Print at Actual Size

Friday 25 January 2019

The first two editions of Actual Size magazine

The first two editions of Actual Size magazine

Actual Size magazine first appeared on shelves last summer. Edited and published by Suzy Prince, it bills itself as ‘a magazine for creative, intelligent, culturally clued-up, design-conscious women’. Available worldwide, it is now being sold in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and WH Smith as well as a wide range of independent stockists.

I first heard about Actual Size when the Just a Card campaign asked me to design an advert to go in the very first edition. When it arrived I was interested to read the editor’s welcome, which included why Suzy had chosen to publish the magazine in a printed format (an identical version is available as a digital download). Newspapers and magazines are generally seen to be moving away from print. And yet here was a brand new magazine published by an editor who clearly relishes many of the same benefits of print as me.

Suzy Prince

Suzy Prince, editor of Actual Size magazine

Suzy Prince is no stranger to the world of publishing, having previously edited arts and culture magazine Nude as well as books on art and culture. I love chatting to like-minded print lovers, so I was keen to ask Suzy more out about her new magazine.

Can you tell us a bit about Actual Size magazine? Where did the idea come from, and how did it all start?

I’ve had the idea about an intelligent, entertaining, non-patronising magazine for women for years now – a friend recently reminded me that I was talking about this when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, who’s now 10! But having published a magazine before, I’m all too aware of just how all-consuming it can be and the amount of time, energy and cold hard cash it takes to get it off the ground. So the time wasn’t right for a long time. And then last year I just sat down and thought ‘if I don’t do this soon, it will never happen. And I would really regret that’. So I sat down, made some plans, started talking to potential contributors and went for it!

A really key relationship for me is to have a great designer/art director on board. I’d had Jenny Parkington in mind for some time. I hadn’t seen her in years, and then in what really did feel like some kind of sign, I bumped into her on the tram in Manchester, just as I was getting the magazine up and running. And she’s done a great job ever since!

The advert I designed for Actual Size magazine

The advert that I designed for the first edition of Actual Size magazine

The main motivation for the magazine is that I’ve felt for such a long time that the vast majority of women’s magazines don’t represent me and don’t contain a great deal that’s of interest to me. There are some exceptions of course, but for the most part every time I scan a shelf of women’s magazines in a shop I just feel disheartened. And it felt like time to stop moaning about that and to do something about it.

How have attitudes to publishing printed magazines changed since you started out?

Well, my first magazine, Nude, was first published in 2003 and I don’t think we even had an accompanying website up and running for the first few issues! Digital versions of magazines were literally not something that crossed my mind when I first started out with that.

There’s been a definite dip in sales of print magazines sadly, but interestingly, the independent magazine market is absolutely booming at the moment. I have no idea how many of them make any money but there are some lovely publications out there right now.

In terms of digital content, the biggest change in recent years has been around the advent of social media. While I embrace the fact that instagram in particular can really help you to seek out and discover your audience, I also think that a lot of people fall into the trap of letting that take over their lives and using up the majority of their working day. I work largely alone at the moment so I have to be really, really careful with social media and not letting it eat too much into my day at the expense of the magazine itself.

What made you decide to publish Actual Size as a printed magazine?

I just love print! I almost never read magazines online – I find it too much like work, not a truly relaxing experience… there’s nothing like sitting down with a magazine and a cuppa to give yourself a pause to your day.

And I do truly believe that people read things differently online. I use online to skim read and for research. I never take the time to let an article wash over me, or to really study some pictures at length. As long as I can, I intend to work in print.

Sales of the printed magazine seem to be going brilliantly! Are you finding that the downloadable version is equally as popular?

Sales are certainly exceeding expectations on the website, so that’s great news. In terms of sales in shops, I’m hearing very encouraging sounds from the distributor, but it takes many months for the actual figures to come through (almost a year for international sales – be warned anyone who’s considering starting a magazine!) so in truth I don’t know yet. We’re almost at the point where I’ll receive the UK figures for issue one – a day I’m both nervous and excited about. But I have a lot of feedback on social media from people who’ve picked up a copy, so I know people are buying and loving it!

The download version so far isn’t as popular at all. Literally nobody in the UK buys the download – people seem to prefer to have the physical version. And even internationally, where of course the postage costs are higher, most people seem to prefer to order a paper copy.

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Photograph of Sarah Cowan

Hello! I’m Sarah, an independent graphic designer & typographer, helping businesses to communicate their unique selling points through printed marketing and communications.

I’ve been sharing my knowledge about design, typography, marketing, branding and printing since 2014. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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Sarah Cowan