At 128 pages, covering topics from the uprising in Ukraine, to the delicate construction of an Iced Vovo, new independent magazine Future Perfect is diverse. It's the work of five friends from Wollongong with a shared penchant for print and long-form journalism.
Publisher Nick Underhill and the editorial team have launched the magazine’s first print issue after almost seven months of hair pulling and little sleep. “Had we known how much work it was, I'm not sure we would have done it,” he jokes. Though we’re not sure if we believe him.
Future Perfect may not be an established brand yet, but it is no less polished for it. It draws inspiration from other, similarly spirited publications such as the quarterly Smith Journal. The editorial team pored over other magazines to get to grips with the enormity of their project. “We read heaps,” says Underhill. “We bought shitloads of magazines … to see what they were doing really well and what we liked about them.”
The editors themselves are an unlikely mix. After meeting either during childhood or at university, Underhill (a barista) and fellow editors Nick Watts (a program assistant at FBi radio), Ryan Frazer (a tutor in geography and indigenous studies at the University of Wollongong), Kevin Loo (a Ph.D. candidate in medical physics) and designer Leon Shore, learned from scratch. With limited resources and no start-up capital they started the unrelenting process, from pitch to print, of publishing an independent magazine.
For the most part, the team members worked separately from each other, fitting in their Future Perfect duties around their day jobs, communicating via Skype and Facebook. As the magazine came together and went to print, Watts weighed in from Sydney, Underhill, Frazer and Shore from Wollongong, while Loo, who is based in Prague, gave notes from the other side of the world.
The final product is carefully fashioned and lovingly curated from front page to last. Like an artist’s scrapbook, small, hand-drawn illustrations lead fancifully from story, to photograph, to striking header, to minimally organised type. Full-colour satellite images of Australian landscapes taken from NASA’s satellite archives spill across rich, white paper stock opposite a brazen profile of Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, or an absorbing piece exploring Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s epilepsy. A few pages in, the magazine’s centre provides a digestible “synoptic look at the best of long-form journalism” from around the world. A three-page spread, entitled The Rights of Men, details the insidious rise the men’s rights movement on the internet.
The financial and personal investment in putting together a quarterly publication, at least in its early stages, Underhill confesses is overwhelming. “The biggest hurdle we had is we didn't have anything to show anyone,” he says. Without an established voice or reputation, it is often challenging to find contributors or investors willing to commit. “If we had grand ideas, they didn't quite eventuate because we couldn't prove we were serious.” In spite of this, the magazine nevertheless radiates the breadth and richness of whatever “grand ideas” did make it to the page.
With an initial print run of 4000, Underhill is quick to admit he is being ambitious. But he is optimistic that readers and retailers will take well to Future Perfect. Especially since it’s printed and produced in Sydney. “Ours is really as local as you can get,” he says. “Stockists and audiences respond well to that.”
Underhill is understandably excited for the coming issues, and undaunted by the challenges of an increasing movement online among publishers. “We're creating something that is lasting, that isn't just sitting on a server somewhere.”