Producing a print magazine on design culture has been an unexpected perk of working at IBM Studios. Seeing it featured on FPO (For Print Only) is just icing on the cake. Go ahead and re-read that first sentence, I get it.
All Things X features human-centered stories from within and outside of IBM. Each article is produced and designed individually giving each piece it’s own voice and tone, which allows for more personal creativity for both the author and the designer. All of the work is done outside of daily responsibilities, and the volunteer roster of producers, writers, and designers grows with each issue. As you can see, it’s gorgeous, but what you can’t experience is the feel. The magazine has some heft to it like an issue of Drift or The Great Discontent.
The result is an unexpected delightful outcome.
Every time someone from outside the studio is shown the magazine, their jaw drops. Seriously, this happens every time. And while they are scanning through the pages their head shakes in disbelief, as if they are trying to process how such a wonderful print experience could come out of a digital studio. It probably helps that the stories are not those you would expect to come from within IBM.
The vision for the magazine came from two young designers that I work with closely, Adam Lehman and Patrick Lowden. Inspired by the depth and breadth of human-centered culture at IBM Studios, they came up with the idea to create a magazine with a focus on stories about IBM users and the people within the global studios program. They were passionate about the project and dammed if anyone was going to get in their way.
Now, this is the part of the story that I’d like you all to pay attention to. I’ve talked with and mentored enough young designers to know that most of you all have dreams of producing something that we’re unsure, afraid, whatever, to pursue. So, let me give you an idea of how this worked for one of your peers.
Rather than put together some half-baked proposal, Adam and Patrick gathered a small group of volunteers to create a proof of concept. They did everything from scratch and ended up farther than they initially intended with a hefty 175-page publication. Not one to let little problems get in the way of his ambition, Adam threw down his personal credit card to print fifty copies. Weeks later, with their printed prototype in hand they socialized the product, gathered support from senior leadership who helped the guys land a meeting with the general manager of IBM Design, Phil Gilbert. In that meeting, Adam and Patrick made a straight business case for why the magazine should exist, how it supports the human-centered mission of the design program, and what an annual budget would look like.
Upon approval to proceed with production, two mandates were set for the group: Distribution stays within the walls of IBM Studios and the stories stay in print form only, no digital versions allowed (however, we do have a brand new Medium publication called Design at IBM)— to keep the experience unique, and thankfully that is where it has stayed except for this surprise appearance in FPO.
Publishing each issue takes a lot of work, and there are many designers who spend late nights finishing the details, it’s a labor of love of print, journalism, photography, illustration, and publishing and the results show. In fact, the deadline for issue three hits in a few days and already there are a few zombies walking around the studio.