Friday, December 21, 2012

Favorite Friend Friday: Janine Vangool of UPPERCASE

Janine Vangool is one of those quietly fabulous women who is inspiring in every aspect of her career and home life. The creator, editor and designer of UPPERCASE (a magazine & book publishing company based in Canada), Janine manages a mini-publishing powerhouse that, other than the practically perfect UPPERCASE Magazine, boasts books like A Collection A Day by Lisa Congdon and The Elegant Cockroach books in their collection. We were lucky enough to host Tif Fussell's Seattle book launch and signing last year, and fell in love with everything UPPERCASE. We caught up with her recently during a Winnipeg press check and were lucky enough to ask a few questions:

Janine Vangool of Uppercase Magazine

Everyone loves UPPERCASE Magazine. We think it is smart, inspiring, and impeccably designed. What would you say makes your magazine such a success, especially when printed materials seem to struggle?
I am so grateful that people feel so inspired by UPPERCASE Magazine. I think its success lies in that we are very connected to our readers. I am personally inspired by the talent and enthusiasm of our readers everyday through their blogs, tweets and emails. In turn, I feature a lot of our subscribers and readers in the pages of the magazine which spreads the inspiration further. We share the love around!

You may not know that Assemble's very first business expense was Andie's dream-find of a 1960's Smith-Corona red cursive typewriter. It is now very much linked to our brand and styling. The vintage typewriter trend is stronger than ever, but its history is more than just a fad to you, isn't it? Tell us more about The Typewriter book in progress.

I've been infatuated with typewriters since I was a child. When typing out the alphabet on my mom's machine, I was actually publishing in a very low-tech way. Seeing those letters get transferred to paper on ink was very satisfying to me—and still is.

Janine Vangool of Uppercase Magazine Typewriter ProjectJanine Vangool of Uppercase Magazine Typewriter Project

I also love all the ephemera and graphic design history associated with the typewriter. Its history spans some interesting centuries—with industrialization, women's emancipation, graphic design emerging as a profession, some World Wars…the typewriter's story is worth exploring in a graphic way. Research for the book is in progress and I hope to release it next fall.

I think more people should invest in typewriters as business expenses! Having a machine handy encourages thoughtfulness and playfulness in a way that you can't experience on a computer.

We are particularly fond of Dottie Angel and Lisa Congdon, who are friends of Assemble, amazing artists and lovely people in general. Do you find that the variety of designers you discover and work with have something in common?

I am very honoured to have worked with Tif Fussell and Lisa Congdon to design and produce books with them. Yes—we all have so many things in common. At first, you might not think so because people might have diverse visual styles, but at the heart of all the UPPERCASE projects and collaborations is our motto "creative and curious." Everyone featured in the magazine and in our books have that indefatigable attitude…they must create, they love making things, they never tire of discovery, have a deep-set love of learning…

The craft/design community is getting more and more saturated with visual ideas. Yet all of your work (as a connoisseur of creative things) is fresh and current. How do you stay so inspired, without getting overwhelmed by things like Pinterest?

Staying fresh and current is challenging in a world that is now dominated by online, quick-access media. A quarterly print magazine has to work in advance and certainly cannot react to every trend of the moment. Personally, I quickly tire of Pinterest and check in only a few times a week. I prefer looking at portfolios and blogs, where the pace is slightly slower and the ideas and images are (hopefully) edited.

typerwriter ribbon Janine Vangool Uppercase Magazine

As I've grown as editor and the magazine has found its voice and vision over the past couple years, I've found that developing a few loose themes for each issue is the best way of curating the content. I write somewhat vague phrases describing each issue which allow for some interesting creative interpretations and serendipitous moments during the curating, researching and writing process. For example, I'm working on content for the spring issue and these are my words:


And then I see how I can relate the words to one another. Scents plus papergoods might lead me to vintage soap labels. Scents plus transparency might lead me to perfume bottles. Fragility and stationery…perhaps the ephemeral nature of greeting cards?

You pretty much do it all as it is, but is there another project, dream book, or designer collaboration you would like to see realized?
I have a growing list of book and product ideas that I would love to see realized. I have no shortage of new ideas, but definitely lack time and resources. I hope to do another "Suitcase Series" book (a series which allows me and my family to travel to meet with the artist, such as Camilla Engman in Sweden, or Dottie Angel in Seattle)…I'd love to travel to Japan and Australia, so I am open to suggestions!

And, for a little bit of fun

If you could live anywhere in the world, where might you take your bags?

I fell in love with Copenhagen and would like to live there for a while. Or, I'd like to slow down a bit and live in a small old house in Prince Edward Island with my husband and son.

If you were to leave publishing to learn something new, what would you pursue?
I can't imagine leaving publishing, actually. I'm learning something new everyday whether it is something fun like watching an artist blow glass or something challenging such as designing a new subscriber database, my brain is always well-used!

We wouldn't be surprised to see UPPERCASE on the library shelves of the White House, or in Kate Middleton's tote bag. But what celebrity would you love to see subscribe to your magazine?
Ha, that's funny. I can't imagine UPPERCASE in either of those places, but it would certainly be an honour. Recently, the granddaughter of Charles and Ray Eames subscribed to the magazine— that was thrilling! A designer at Apple subscribes, the art department at the New York Times Magazine subscribe…I'm honoured that people with such keen style and refined talent are the "celebrities" who decide to subscribe. We're not a magazine that promotes celebrity culture; we like real people who like to make things, regardless of their level of fame or success.

Anything you're crossing your fingers for on your holiday wish-list?
Just a bit of time away from it all (with some fun holiday time with my family) so that I can start the new year refreshed and raring to go!

Photos via UPPERCASE

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