‘I love zines!’ Short, sweet, and on the spot

‘Today I Love You,’ by DK // Durham NC, 2012. Photo: OMNI Studiophotos

DESIGN KOMPANY is publishing a subscription weekly eZine, S P A C E. Meantime, we are hosting Atelier S P A C E to convene and connect people in real life. Now we’re three years into making space and inviting others to take part in the co-creative, international, roving and popup journey. Guests  of S P A C E real life events are invited to meet and converse with those who have been part of our online community, talking with us over the years, in forums at protected-pages. The images in the grid  above are a few from our past digital issues. Read more below to find out how our creative director, Dipika Kohli, started making zines and art books. Her personal website is here. Here’s what she has to say about making S P A C E, and zines.

Let’s make a space.


Dipika Kohli
Creative Director of Design Kompany


IN THE 1990s, I used to cut and paste things. With scissors. And glue. All the time. It was this weird habit… I don’t know why. I just couldn’t stop myself from taking the world of images that were shoved at me every month from all those people in all those cities, and cut it all up, and redo it, my way. The world of illusions. The world of fancy people. The world of things that had nothing at all to do with my life, where I was. Still, I kept reading them. I kept… finding them… and taking them. And cutting them. (Bangkok has the best oversized zines.)

Now I cut and paste, digitally.

For DK’s weekly eZine, S P A C E:


NOTICING THINGS. Putting them into this kind of written-into-electronic-type form. Most of it comes from live conversations that are going on right around us, little notes and snippets from the day-to-day. Salons inspire this. AteliersMoments. Found things, lost things. The ephemera all around. (Sometimes there are other things, though, from DK’s 20 years’ worth of collected tidbits of quotes, inspiration, tools on how to do things better (just, in general), and favorite sketches. Sometimes there are photos. Sometimes there is a guest post. Sometimes I just happen to meet someone and ask them if I can do a Q&A.) This is the world we are in now: fast, moving, and internet-y. Instead of complaining about it, I relaxed into S P A C E. Why not just let that be what it is?

‘Remarks’, London 2015


MY LIFE DREAM USED TO BE ‘to run a magazine.’ I had this idea that you had to work at a glossy somewhere in New York City that paid you really, really well, so you could hire expensive photographers and go around the world and write things. But what happened was this. I freelanced and then got some jobs at newspapers, taking pictures and writing articles, and later, some columns.

But what I found was, and this is a pretty important thing to note, what I cared about just wasn’t what they wanted to hear about.

What they wanted to write about just wasn’t relevant to me.

So the dim edge of an inkling began to slowly but surely awaken me, clue me in, help me cop on, to the fact of this: finding meaning in life (perhaps through philosophy, through some kind of new and different form of art and expression, or through the pursuit of beauty) just wasn’t so interesting to most people working in the kind of media outlets that I described above. That would be, in other words, the mainstream. The status quo likes it the way it is. But I do not.

PUBLISHING. I know people personally who’ve ‘made it’ in those fields, and to be really honest, I just don’t understand them. Where is the fun? A few execs in advertising just seem so sad about it, like, ‘We are selling fake dreams. They buy the idea, they are so into the idea. What it is just doesn’t even matter, they are sold on just pictures, glimpses, illusions.’ Hm. Weird. Personally, I prefer real life. Real conversations. That go somewhere. That are with you, for you, together with just a handful of us who are different from the usual stream. Us, talking. In the forums. We are talking in small circles, did I tell you? The salons? I like poetry. Music (jam sessions are my favorite). I like the kind of art that makes me think about things, not just what someone with a really long resume thought was ‘cool.’ (I don’t do ‘cool.’) Content matters to me, but more than content and more than cutting and pasting into the weekly eZine that is S P A C E, which I absolutely adore more than any other magazine I’ve ever seen (except maybe Portland’s 2 Girls Quarterly, a zine I bought every time I went to that massive bookstore, what was it called, the one that’s a block big, or something?), there is something else that matters even more. The connection. That is made when we talk, in this way that is asynchronous and ambient and international and not about politics, religion, or sex. Finding things. Keeping them. Processing, sharing. Every week. Here are a few art books, by the way…

‘Book of Time’, Phnom Penh 2016
‘Book of Red’,  Đà Lạt 2015

Where were we, though? Oh, yes. To process stories and people and gestures, sometimes I make books, like the Book of Red (pictured) out of stuff I find here and there. It helps me think about things without overthinking, and lets me use my hands and unconscious to guide the story, to let it tell itself to me. This one was a love story. Not my thing, usually, to write about, but I noticed that when I was in Vietnam everyone wanted to talk about relationships. Especially young women. So there it was, and it made itself.


‘Origin’ at the Embassy of Bulgaria in Phnom Penh, 2017

DESIGNING S P A C E. SOMETIMES THESE are mini-zines that are produced and distributed by hand. I like this. It’s not a glossy, but it’s personal. And the personal is where S P A C E makes its magic. Collaging. Tidbits. Things that go in S P A C E. When we see, and we are seen. When we hear, and we are heard. That’s when it gets super interesting. When it’s fun. When it’s real. I asked an artist, JS, ‘How do you keep it real?’ Know what he said? ‘Please yourself first. Do what moves you.’

So that’s what I do. Make S P A C E. When we can gather some of you who are part of our online community in real life salons like Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh, like Beauty, like Ennui and Flourish or the State of Publishing or Choices or any of the other dozens of these things that we didn’t even realize that we were up to hosting until we sat down with a spreadsheet and tallied things so as to design the next ten, twenty years, well. It’s clear. S P A C E matters. A lot. And it’s all about you, being part of the story, the conversation. Because who cares if we just cut and paste? Without the interactive part of it, and this is where the forums come in, it’s not artful. To me. To me, it has to be about being received. To be really clear with you, now: the idea is not to make sure that you have a very solid understanding of what this is, why it matters, and how it will make your life better. I know that is the normal way.

But the normal way is, sadly, boring. To me.

(I’m going to qualify everything. Because that is what we learned from the Excerpts of Note, that you know, things that are remarkable are only so to a singular person, very subjective. To each of us.) Meantime, S P A C E is for a self-selecting group of us. In real life or online, it’s always a particular crowd that says ‘yes’ to this kind of invitation. People who are awake to the fact that glossy sheen-covered pictures don’t mean the content inside is really any good. People who are looking to connect authentically, not just have their name be part of a list somewhere, a list of people who will quickly become fragmented again. People who are interested, when we convene and talk together and sharing quotes and poems and such, in teachings of people like Epicurus, who are interested in working and collaborating together in better ways, ways that get us all talking together and seeing each other and noticing that, hey, this whole thing is going to end sometime. Meantime, let’s converse? I’m hanging out lately, in S P A C E. Discover more under various links to the free four-week trial of our eZine. Or you can subscribe. —DK

‘Excerpts of Note,’ London 2015


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