An Interview with ‘Intern’ Magazine Creator Alec Dudson

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Brand You / Interviews

While intern has established itself as an invaluable platform for young creative talent both with its content and ethical perspective, it’s an ongoing discussion which resides in its foundations.

When Alec Dudson launched the publication, he did so with the intent to open up a dialogue. It’s a subject with which he has first-hand experience and believes to be an essential topic for the industry to be talking about.

We had a chat with Alec and he went into some detail about what it was like to get it off the ground, the unique path the magazine has taken, as well as handing out some expert advice on ways to start your career.

Can you tell us about intern and how you got involved in the project?

intern is a project I started back in January 2013 after spending ten months interning the year beforehand. Having worked in bars during my studies and then full-time after for a year or so, I finally started to think about the sort of long-term career I wanted to pursue.

I’d recently been introduced to a magazine called Boat and it introduced me to the world of independent magazines.

At the time, with an MA in Sociology to my name, an internship seemed my only half-chance of edging my way into the magazine world, so I began applying.

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Above: intern magazine.

I interned for Domus in Milan and then Boat in London, after which, setting up my own mag seemed the most practical way to work in the field.

When I was working on concepts, the one I kept returning to was this one about interns, internships and the odd culture that was quickly becoming the norm. 

Tell us a bit more about the conversation on internships that the publication intends to address.

The publication’s goal in that respect is merely to ensure that there is a conversation.

I’m steadfast in my opinion that to be at all worthwhile, that discussion has to be balanced, come from a wide variety of perspectives and be accessible for the community it principally serves.

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Above: intern magazine.

Our contributors are largely young creatives. Often they’re students or recent graduates, we pay all of them and that’s another fundamental principle of what we’re all about.

In order to deliver on our claim to be “for and by the creative youth” we work with a totally new batch of contributors each issue, sourced for the most part from an open call.

It’s so far proven a great way to come across stories, ideas and creatives from all around the world.

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Above: intern magazine.

Apart from obviously continuing the discussion on the topic and providing opportunities for the young creatives that it affects, what goals has intern set out to achieve?

In regard to the opportunities, we’re looking to prove that while these young people aren’t yet at the very top of their game professionally, their output still makes a really high quality, thought-provoking, good looking publication.

If we achieve that issue by issue, I see it as proof that our contributors (and thousands like them) are already producing work of significant value.

Rather than trying to convince them otherwise, it would be nice to see more people agreeing with us and giving them paid opportunities. 

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Above: illustration by Michael Lester.

How does the core message of intern affect the kinds of people you approach to be involved, and how do you feel you are generally received?

Generally speaking, when we approach contributors, or contact those who’ve submitted work, the response is great.

It’s very rare that we’ve wanted to work with someone but it hasn’t worked out. I’m proud to say that extends to the industry figures we’ve reached out to as well.

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Above: photo of Jean Juillien and his intern at the time, Jean Toufan by Anothony Gerace.

Jean Jullien and his ex-intern Toufan Hosseiny from Issue Two feature ‘Jean and Toufan’ and is shot by Anthony Gerace.

Since our first issue, I’ve been delighted with having people like Mike Perry, James Victore, Jessica Walsh, Mr Bingo, Adrian Shaughnessy, Olivia Bee, Jean Jullien and Eike König provide insight and intervention.

It’s important for the debate that the industry is at the table and we continually work with the biggest names out there, so that has to bode well. 

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Above: photo of Jessica Walsh by Monica Lek.

Do you think that your unique ethos for the publication has affected the kinds of challenges you have or haven’t faced in launching a new magazine?

I met a friend who runs a very successful independent magazine the other week and while he has had to deal with a lot of imitators, so far, we haven’t.

I guess that’s been one benefit of having a very defined concept, not to say that the friend who I refer to hasn’t. I guess it’s just a topic which, thus far, people either don’t have a similar interest in, or feel like we adequately cover. 

Ethos and concept are huge factors in getting a magazine started as well as ensuring it survives and thrives.

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Above: intern magazine.

That said, there are a huge stack of challenges that face any magazine and they’re pretty tough to keep on top of.

As my Editor at Boat, Erin Spens, once told me “If you want an easy life and a good wage, steer clear of print publishing”. It was advice that she’d been given and ignored, for better or worse, I did the same.  

How have you approached the promotion of intern and what advice would you give to someone who may bein a similar position?

Promotion is something that we’re experimenting with all the time.

Often with limited resources, which can be a challenge, but is a better habit to get in than frittering money away on hair-brained schemes.

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Above: intern magazine.

Our first real promotional vehicle was Kickstarter. It remains one of the most effective promo tools we’ve ever used.

We built a community of readers off the back of it by attracting press attention, which in turn created great content for our social media platforms.

For independent publications, the web and social media are the go-to tools because of their low cost and potential reach.

Converting ‘likes’ into sales is an essential, but tricky business though. We’re a launch partner with a new social media platform this year, so that’s going to be a cool experiment which we’ll reveal more about soon.

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Above: intern magazine.

As a publication focusing on this area, what would say are some of the mistakes young talent make when first starting out in the creative industry?

The big one is subscribing to the belief that you and your work don’t have any value. 

Could you outline some pointers about what to do and not to do when submitting work to publications like intern or similar?

My best advice for this is to always carefully read the guidelines and follow them.

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Above: intern magazine.

Anyone who receives more than a handful of submissions needs to be able to see what the pitch is clearly and quickly, if you try to cram in too much in a bid to stand out, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.

Concentrate on being clear and concise, the quality of your idea or work will shine thorough if it’s been well executed, don’t try and over-complicate things.

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Above: intern magazine.

We’ve already seen a big change in the way that creative talent promote themselves with the  way we use the internet and social platforms, how do you (or how would you like to) see this evolving in the future?

One of the things I’ve been trying to communicate of recent is the importance of ‘being creative about your career’. There’s nothing more impressive to a prospective employer or client than seeing you take the initiative in a broader sense.

We have featured some great examples in our first and second print issues, a handful of the latter you can still buy online.

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Above: photo of the ‘Cool Bus’ by Joshua Weaver.

My favourite is probably ‘The Cool Bus’. Five guys who rather than working unpaid design internships in NYC saved up from their part-time jobs in a kitchen and bought an old school bus.

They converted it into a mobile design studio and travelled the country over the summer doing freelance work wherever they rolled into town.

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Above: photo of the ‘Cool Bus’ by Logan Meckley.

Unsurprisingly, when one went for his first interview after that project, rather than getting the junior designer role he applied for, he was made creative director. And the whole thing cost them a lot less overall than working in the city unpaid would have. 

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Above: photo of the ‘Cool Bus’ by Logan Meckley.

What are your plans for intern? What should we keep an eye out for?

We’ve got big plans this year, so expect things to go up a notch or two.

We’re working on a podcast series with Squarespace, are planning a series of events with Habitat on the King’s Road in Chelsea and will be re-designing our website and re-thinking the content we create for it.

Our fourth issue will be dropping in the next month or so as well, so be sure to pick it up along with our third if you haven’t already.

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Above: Alec Dudson.

© intern magazine, 2016

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