Over the past few months, the word ‘Raw’ has come to take on a wide variety of meanings and interpretations amongst the 25 of us who have been behind this project. It means honesty and vulnerability, but it also means more coffee and less sleep. And to be honest, I think that ‘It’s very… raw’ might be the most overused phrase during the past academic year, as we have run out of words to try and justify each and every one of our over-analysed micro decisions. Having said that, it’s been an incredible opportunity, with all its challenges, failures and successes.
Today, we are turning the spotlight onto Mr Malcolm Bonello, our current tutor, and Dr Gorg Mallia, who started it all 25 years ago, to find out what this class has meant to them…
1) When did you start to manage the magazine publishing class?
Malcolm: I started 7 years ago, in 2011. I was only working part-time and it was an evening course. I was working full-time somewhere else and I was only teaching this one course.
Gorg: It was 25 years ago. The communication course had just basically started and there was nothing about printing so I started a course called ‘Printing Process’. It was immediately clear to me that just learning about printing wouldn’t be enough. I wanted them to have their hands there, to practice. So we got together and we created the magazine. The magazine was ready but at the last minute, the printer let us down by postponing the printing date which would have been during the holidays, meaning that nobody would be there to distribute the magazine etc. So sadly, the first year, we had to make the decision to not print it.
2) What problems have you encountered over the years?
M: The biggest problem we faced every single year is the advertising aspect: all the funds that are needed to send the magazine to print – which is actually quite a lot – need to be raised by the students in 3 months maximum.
The rest are normal problems. For example, one year there wasn’t a designer, so we had to actually have tutorials and meet every day. There is always a missing skill because no one in the class ever had to be dealing with sponsors, writing real content which will be published, or deal with real companies to promote the magazine. But even if there is a missing skillset, we always manage somehow. I think the biggest problem is always finding people who believe in a student project to support it financially.
G: There were always problems with money. I can only remember one year which couldn’t get the full amount. But the rest of the time it was quite ok, one year they even managed to get double the money needed for the magazine! In those days, all the money came from advertising, so the advertising team had the hardest job, obviously.
But actually the biggest problem wasn’t the fundraising, it was students fighting each other, arguing over content. Then every team would blame each other for difficulties and problems. It’s normal. But in the meantime, it always became, nonetheless, a really good social experience.
3) What’s a standout story from your years of handling it?
M: To be honest, I always find it impressive when the magazines are delivered and the students see their printed work from the first time. It is amazing how much people still love print. Before they actually produced it, students feel like it’s just a magazine. But when you see them looking at their work, it’s different. We read that ‘print is dead’, but I have no problem with print taking a different role. To see students actually looking at their printed work and saying ‘I’ve never felt so proud of my work’ and see how valid print still is; seeing people asking for it, receiving messages on the facebook page saying ‘can I collect a copy from somewhere?’… I think that is the biggest story every single year. When you see the students really amazed by how impactful the printed physical thing is.
G: I used to give the students complete freedom to do what they wanted. I never really wanted to know what they wanted to put in there. We would have an editorial board with the whole class, and we would decide on the cover… all of that was voted for by the class. I was the one that they came to if they had a problem. I always wanted to say this belongs to them. When people wanted to interview me in the media or the newspaper I always said, ‘No, interview the students instead.’ I coordinated invisibly. I waited until the point the organization was strong and then it took care of itself… and it worked really well. At the end, I would go over all the magazine with them, but I never changed much.
4) Do you think that it is important to offer a unit of this kind?
M: I was a student in 2008 doing this project with Gorg Mallia as my teacher, and I remember saying ‘I faked it’… in a sense, I didn’t know how to design and I faked knowing how to do it, and I made it. I think the course allows us to make mistakes, because I remember when I did it, my magazine was full of mistakes and most of them were my fault. I remember saying, ‘it’s the best way to learn because I made the mistakes now rather than in the industry, as quickly as possible’ and I was okay with my mistakes because it was a safe place to learn from them immediately.
So given that I was a student in this publication course exactly 10 years ago, I can say that it was one of the most important classes in my four years at the university and the one that got me a job immediately at a design agency. I enjoyed it so much that I started teaching it!
G: Yes, absolutely, on many levels. One: because it is bringing the students together on a practical project. Two: because it’s a practical project that is left behind. That’s not something which disappears after a while, like online, for example. It’s actually physically there and it can be used for their portfolio.
In spite of everybody saying that print is dead, it’s true; newspaper is dying, but magazine isn’t. People still like to read the physical magazine, touch the paper, smell the ink… It’s a unique experience which cannot be replicated electronically. I’m really happy that the magazine is continuing. When I knew that Malcom (who was was one of the students that I taught) was going to take over, I was extremely happy that it was him, because I know how he is. I was very happy to see that you all have put your own take on the magazine together and it becomes very much a copy of the identity of the group.
Join us on Campus next Wednesday, 16th May, to get a copy of RAW and meet the people behind it all. You won’t regret it!