• Steven Heller

A Creative Mag for New England

Michael Kusek, Take magazine’s founder and publisher, worked in two different sides of media—at and alt-weekly newspaper and as a publicist primarily for artists, creative businesses and cultural organizations. His experience from that work was that the majority of existing New England media tends to cover stories from just the state, region or town where they are located, and that there was a place for a new publication that treats and presents New England—particularly its cultural output—as a whole. He reached out to a group of some of the most talented people he knows and asked if they would join him to help make this magazine a reality. I asked art director Jan Šabach to talk more about Take.

How many issues have been published, and what has been the response? Our fifth issue just arrived on newsstands at the end of January and the response has been very positive from both readers and the people we’ve featured. Sales on the newsstand have been strong and as more people have become aware of us, advertisers are coming on board. While Take is written for a New England audience, we’re happy to now find ourselves on newsstands and have subscribers from all over the United States.

New England is rife with craftpersons, artisans and folkies. What is the role Take plays in this firmament? New England is traditionally presented as a land of covered bridges, red barns, maple syrup and lobster traps. What isn’t always presented with the more traditional aspects of New England life are the rich communities of creatives making new, world-class culture across a whole spectrum of fields. With so much innovative creativity happening here, our goal is to provide exposure and expand the audience for the work made in New England. Additionally, we have a “buy-local” ethos when it comes to the creation of editorial and production by hiring freelancers from New England, and printing the magazine with a local printer.

What is the criteria for inclusion in the magazine? The person lives somewhere in the six states of New England and are producing what they make right here. When we hear a pitch that makes us say, “I had no idea that was happening here,” it almost always gets added to the shortlist of possible stories. We do occasionally present essays and stories from “ex-pats” who started their lives or careers here.

In the issues I’ve seen there seems to be a youngish demographic, leaving aside the older artisans who have been in the environs. Is this conscious? Since we started, we’ve covered subjects that range in age from 88-year-old Maine-based painter Lois Dodd to Studio 860, a troupe of young hip-hop dancers in Hartford. Our editor Lauren Clark really keeps a very close eye on making sure we tell the stories of as diverse a group of people as we can find.

From a design standpoint, do you have a philosophy or point of view with the magazine? From its inception, Take was intended to be a keepsake—not just great writing, but also great (mostly) original photography and illustration, handsomely printed on a nice stock that you’ll want to hang on to. The former art director, Dan McKinley, did a fantastic job and designed a wonderful magazine. One area where I saw an opportunity for improvement was to create a more tailored approach for the individual features. My background in branding was pushing me towards some typographic or design treatment that would convey the spirit of the text when appropriate and create more dynamic pacing of the magazine. I want to present the content in the best possible way, get the reader’s attention, but at the same time not interrupt the ease of reading. We want to showcase local talent, so we try to work with New England-based photographers and illustrators as much as possible. I look for young and fresh artists that will help us introduce New England’s new culture to our readers in the most (visually) appealing way. Design can make or break the magazine. For me, having a well-designed product is a gesture of respect for the writers, photographers, illustrators, readers … and the trees.

What’s next for Take? To survive all the bumps that come along from being a start-up business while swinging away at the idea that print magazines are obsolete, building an audience of loyal readers and finding more amazing people to write about for them.

Enter the 2016 Regional Design Annual today for a chance to be featured among the country’s best design work in Print magazine. Our judges: Jessica Walsh, Gail Anderson, Timothy Goodman, Marc English, Bill Grant and Jennifer Morla.

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