Our Top Chef interview series aims to pick the brains of top business and media experts to find out how they learn, work and innovate. We recently got in contact with Steve Daniels, one of the faces behind the new magazine, Makeshift. The focus of the new magazine is on invention, design and creativity in emerging markets.
What is your role at Makeshift Magazine?
I’m the editor-in-chief. We’re a very small, globally distributed team, so we all have a heavy hand in shaping the vision right now.
What is the mission of the magazine?
Our mission is to uncover stories of creativity and invention around the world, with a particular focus on resource-constrained areas. We want to discover and communicate how ingenuity emerges from constraints.
Is the magazine available in both print and digital?
We’re doing both. People ask us why we’re doing print given the state of the industry, but anyone who’s seen the print edition gets it immediately. The content is so physical in nature, and that is reflected in the look and feel of the magazine, from the icons to the paper. Plus, we want to get this into emerging markets, and to do that you need to be offline. Someone recently said “if you think print is dead you must think 90 percent of the world can’t read.”
Your website speaks of invention, can you give some examples in emerging markets?
You’ll find a do-it-yourself ethos in every emerging market metropolis. In India it’s called jugaad, in East Africa jua kali, and in Brazil gambiarra. We’ve found incredible individuals like a farmer in China who built dozens of robots out of scrap parts and an inventor in India who adapted a traditional weaving device to harness the energy from spinning to charge batteries. Then there are broader trends like using water bottles as solar light bulbs all over the Philippines and celebrating Jeeps in Colombia with annual parades dedicated to the vehicle.
What benefits does the magazine have for emerging markets?
One of our main goals right now is to unify those different cultures, from DIY to jugaad, into a global identity we’re calling the “maker.” DIY has been an empowering identity for hobbyists in the West, and we want isolated inventors in back alleys and garages to think of themselves as important to the progress of their economies. We’re getting the magazine into emerging markets from Issue One by distributing at events, and we’re planning a sister publication of practical how-tos and profiles for makers to help spread ideas across cultures where access to information is limited.
Do you use social media on a regular basis as a form of sourcing?
Right now we’re curating the sourcing of content internally because we can’t handle the flood of submissions we’re already getting. But social media is important to us as a way to engage with the world in discussions related to the magazine in a less formal way than the traditional article format.
How does the kickstarter programme work?
Kickstarter allows project creators to crowdsource funding to get their projects off the ground. In exchange for donations, project creators have to give prizes, and creators only receive the funds if they meet their goal. The social incentive mechanisms baked into the process give it the highest success rate of any fundraising website. We used Kickstarter for our first round of fundraising and not only did it give us a nice padding of funding, but it also built us a loyal readership and subscriber base prior to launch.
How are you marketing the magazine online?
We’re active on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. We just got our website and blog up, and we’re trying to get the content to spread. We know that some content, like infographics and galleries, will spread more virally than others, so that’s the type of thing we’d like to spread around the internet to draw more users to our site to check out longer articles and subscribe.
Who is your target audience?
So far we’ve received a lot of interest from forward-thinking creatives who want a fresh perspective on how the world industrializes and develops. We believe constraint-based innovation is a topic that will resonate with a range of audiences, including engineers and architects, urban planners and policy makers, and development professionals and academics.
Describe your writing and editorial team. Are they all based in one area? Are they part time contributors/do they come from various backgrounds/roles?
The team for Issue One was based in New York, Mexico City, Singapore, and Madrid—one person in each city. I didn’t meet my senior editor Myles Estey until the launch party two weeks ago. It was a challenge collaborating virtually to get the first issue out, but the diversity of perspectives we bring to the team made it all worthwhile.
Are you considering writers from other emerging markets to contribute to the magazine?
Our contributors are scattered all over the globe. For Issue One, we had writers reporting from or on 10 countries, nine of which would be considered emerging markets. While most are actually living in those areas, it is a baseline requirement that all contributions have to be grounded in primary research in the places written about.
Check out the Makeshift video here: