Independent magazines tend to come in waves. First, people sought out alternative views on fashion, then interiors, then food and now we’re in the middle of a wave of independent football (soccer to some) magazines. One of the most interesting of this new crop of magazines is 8 by 8, which looks at football sideways, both visually and editorially. We visited their studio to get a sense of how they worked and had a conversation with the co-founders Robert Priest and Grace Lee to talk about covering football while being based in a not-so-football-focused country, the ADD generation and whether Jamie Cullum’s The Eighty Eight Journal should get a new name.
Eight by Eight consists of: Robert Priest (co-founder/Editor-in-Chief), Grace Lee (co-founder/Creative Director), Cooper Lemon (Communications & Marketing Director) and Miles Kohrman (Senior Editor – not pictured)
There’s no shortage of football coverage — in the UK, at least. What did you think was missing from that you thought you could add with Eight by Eight?
Yes, there’s certainly a lot of football coverage. We sometimes joke about how nice it is to be based in New York, since the tabloids here don’t feed on transfer rumors and football gossip… At least not yet.
Much of the best football journalism has been confined to the ink and paper of major newspapers and their websites, as well as a handful of great blogs. In Eight by Eight, we set out to augment the work of the writers we most admire: Wilson, Honigstein, Auclair, Early, Kay, Delaney, and so on — with world-class illustration, design, and photography. We wanted to take the football magazine to the next level and create something exciting — the perfect storm of art direction, football, and storytelling. That’s something, until now, that we feel wasn’t being offered.
Of course, we’d be remiss to not acknowledge the other excellent football quarterlies and magazines out there (Blizzard, Pickles, and Spiel are a few of our favorites) that you should definitely give a look.
You’ve worked on several types of magazines before but never sports. Do you see Eight by Eight as a showcase of what you can do, as a potential business, or both?
We have worked with several major publications, but don’t see Eight by Eight as a showcase or a vanity project. We’re passionate about the sport and doing our own magazine allows us complete creative freedom. To be a publication without corporate restrictions and focus group testing is very important. It’s something we do because we believe there is a massive untapped audience here in the States and abroad. As we continue to broaden our reach, we are confident that this can grow into a successful business.
What drew you to the idea of political commentary via illustration?
Illustration enables us to make a statement about the character of a player, a team, or a key issue that affects the game. Words aren’t the only way to tell a story, and our illustrators have become part of the voice of the magazine.
It feels as though there has been a drastic increase in football art and illustration of late, but we’re confident that the work we are publishing is some of the best.
What were some of Eight by Eight’s main influences?
Eight by Eight is informed by both our [Robert and Grace’s] careers. We’ve worked with the best writers, illustrators, and photographers, working on magazines such as Esquire, GQ and Conde Nast Portfolio. The idea is not to be influenced by anything, but of course we live in a visual age and there are any number of publications, films, websites that affect our thinking.
Do you feel like the idea of the ADD generation is rather overstated? There’s more magazines than ever before, and they all, fundamentally, subscribe to the idea of you unplugging from your phone.
In the world of football, in particular, there’s a lot of noise, but we feel — and have seen — that if you create a high quality product that brings something unique to the table it will be well received. The large format of Eight by Eight amplifies the visuals in a way that digital can’t. A lot of our readers have told us that they prefer the print experience. Our favorite description was that Eight by Eight‘s print edition is an “iPad killer.” But, of course, we offer a digital version of the magazine as well.
Does the differing relationship the US has with football in comparison to the rest of the world affect how you approach your magazine?
We assume a certain knowledge for a reader to pick up the magazine. We think of them as informed fans. We’re not trying to teach anyone the fundamentals of the game, but rather want to deepen their knowledge. In the US, we have unparalleled access to viewing all the top leagues in the world. From our standpoint, there are plenty of American football fans who might support the US Men’s National Team, a domestic MLS club, a club in the Premier League, and a club in La Liga. We aim to speak to as many of those supporters as we can.
Eight by Eight targets two main audiences: the American reader who is starved for quality football coverage, and the global football fan who’s looking for something new and exciting — and, again, high quality. Hopefully, we can deliver that.
What’s the long-term goal for the website and how will it differ from the printed product?
The long-term goal for the site is to have a platform where we can expand on the type of coverage and content we offer. You’ll find extended Q&A’s that couldn’t fit in the book, photo essays from matches across the country, profiles of up-and-coming football-oriented community organizations, articles and (sometimes experimental) essays from young writers, and behind-the-scenes looks at the creation of the magazine. What goes in the book is largely based around the leagues, teams, personalities, and issues that matter most in global football. The site allows us to try out new writers and publish pieces that don’t quite fit into a given issue — and have some fun!
Would you like Jamie Cullum to change the name of his magazine?
Afraid we’ve never heard of him. After googling him, we see he’s a jazz musician. (We don’t like jazz…)
Plans for the future?
In the future we’d love to continue collaborating with more publications and organizations that love the sport as much as we do. It’s also important to us to continue expanding our brand offerings beyond the print product. We recently released our first podcast on football fan culture in NYC and helped produce a short video with VICE Sports during the World Cup. We’re just generally thrilled to be around at such an exciting time for the football community in New York and in America, and we expect to see a lot growth in the next few years.
Short-term, we’re just focusing on getting the next issue together. And, of course, to reserve a spot on your bookshelf.