The Making of a Magazine: Coilhouse Issue 01

This here’s a scan of a wet proof of the cover of Coilhouse Magazine, Issue 1. What is a wet proof, you ask? It’s a magazine prototype made using offset printing plates, with exactly the same inks, on paper with exactly the same thickness and finish as your entire print run. We didn’t know this term when we jumped into the process of printing. There were many such new terms – exotic publishing/typographic words like “ozalids” and “boustrophedon”. But we learned them all, and much more, in the process of putting together Issue 1. There were epiphanies, mistakes (to our high-school readership: math and geometry class are important), and magical 3:00 a.m. moments when it all came together.

Until the launch date, our lips are sealed regarding Issue 1’s content. The number of pages, the design, the art, the stories, the texture… all will be revealed. For now, we offer but a sneak peek in this “Behind the Scenes” post. Take a stroll through the hot dog factory with us!

Nadya works closely with an illustrator on a concept for a music feature.

When we first began this process, the entire staff sat down over milkshakes and batted around various ideas for Issue 1. Sifting through one another’s proposed articles, we gradually determined what to keep and what to discard or save for a future issue. After that meeting, we worked independently to develop the content, collaborating closely with our contributors.

Zoetica rescues an unfinished layout in the 11th hour.

We hit a snag when our original designer jumped ship. To the venerable List of Craig we went! Our search for a replacement – wherein we naively inquired after fellow lovers of Tschichold and Lissitzky – nearly induced epilepsy as we were forced to endure one blinking Flash website after another. Finally, we found a diamond in the rough: Cecilia Melli, a stylish Italian who understood what we were doing and was willing to work for what were, in retrospect, slave wages considering the amount of work that she did. In the end, even she couldn’t finish all the layouts, and in certain cases we were forced to take matters into our own hands.

L: Experiments with bar code location. R: Avg. # of mistakes per page.

Thus began the most painful and labor-intensive part of the process. Spacing adjustment, color correction, font changes, final grammar checks and last-minute image swaps all took place during this step. There was at least one copy, typography or image revision on every single page. Some pages took hours. A particularly impressive clusterfuck occurred with the crop marks; the entire document had to be resized. Well, it was a great way to really learn InDesign! Trial by fire.

They’re printing! They’re actually printing!

We were awful first-time print clients blessed with a very loving, patient, attentive print company. Not “mean” awful, just clueless and scared. These guys really took care of us; they patiently answered every question, pointed out and sometimes fixed design issues that even we didn’t notice, and even humored our request to snap some photos of the printing process for posterity. At every step, they sent us materials to approve. First, paper samples, then a blank dummy magazine, then digital proofs, then ozalids, some wet proofs, the running sheets, and finally some advance copies. A funny thing happened here: when the advance copies were shipped to us, 27 out of 75 were stolen. Our distributor got one of the boxes 1/3 empty, but the printer sent us a fax of the FedEx shipment record that made it clear that all the issues were shipped. We’ll never know who was behind the heinous theft, FedEx or U.S. Customs. Hey, we’ll take the compliment.

And now it’s almost time to share it all with you. The feeling we have as this process approaches completion goes beyond the euphoria of bearing fruit in a 3a.m. delirium. It’s more than mere satisfaction, or pride. This has been a priceless learning process for everyone involved. Beyond printing jargon and exploring new technology, we’re walking forward armed with experience – something no amount of pre-production research could supply. In just a few days, thousands of copies of Coilhouse arrive in Los Angeles. Shortly afterward, we’re throwing a launch party in LA (Cali readers: you’re all coming, or else). And then, the moment we’ve all been working towards/waiting for will finally arrive (drum roll, please): the magazine will become available to you on this site.

Can we get a hell yeah?

Hell yeah.

We’ll be telling you more in the coming weeks. Meantime, this is all you get!

59 Responses to “The Making of a Magazine: Coilhouse Issue 01”

  1. xora Says:

    i’m so freak’n impatient
    we are about to be slllaaayyeeeddd

  2. Skerror Says:

    A true supervillain always puts “I” first anyway…gotta look out for number one ;)

  3. Shay Says:


    It looks so awesome.. Reminiscent of ye old OMNI and MONDO2000 magazines (may their souls RIP).

    I have a tiny aching fear in my tiny-achy heart that COILHOUSE will not be available on the international market. Any news on distribution? I needs me some COILHOUSE. Hell, ship my way, I’ll subscribe.

  4. William Kiesel Says:

    OK guys,

    Why am I reading the invite for the launch party on Warren Ellis’ blog before here?!

    I want to come!

  5. Peter S. Says:

    Christ, I’m just struggling to assemble a decent portfolio. A magazine? The persistence, energy and talent involved boggles the mind. You deserve all the praise here and more.

    As for typos, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen an architect (or architecture student) realize they’re standing in front of a board emblazoned with the phrase A NEW URBAN FROM in 400pt type. Better yet, a good friend of mine who also lurks about these parts was once upon a time a worker at Photo DriveUp, in charge of the copiers too nice to put in the hands of the masses. A young professional came in one day with a resume and a stack of pricey paper. As Mike loaded up the copier, he took a gander at the resume & did a double take. He paused, turned back to the hopeful professional and said, deadpan, “Sir, you might want to put the ‘L’ back in ‘public relations’ before I run these.”

    As an aside, have you looked at any of the works (nearly all unbuilt) by architect Lebbeus Woods? (Mer, Nils may still have the short book War And Architecture. I gave him a copy at the Doug Fir gig.)

  6. la mome neant Says:

    I can’t wait to buy my own copy of Coilhouse!!!

  7. Shannon Says:

    Can’t wait. We’ll be there!!

  8. lucylle Says:

    Lovely preview! I’m really looking forward to flipping through Coilhouse without any computer involved in the process…. incidentally, I’m also rather proud that you ended up with a designer from my hometown! :-)

  9. Claire Says:

    Absolutely delighted to see this project bearing fabulous, glossy fruit, and so soon! And as (yet another) reader who works in publishing myself, I am well aware of the bloody-minded determination and hard work that you must have put into getting this out.
    I would dearly love to have a copy to hold in my grubby little paws, but alas, I live in the outskirts of obscurity (Scotland). My cup of joy would overflow if I were to possess one.
    It will be mine – oh yes, it will be mine.