We chatted with Nicola Hamilton, founder of the new Dundas West shop designed in collaboration with local studio Company Company.
Designlines: What motivated you to open up Issues magazine shop?
Nicola Hamilton: I’ve been working in the industry for a decade now, as an editorial designer and art director. I’m always seeking out new and interesting titles as reference and/or inspiration. It’s been tough finding certain titles in Canada over the years, and shipping individual issues can be expensive. When I travel, I seek out independent magazine stores in the hopes of flicking through things I’ve only seen online. I didn’t see any reason why Toronto, an incredibly diverse and creative city, couldn’t sustain one.
DL: What was your vision for the store and also for the design of the space?
NH: I understand the care and attention to detail that goes into making magazines: it’s hard work, and makers make an infinite number of decisions as they shape the experience of holding their publication. I wanted to display our inventory with a similar care — think art gallery — without making it feel inaccessible. I wanted folks to browse, to linger, and to feel like they can pick the titles up and flick through them.
DL: How did you collaborate with local designer-fabricator Company Company? Tell me a bit about this experience.
NH: Designlines played a crucial role in this experience! Last year, I was the acting art director for an issue of the magazine. We were on-set to photograph Rachelle LeBlanc, founder of Company Company, for a profile in the upcoming issue. I’d been a big fan of Rachelle’s work at Grape Witches and had been following her trajectory online. At the shoot, I don’t know what came over me, but my plans sort of stumbled out of me. That’s where the collaboration started. From there, Rachelle held my hand throughout the process. She joined me in the hunt for a space, sharing her own knowledge along the way. We threw visual inspiration back and forth, but ultimately, I let her run with it. I was confident that she understood, and bought into, my mission.
DL: And she created these interesting displays in great colours.
NH: The most interesting part of the experience, for me, was colour. My initial instinct was to go white, like an art gallery, but Rachelle pushed back. Her argument was that the product itself could make the space feel visually cluttered and that a diversity of colour behind the product would actually soften the cognitive load we were asking customers to absorb. That’s how we got the butter yellow, soft peach and dove grey shelves we have. It’s also why our bright blue table — to be the focal point for customers entering the shop. The execution is minimal but considered. It looks like an art gallery but feels more like a record shop.
DL: What are people looking at most?
NH: Food titles like Serviette, Pit, and Noble Rot have done incredibly well. So have art, design, and interior titles.
DL: What are your favourite titles at the shop these days (or types of mags)?
NH: My favourites change constantly, but a couple of perennial favourites are The Gentlewoman, MacGuffin and Inque.
DL: Is print on the way back up in your opinion?
NH: To be totally frank, I’m not sure. What I will say is that I believe reports of the death of print have been greatly exaggerated. Magazines aren’t going anywhere. The unique interplay of words and visuals can’t be replicated online — despite the industry’s years of trying. Have magazines changed? Absolutely. The titles we’re interested in aren’t appealing to the masses, meant to be leafed through and discarded. Instead, they’re focused on niche, special-interest stories intended for much smaller audiences. They come out less frequently (quarterly, bi-annually or annually) and print a limited quantity, which makes them desirable objects meant to be collected and displayed.
1489 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON
Canadian shipping available through issuesmagshop.com