UPPERCASE is a quarterly magazine publication that is based in Calgary and read by creative-minded folk around the world. Founded in 2009 by Janine Vangool, the magazine’s content is as beautiful as it is eclectic, covering all things creative and celebrating, in particular, vintage ephemera. Janine handles most aspects of the magazine herself, working as UPPERCASE’s publisher, editor and designer.
Intrigued by Janine’s work and her global influence on the art and design community, we were thrilled when she agreed to do an interview for the blog.
Image source: portrait of Janine Vangool by Heather Saitz
EQ3 You seem to have your hand in a lot of creative fields! When did you know you wanted to work in a creative field? And, why did you choose to focus on graphic design in college?
JANINE VANGOOL Pretty much as soon as I knew how to write, I was interested in putting words and pictures together. When I was a girl, I used to make little books and magazines out of scrap paper and force my family to sign them out of my “library”. In highschool, I was the yearbook editor and that’s when I realized that putting together books and publications could be an actual career for me.
EQ3 What did the earlier days of your career look like – pre-UPPERCASE?
JV My first job following graduation was working for a design firm specializing in signage and wayfinding. I spent months setting up signage files for production (ie specifying the position and design of the washroom signs in the local sports arena). Needless to say, it wasn’t very inspiring. Working in that first job was excellent motivation to become my own boss. I developed my design style and roster of clients over the next few years, specializing in print design for arts and culture clients. I did everything from small ads to large publications and marketing materials, as well as publication design for books and art publications.
EQ3 Tell us about your start in the publishing industry. What inspired the creation of UPPERCASE? Where did the magazine’s concept – the creative and curious – come from?
JV Following the closure of an independent magazine that I freelanced for, the “magazine” section of my brain was free to explore. I had fantasized about designing my own magazine and I was getting tired of working for clients on their ideas but not my own. It also coincided with the closure of some mainstream magazines (Domino, Martha Stewart’s Blueprint) and I recognized there was a void for a well-designed, visually inspiring publication. The content came from my own interests as a graphic designer, but the magazine is not specifically about graphic design… we say we’re “creative and curious” with an eclectic content range from design, typography, illustration and crafting to just about any topic that relates to creative fields.
EQ3 With the prominence of blogs and online magazines, content is being delivered instantly and constantly! How do you gather the unique and original content that UPPERCASE is known for when working with the production delay that comes with print media?
JV It is difficult to compete with the immediacy of the web sometimes. Certainly a lot of the content that is in the magazine might have been inspired by something seen on an artist’s blog or portfolio site. What makes UPPERCASE special is how the articles are curated and those serendipitous moments when seemingly diverse topics in fact have common threads. I also have a great roster of contributors who bring their areas of interest and expertise into the mix.
EQ3 UPPERCASE is in its 4th year now. What are some common threads between every issue that you’ve produced? And, how has the magazine evolved over the years?
JV Our tagline is “for the creative and curious”—this is a broad statement but our content is inspired by design, illustration and craft. We like to find creative tangents for our themes, engage our readership to participate in calls for content and imagery, and we often collaborate directly with our readers on articles.
The subjects are very eclectic, but at its core the magazine has an appreciation of the creative process, the handmade and the personal. Each issue has a number of themes that we use as a basis for editorial exploration.
EQ3 If you had to choose a favourite issue from the archives, what would it be and why?
JV That’s a difficult question—it would be like trying to choose a favourite child! I’m fond of issue #13, in which we explore how weather can inspire creativity. The cover features gloss foil raindrops falling from clouds; in certain lighting it looks like wet droplets of rain.
EQ3 UPPERCASE recently moved into a new workspace. Tell us about the new studio’s interior design. What words would you use to describe it? Where did you look for inspiration when pulling it together?
JV Our new office is on the second level of a 100-year-old heritage building called The Devenish. When I first saw the space, it was in terrible shape—the ceiling was literally falling down. However, I saw past that to its great bones: lovely large windows, brick walls, high ceilings… My landlord has been excellent at letting me choose the flooring and wall colours and the transformation has been great. Now it is bright and so spacious! At 1000 square feet, the office actually has more square footage than my house, so it is so nice to have extra room. Erin Bacon, Jocelyn Kabatoff and I have our own work areas and there is plenty of room to grow into.
The new office is much more classic and sophisticated than my previous space, and that was intentional. I’ve grown and matured, as the company has, and so the interior reflects that.
EQ3 One of the major themes in the latest issue of Uppercase (#19) is the aesthetics of work, including vintage offices. In what ways did your move into the new studio impact the issue’s theme and content?
JV The aesthetics of work is definitely a theme that emerged from having to pack up my old office of eight years. It led to an investigation of other methods of working and arranging workspaces. The issue has articles about coworking, a history of the cubicle and an ode to vintage office supplies.
EQ3 What’s at the top of your reading list right now (besides UPPERCASE, of course!)? Print and digital publications are both fair game, here.
JV I enjoy reading independent magazines from around the world. Right now, I’m reading Extra Curricular, a magazine from New Zealand. It explores what creative people do in their spare time.
EQ3 You’ve already accomplished so much in your career. What has been the biggest highlight, for you personally, so far?
JV That’s hard to answer. I don’t measure my career in moments; moments are fleeting. I find tremendous satisfaction at looking at the physical output of my creative and entrepreneurial endeavors. The stacks of magazines, the bookshelf full of my books… that is lasting and satisfying.
EQ3 What’s next…for you and for UPPERCASE?
JV I’m looking forward to settling in to the new space. We’ve been here just about a month, but the past few weeks I’ve been immersed in getting the fall issue off to print, so now I can finish arranging a few more areas and then we’ll have an office-warming gathering. My team—Erin Bacon and Jocelyn Kabatoff—and I look forward to nurturing and growing UPPERCASE from this new home.
EQ3 Finally, as the magazine’s publisher, editor and designer, you have to wear a lot of different hats! What are your 3 must-have tools for living and working – things you can’t work/live without?
JV Yes, juggling ideas, projects and tasks is my daily existence. Other than my laptop and iphone, I can’t work without Evernote. Evernote is a service that allows you to keep and sort notes, images and files and sync them across all your devices. It is where I store all of the magazine content ideas, suggestions and keep my goals and tasks organized. I’ve been using it since developing the second issue, and now it is so integral to my process I can’t imagine working without it!
Thanks Janine! We’re thrilled to get our hands on a copy of the latest issue. Visit uppercasemagazine.com for more information on this magazine or to purchase a subscription.