Jefferson Hack’s quest to bring high definition video to print was realised earlier this year when Rihanna came to life on the cover of AnOther Magazine. The Drum’s Stephen Lepitak catches up with the acclaimed publisher to find out how the groundbreaking project came to fruition.
Dazed’s celebrated publisher and visionary Jefferson Hack is a far more reserved personality than his publication would suggest, but it’s also clear from his most recent project, the development of the world’s first digital video magazine cover for stablemate AnOther Magazine, that he is a single-minded and driven individual.
We meet Hack in his Shoreditch offices, previously the studio of photographer and Dazed co-founder Rankin, where he tells us he has always wanted to produce a multi-sensory magazine.
“We had been exploring all kinds of multiplatform communications and taking stories onto all kinds of different places,” he says. “With all the talk of whether print is dead, I wanted to do the first point where print became digital.” It was an ambition shared by rivals, he tells us, creating a form of “space race” to reach the finish line.
He is very considered when he discusses the creation of the digital motion cover that features a writhing leather-clad Rihanna. It was developed by PCH after Hack met with its founder, Liam Casey, by chance at the Founder’s Dinner during last year’s Web Summit in Dublin. He says the dinner came and went unnoticed as they discussed how Hack’s vision of a digital cover could become reality.
“I sat opposite Liam purely by chance. The nine months before that I had earnestly been trying to make a magazine with a full moving image cover,” he explains. “I had been exploring digital papers of different types, talking to various hardware manufacturers, various tech companies and I had some consultants work for me trying to find out how this could be realised. When I left for Dublin I had downed tools on the project and said ‘it’s impossible’.”
According to Casey, Hack’s clarity of vision was the main attraction for getting involved in the project: “He was so clear and in our world that is gold. You need somebody who knows what they want and can articulate it – and stick to it. Right up until the day we delivered the project he was really consistent on what he wanted to achieve.”
Previous possible solutions had been considered but none met with Hack’s approval; he wanted a “real high-definition video experience” on the cover. “My brief to my team was that I wanted to be able to see Rihanna wink at me from 50 metres away while on a magazine shelf,” he laughs. “I wanted that level of wow factor.”
It was therefore essential to Hack to have a superstar of Rihanna’s calibre featured in the project. “You need something that is going to be a performance. It was part of the creative challenge and Rihanna was an amazing talent to work with and realise that.”
However, with the star confirmed, having been sold in principle on the idea, time was running out to realise it when Casey came onto the scene.
Hack wanted “a multi-sensory object” with sound, not merely a moving image, as he told Casey during the initial briefing. Numbers were also discussed; originally the briefing was a limited edition of 1,000.
A week later they met again in London when the project was agreed, with the first prototype developed between mid November and January, and by March the press launch was taking place with copies in the market.
Karl Lagerfeld was the first person to be given a copy of the magazine, but even he had to be added to the waiting list when he asked for more, Hack reveals.
While admitting that the technology is still new, it does hold possibilities for advertisers, says Hack, although Casey says that there is still a way to go before that is possible inside a publication.
“There is great opportunity there but mainly in the future. Screens and technology are going to become easier to manage, smaller and thinner. You may be able to get a hybrid of paper and screen in the future and that is where advertising could get interesting,” explains Casey.
While Hack has no plans to take the project forward now that he has succeeded in his initial ambition, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of exploring it again one day.
“If I do this again at the next level, maybe we would do a super screen on Dazed that is also connected and talks to your other devices and the content on the cover changes every day and it goes in that kind of direction. It will be a new vision and the tech will enable it, and it will be a hybrid magazine that will do something different to what we did before,” he says.
Casey too talks about the future, revealing how since his time in fashion he has seen technology become more of an enabler in that world, with 3D printing allowing companies to prototype ideas.
“What I keep telling people is that the fabrics of technology have become more creative friendly and allow us to build prototypes out of anything we want. That’s driving a huge amount of creativity in the hardware world, which is exciting.”
Hack says that he holds no ambition to be first with innovation, stating that he would rather focus on making the magazine a success. “If someone else does it, great. We were the first to do this and I’m proud of that but I’m more proud of the quality of it. If someone else does it, we’ll just need to do it better. It’s not about being first, or the biggest, it’s just about being the best. That’s our motto around here. We have our own way of doing things.” A statement that both the success of this project and his publications certainly prove.