ‘Generation Z’?
Ricarda: SOFA was born after a lot of the late night Skype conversations that Caia and I always have. We are interested in a wide range of topics revolving around cultural agendas in the 21st century but one key element was ’where is this all leading us?’ We find prophecies and the future super fascinating. We also think there is no better topic than starting with the future of our society – the teens of today.
Caia: I had just come out of researching and writing a book on girl power, politics and culture. I was fascinated by what the 13 to 18-year-old girls (and guys) of North America had said in interviews, also knowing the statistics on how much influence ‘Generation Z’ has, or can have, on pop culture, activism mobilisation, and big money through their social media followings. Young people are fascinating when you stand aside and let them be true to themselves.
How did you find Andy the 16-year-old guest editor? Why did you choose her to be the voice of this generation?
Caia: To be true to teen habits and their immersive digital existence, we went hunting on Instagram and found her there. We love Andy. She’s an original thinker, she has unique personal style, a direct and warm and political relationship with her following, and she’s super smart. As an immigrant American and oldest sibling in a large family, she is sending dispatches to the world via her smartphone from a suburban bedroom. She’s just about the realest person we could work with to represent our emerging world. We’re predicting great things for Andy!
How did you find working with a guest editor?
Ricarda: The role of the guest editor was something very important to us. The idea really emerged when we started working on the teen issue and realised we didn’t want to fall into the trap of making a magazine about teens without their input. There is a general danger of always generalising a generation, even more so when you are not part of it anymore. In this case Andy also contributed a great deal of content but in general the guest editor can also be more of a producer or an expert who helps us dive into the specific content from issue to issue.
Finally, the invigorating quality of Sofa is undoubtedly Andy the teenage guest editor, providing Ricarda and Caia with the opportunity to represent ‘Generation Z’ truthfully and intelligently. We spoke to Andy about how she found her editorial experience.
How did you find the responsibility of representing your youth’s point of view?
This responsibility was a large one because I wanted the issue to depict a view that was as diverse as possible, due to the fact the youth itself is very multifaceted. Fitting all of the traits, nuances, and issues of ‘Generation Z’ into the pages of a mere magazine is a complex task, but I feel that everyone who was apart of this issue did their best to give their part and perspective.
How do you feel your generation is represented, or rather seen by older generations?
I feel that many older generations have forgotten their own teenage years. I have noticed that older people seem to only remember the positive aspects of their youth. It is as if many of them forget that there is much more to being a teenager other than sitting around, going to high school, and indulging in pop culture. We are represented in film and TV as very fickle, immature, and rather incapable of understanding ourselves and the world around us. That may be the case for some teenagers, but that image of the sulking, childish, awkward adult-child hybrid, does not apply to us all.
What are you studying? What subjects do you enjoy?
I am currently heading into my eleventh grade year in high school. I do not have a focus, but I enjoy English and History. The English class of this past school year was one of my favourite classes mostly because of the 20th century American literature we read and how we discussed it. Many of the issues in those novels and plays are similar to the issues that America faces today, and it was great to be apart of discussions on the literature.
What magazines and websites do you keep an eye on?
I like to read: Written Citizen, Rookie Magazine, and Sula Collective. Those three magazines are 3 of the best online platforms I’ve read, run mostly by young women, who are also part of the LGBT spectrum and people of colour. My father is an avid magazine, newspaper, and newsletter reader so as a child I was exposed to several publications, (especially MANY issues of Science Magazine). I began to realise that a lot of these publications only depict the perspective of one or two groups of people – white, privileged, male, you know the deal. As I got into my late middle school years, I began to love reading about the perspective of those people who are more marginalised. Some books that I hold close to my heart at the moment are The Catcher in The Rye, books by Junot Díaz and White Girls by Hilton Als.