Bringing The Internet Offline: Kai Brach from Offscreen
With over ten years of experience as a web designer, Kai Brach built his professional career with technology and the Internet. This is a similar story not just for other web designers but pretty much everyone else, as we spend more and more time looking at digital screens in both our professional and personal lives.
In 2012, Kai decided to make a switch and go in an entirely new direction. In an effort to give himself and others like him a break from days filled entirely with screens, he started working on Offscreen, a print magazine about people who use the Internet and technology in creative ways.
Disconnecting From Our Devices
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Each issue of Offscreen is meant to take readers away from the screens that they spend so much of their lives in front of and immerse them in a physical experience. Though much of what each issue covers is concerned with technology, its printed form forces people to disconnect and focus on something else.
“What’s so nice about print? It’s the multisensory experience,” Kai explains. “The smell of the ink, the feel of the paper — qualities we’re starting to sorely miss in the flat screen world. There are some really beautifully produced indie publications out there and people love buying them not despite being in print, but because of it.”
For Kai, producing Offscreen is also an opportunity to create a portfolio of work that leaves a lasting impression.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love the web,” Kai clarifies, “it’s just that anything we produce as digital designers is so ephemeral. After a decade of producing websites, I had nothing to show for. It was all gone — disappeared into the ether that is the Internet.”
Though Offscreen is still a relatively small independent magazine, after 11 issues he has cultivated a community of loyal readers who appreciate the experience that Offscreen creates.
“The community behind Offscreen is everything,” says Kai. “I know this is something you hear a lot — even big companies tell us that their community is crucial — but indie publications live by the niche communities they carve out for themselves. I often refer to the 1000 true fans principle and how it applies to Offscreen: I know my core readers by name or at least their Twitter names/avatars. That’s how close-knit we are.”
Running Offscreen Independently
Fans of Offscreen are usually also fans of Kai’s and with good reason: aside from author contributions, Kai runs the publication entirely on his own. This makes Offscreen truly independent in every sense of the word, both in terms of how it is funded and operated.
With no experience whatsoever with print publishing, Kai started from scratch with Offscreen. His journey consisted of learning about InDesign, typography, colour management, order fulfillment, and countless other responsibilities that come along with running a print publication. In fact, frustrated with no good solution being out there to manage orders for a small indie publication, Kai developed his own order management system with the help of a friend.
“I’m still learning with every issue, but at least the technical part of it all feels a little easier to manage now,” Kai explains. “That’s not to say that I no longer make mistakes. Every issue has faults. These mistakes are the price you pay for getting better at something, I guess.”
Openness & Transparency
With the exceptional quality of the publication, it’s easy to think that a team of many designers, editors and others runs Offscreen. Loyal readers, however, know that the magazine is operated as a one-man operation. This is because Kai uses both the magazine as well as the Offscreen blog to document all the behind-the-scenes of producing an indie publication.
“When I started my research about how to create an independent magazine, I really struggled to find any honest, straightforward and up-to-date resources,” he explains in this interview. “There are books about editorial design and about publishing, but to my knowledge there is nothing out there at the moment that takes you through the steps necessary to get a new magazine off the ground.”
The information that Kai shares about his experiences running Offscreen serve not just to help other indie publishers get started, but also to allow readers to feel more close with and invested in the magazine. He’s published on a wide range of topics from planning to his daily routine to earnings.
Kai’s story is a great example of what can happen when you are determined to tackle a new project head-on. His advice to others is to follow his lead and just get started on whatever it is that you want to do.
“I think I’m a good example for how anyone can combine half-arsed skills in various fields to create something unique. I’m not a great designer or developer or writer or editor, but apparently I know enough of all of those things to combine them and create decent enough publications that people want to read. I think a lot of us use the lack of expertise as an excuse for not trying something new. But you don’t need to be an expert. You just need to be curious enough to figure it out by trial and error. Even those experts started somewhere, right?”
Want to experience Offscreen for yourself? You can order your copy of Offscreen here.
If you’re ready to get started on your big idea, here are all of the tools that Kai has found to be the most helpful with running Offscreen:
Espresso + CodeKit + Transmit
Tweetbot (with Tweetmarker)
Custom Order Management System
Ready to get started on your great idea? Find it a great domain name from Hover: