Last time we spoke to Steven Gregor, he was saying goodbye to Gym Class, the much-adored magazine-lover’s magazine he originally started as a passion project. Earlier this year the mag made its glorious return as a curated compendium of great content from other titles such as The New York Times Magazine and Zeit, tied together with a theme. However, the second issue – revealed exclusively on It’s Nice That today – features all original content and an entirely new look, inspired by fanzines and entirely illustrated by Jason Ford.
Below, Steven – as editor, designer and art director – explains why and how Gym Class is back, and takes us on a tour of its design and content.
It’s Nice That: Last time we spoke to you it was the “last ever” issue of Gym Class… but it returned earlier this year, hooray! What were you up to in the interim, and how did the mag make its comeback?
Steven Gregor: After shuttering Gym Class (love that term, proper NYC legacy media brand vibes), the plan was to launch a new mainstream-ish mag about TV. But I couldn’t get the sums to add up. So instead I made a modest, zero-fucks zine about horror movies. (It’s called What Monster, issue three will be out later this year FYI).
Anyway… after a bit of time, I started to miss Gym Class in print and thought: why not make another one? Steve Watson from Stack (the indie mag subscription service) agreed to distribute a new issue, making it financially viable. The first issue of the all-new Gym Class (issue 16) was sent to Stack subscribers in January this year.
My very chill plan is to make a couple of issues of Gym Class each year.
INT: What is the visual concept for issue two of the second life of Gym Class? What was the motivation for this fanzine theme?
SG: The fanzine idea was a no-brainer… it costs a lot less to make a zine.
The new issue is serving Jenny-from-the-block realness. I started making Gym Class ten years ago as a creative side project, and I’ve rediscovered that vibe with this new issue. Issue 17 is 32 pages and litho printed one-colour on inexpensive 70gsm stock. The page size is the same as Little White Lies. I got the ruler out and ripped them off.
The smaller format and light paper stock (it was the lightest paper the printer could print on) means the pages flop open in an easy-breezy way. It’s proper chill.
Seriously though, without the buzzkill of a nosebleed-inducing print bill, I’m having fun with Gym Class again. 500 copies of the new issue have been printed by Buxton Press. It’s the first time I’ve worked with them, I can’t praise their customer service enough. Real superstars.
INT: What does this issue focus on editorially and how is this conveyed visually?
SG: The new issue of Gym Class is preoccupied with magazines, but it’s kinda working a general interest vibe. General interest is out of vogue at the mo. I like to think the all-new Gym Class is equal parts niche, woke and general interest. That’s a pretty unique mix. Makes no sense, but I reckon it somehow works.
I think it looks like a well-designed boy scouts newsletter. Communities are built around mags; Gym Class is like a club bulletin for mag-obsessives.
There’s a new front of book section called Off Grid which is about all the stuff I’m into when not making mags (movies, music, TV, that kinda stuff… oh, and Shia LaBeouf!). It’s proper bonkers and silly; it’s 100% vintage Gym Class fun.
The Feature Well is more mag-centric with mag-maker interviews. The cover story is about mag superfans. One bloke I spoke to has 30,000 magazines! Amazing. I’m so envious.
Issue 17 is fully illustrated by Jason Ford. It’s been a lot of fun to collaborate with Jason on the issue. I’ve been a big fan of his work for ages. And he totally aced it. Jason created illustrations for every article in the issue. He also illustrated the cover. His style of illustration suits the tongue-in-cheek editorial tone perfectly.
Oh, and it’s designed using Commercial Type typefaces. Seriously lush! I’m like a kid in a toy shop. I’ve collaborated with Commercial Type exclusively for a while now. Their beautiful typefaces really elevate Gym Class.
INT: What has the reaction been to the rebirth, and how are you approaching round two differently?
SG: I’ve only had positive feedback, which is totes amaze! And returning to a zine format with this new issue feels like the natural space for Gym Class to inhabit. This shake-up in format means I can sell the issue for just £3.20. With the change peeps have in their pocket after buying the new issue of Gym Class, I hope they buy another mag too. I’ve only ever wanted to promote mags with Gym Class, and if I can do that and leave readers with a bit of spare dosh to buy another mag, that’s the ultimate success!
Gym Class issue 17 is out now.