Design and New Jersey Have a Date With Dense Magazine

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When I say New Jersey, you probably think of one thing.

The Boss, the Bruce-Juice, the great and powerful Springsteen.

But Jersey is so much more than Freehold’s finest son, the shore, or Buttzville’s own Hot Dog Johnny’s, and there’s a new publication celebrating the densest state in the US. Dense, a magazine co-founded by Lune Ames and Petia Morozov, just launched a Kickstarter campaign for their ten-issue, biannual journal that explores the garden state through the lens of ten watershed moments in its history (and the future to come).

The first issue will cover the opening of the Jersey Turnpike and will feature contributions from the likes of the artist and filmmaker Ayanna Dozier, graphic designer Martin Flores, creative technologist Dahee Lee, photographer David Maisel, animator Shayna Strype, and designer Tommy Yang. And, you know, maybe at least strongly consider kicking in a couple of shekels for the publication’s Kickstarter as, at the $10 level, they’ll send you a scratch ‘n sniff Jersey Turnpike map.

We spoke with founders Lune Ames and Petia Morozov about the genesis behind Dense and how the magazine challenges our notions of design journalism.

What kickstarted the idea for Dense, and why New Jersey?

We’re launching Dense to flip design journalism on its head for a broader audience, to show just how interconnected things like culture, education, public space, history, politics, and environmental justice really are. New Jersey and its global counterparts see their fair share of experimentation while operating in the shadows of major cities like New York and Philadelphia, and we think the densest state in the US offers a unique portal to make sense of design's role within an ever more complicated future.

The publication will run for ten issues, and the first in the series will focus on the opening of the Jersey Turnpike. What made you decide to start here?

Most design publications focus on people, places, or objects. Dense looks at ten events in New Jersey that either happened or are predicted to happen and explores the larger contexts that shape and emerge from each event.

Our debut issue cracks open the mythical, cultural, environmental, and political terrain that this 118-mile-long project traverses, taking surprising turns along the way: street dancing, deer hunting, self-driving cars, detours, displacement, drag, and more.

Nine issues later, we conclude with what was deemed the state's most radical project that never happened. What connects all ten issues are thoughtfully crafted contributions with a dash of our editorial secret sauce, bound into something beautiful to cherish for years to come.

Design and Jersey are likely not synonymous for a lot of folks. What are you hoping to showcase or put a spotlight on?

Not all of our readers may call New Jersey home. Some may never have picked up a design magazine, but what unites our readers is a fascination with New Jersey's notoriety and a curiosity to understand the how and why of design.

Dense broadens the discussion for designers and non-designers alike, surprising readers with things they don't know and often don't know that they didn't know.

Who is doing the editorial design for the publication, and what do you want it to say?

Dense is forward-thinking publishing and will feature original works by celebrated and emerging contributors both in and out of state, those already in the design space, and those who've never considered themselves designers. We'll also share archival material that's presented in a new light, adding to each issue's speculative, "what if" voice.

Dense is equity-building, mission-driven publishing. A project of DesignShed, whose mission is to celebrate, mobilize, and incubate New Jersey’s creative ecosystem through the power of design, Dense expands this mission by prioritizing storytelling as the core of the change-making design.

We believe the future of publishing looks like investing back into the communities whose stories we feature. We're committed to fair compensation for diverse contributors, editors, and designers and to building a community fund that invests in BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and immigrant designers across the state.

And because we firmly believe that print is here to stay, we've partnered with Hemlock, carbon-neutral printers whose commitment to sustainable practices yields the highest recycled paper content on the market.

Some backers on your Kickstarter will receive a scratch 'n sniff map of the Jersey Turnpike from the year 2151. Who designed this, and what does 2151 New Jersey smell like exactly?

In the year 2151, the turnpike is buoyant, botanical, and microbiological. Backers will be able to take a whiff of the limited-edition collector’s item that we designed together.

Dense's debut focuses on the opening day of the New Jersey Turnpike. Through four themes, we prompt our readers and contributors to look at how we got here, where we’re headed, and what other futures are possible.

In 148 full-color pages, each issue clusters essays, interviews, visual stories, fictional accounts, and tasty inserts around an event that pushes and pulls our readers in surprising directions and leaves them smitten with our state’s spin on design. We’re showing how even “New Jersey” as we know it is always in flux, for as long as it's been part of the Lenape territory called "Lenapehoking."

Will there be a critical discussion in the first issue of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Big Road," where Spencer gives a shout-out to all of the rest stops on the turnpike?

We have a 118-mile long Turnpike playlist to accompany our first issue, and Big Road will be in very good company.