A brief history of Linefeed
June 2013. This artcile was originally published as a blog on the Linefeed blog.
1995-ishThis is the year I graduated from University. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (Graphic Design) and finished with a Bachelor of Design. It was a pretty weird time to be studying graphic design. Design education was racing to keep up with technology, whilst questioning whether or not these emerging technologies (such as Desktop Publishing and Website Design) were actually going to help or hinder designers in the future.
Truth told I was oblivious to the online world whilst studying. What I had embraced, along with a select group of friends, was a digital, rather than manual, way of working. Sounds weird now, but they were still teaching us how to make photographic plates for printing at the time—although I don’t think that would have been the case shortly after I left. Things were moving that rapidly.
1996-1997It took me a few months to land my first proper design agency job. I’ve never been a much of a networker… at least, not in person… so I was determined to find a place on my own merits. There were only two of us designers at Artvaak (spelt wrong when they registered the business) but I witnessed the business grow in many other ways during those couple of years.
Being the new guy, and a recent grad, I was assigned the task of working out how to build a website. Along the way I developed a kind of free wheeling experimental site for Artvaak called ‘Vaak’. I joined online communities to pick other designers brains and developed bonds with fellow internet newbies via fledgling social media networks such as Firefly and, later Geocities.
Geocities is where I kind of started ‘blogging’, I guess. Although the term blogging hadn’t really been invented yet (‘Geocity-ing’ wasn’t super catchy). Mostly it was a place to experiment with early HTML design—getting tables to work and finding fonts that were legible in photoshop at tiny, pixel-based dimensions. I had a site called, appropriately enough ‘TheLab’ (no space) at geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/4744. There was a lot of gibberish on there, much of it transferred over from the Vaak site which had grown to become too wacky and idiosyncratic to be associated with Artvaak’s main site.
1998I stayed at Artvaak for a couple of years (maybe less) before going freelance for a while. With this new found independence I also wanted to be a bit more ‘grown up’ with my personal site, so it was goodbye ‘theLab’ and Geocities and hello, Filler. Filler (byline: No Obvious Killer) was the self-depreciating title I gave to a kind of scrapbook of layout experiments, scrappy bytes of writing and lucid image-based ideas. In other words, looking back, it was a bit of a mess.
1998 was also the year I first visited London as a sort of adult-type creature. It was a spur of the moment, two week getaway type of thing. It was also completely rad. A year later I moved over there for good…
The Lab, c.1998
1999Getting a foot hold in London was tough. I soon realised how easy it is to go from sleeping on someone’s floor with no money, the worst case of flu you’ve ever had and the only relief being trips to Easy Everything on the nightbus just to keep your family and friends up-to-date, to having a reasonably comfy job, a room of yer own and London as yer oyster, and in a relatively short space of time.
Before leaving for the U.K. I shifted Filler along with all my online shambolic ramblings over to Apple’s free hosting service. Filler became my online journal as well as a self promotional tool and HTML design sandbox.
2000—2003Filler took various guises from 2000 to 2004, each version hand-coded, as was the way back then. I enjoyed having a place to mess about online and the stats were okay… people were visiting it. It did take a lot of time to maintain properly though. I also started a ’Logo Archive’ at one point which ran for a couple of years. Eventually I got a bit board of all this coding and setting up a decent foliosite became more of a challenge. My online writing was put on hold until brandnew in 2004…
2004Brandnew didn’t last long, and had its UI roots planted firmly in the realm of print (complete with faux crop marks), but while it was around I tried to stuff it full of the best content I could find. I wanted brandnew to be just that and unlike any site that had gone before. There were real live interviews with creatives such as Michael Gillette and Tatty Devine plus profiles on records lables like Teenbeat, all designed to a carefully considered template. Which I think is what killed it in the end. Having to build the majority of the site in Photoshop and then cut it up was both laborious and yet felt weirdly lazy. It also took me away from writing which wasn’t working for me either.
What did live on was a spin-off ‘hobbysite’ originally created to run alongside brandnew, but soon took on a life of its own. NMCA took the logo archive idea from a few years back and replaced logos with magazine covers. There are a number of places you can go now to see curated collections of magazine covers, back in 2004 there was really only NMCA. Other similar hobbysites tended to focus on very specific titles or the celebrities that graced them. NMCA was unique in coming from a design perspective first.
2006Between 2004 and 2006 it was enough to keep adding to and evolving my personal foliosite and maintaining the NMCA. Offline I had spent most of my time and energy in manoeuvring my career in to a place where I could investigate a key area of interest, ie editorial design. It wasn’t until late 2006 that my online ambition shifted gears in a serious way. It was whilst working at John Brown publishing that Jeremy Leslie introduced me to WordPress and suggested that I make posting online ‘a habit’. I took his advice literally and, with this new blogging platform able to streamline a lot of the functions I was used to performing manually, dove in with a spanky, new site I nicknamed boicozine.
The blog you are reading now, 7 years later (in 2013), is pretty much a mutant of the original boicozine blogsite.
Boicozine, as it appearred in March 2007
2007A year later I was lucky enough to have a amassed a neat little crew of contributors. Namely, Mr Luis Mendo, Mr Simon Whybray and Mr Joe Bland. 2007 was also the advent of Press Publish, a kind of online publishing imprint which became the house for a range of ‘print-on-demand’ projects starting with Zine! (later renamed ‘archive’) which took the first three months of posts on boicozine and put them into printed form. The idea was to invert the process a lot of traditional publishers were having to consider and go from blog to print rather than the other way around.
2008Looking back, you could say 2008 was the year creative community blogs blew up. It’s Nice That and Kitsune Noir (ie The Fox is Black) had launched the year before, snowballing into 2008, whilst previously popular creative forums such as Computerlove and Newstoday were struggling to keep current. It was around this time that Boicozine was mentioned in Print magazine as a design blog to visit. Stats were going through the roof.
This encouraged me to try and expand boicozine beyond the confines of a WordPress template. I investigated many different ways to publish content online such as via Flickr photostreams.
The most successful format though turned out to be video. Video would become increasingly important to Boicozine and later Linefeed, as a way of reaching out to creative communities from all corners of the globe.
2009—2010…or rather 31st December 2008. That was the date boicozine switched to Linefeed. I started the year afresh with a new name and a considered identity for, what I was increasingly seeing as an online brand rather than a stand alone blogsite.
Shown opposite: Linefeed launch ‘stamp’ and custom typeface design, c.2010
LineRead #1 was published early this same year. Taking the idea behind 2007’s print-on-demand project (ie turning blog posts into printed pages) LineRead utilised a relatively new (at the time) online publishing platform called MagCloud. This larger, more lightweight and brightly coloured format seemed to really click with the blog… and with readers.
LineRead, issue 1. c.2007
The magazine review videos I started posting last year were blowing up at this time too. As the videos kept getting longer, they were picking up more and more viewers from all over the world, which made no sense to me at all. A video review of the decade in magazines clocked in at almost an hour and was viewed over 2,300 times. Crikey!
Playlist of magazine review videos now posted to YouTube
2010In 2010 Linefeed got it’s own special URL, ie the one you see here, linefeed.me. A second issue of LineRead was also produced based on a fascination with the occult and turned out to be the most successful issue to date (people are still buying copies now). This focus on expanding the site beyond a mere blog and it’s the realms of print and video was only starving off the inevitable though…
LineRead, issue 2. c.2010
As Twitter and Facebook hit their stride, conversation previously had via blog comments—thereby helping make a blog a living, breathing thing—bled over into 140 character or less bytes of chatter or reactionary/incomprehensible Facebook comment streams. I’d always valued having a blog as a way to reach out to and talk about specific topics with like-minded people. With the social aspect seriously diminished I began to question the what Linefeed was and whether or not it was interesting and relevant to anyone any more. I didn’t want to be talking to myself all the time. Where was the fun in that?
2011-2012A third edition of LineRead was released in 2011, summing up the decade from 2000–2009. Roughly a year later, all 3 issues of LineRead would appear in the travelling exhibition ’Graphic Design: Now in Production’, looking at designer-makers and self-publishers.
At one point I found myself being invited (along with fellow exhibitors) to present at the Smithonian in New York. I couldn’t get over to New York at the time (and am acutely shy when speaking in person anyway) but I did accept an invitation to do a live version of my magazine review videos at the Facing Pages event in Arnhem in 2012, partly because it meant getting to hang out with my good friend Luis Mendo and doing some work in Amsterdam once again.
Indeed, I found myself travelling loads and splitting my time between many different clients including Grafik (for whom I designed issues 187 through to 193), Wallpaper*, Wired and various titles for Ink, one of the world’s largest publishers of onboard magazines.
Needless to say, after all the accolades and amazingly useful things Linefeed had achieved for me personally of these years, the site fell into neglect…
2013And so were now bang-up-to-date (unless you’re reading this several years later). At the beginning of 2013 I became convinced that blogging, as I first knew it, was over. ‘Blogging’ as an activity, had had a pretty amazing run considering the attention span most internet based endeavours have had to put up with from users.
The encouraging thing for me, that has happened over the last couple of years, is the emergence of independents as the future of publishing. After years of doom and gloom from the mainstream press there is a tangible way forward, in part, driven by the desire of readers and producers alike to re-engage with long form editorial content.
It’s an easy reaction to the whittling down and commodification of thought and conversation online and Linefeed responded by remodelling itself into a text-based archive at the start of 2013. Comments were removed and a simple drop down menu was installed. Et viola.
Except, the more things change the more they stay the same, and Linefeed has evolved once again. Still with the focus of being a text-based archive although with a more (hopefully) assessable interface. I’ve been busy stripping out a lot of the content in order to buff it up a bit and extend features where I can. Most of what’s happening on the site is about slowing down. Getting things straight in my head before casting them out into the world.
Most importantly, it’s become about properly respecting the intelligence of readers—as much of our communication online becomes more tightly controlled by governments acting as cartels for their own business interests, or as over-valued digital businesses gasping desperately at the old-fashioned advertising dollar for a life line—becoming exclusively reader focus makes so much more sense.
So expect less posts but more well considered. Expect a well stocked archive that will continue to grow… And expect all this to change when the next seismic shift is the public consciousness comes along… or not.
Either way thanks for dropping by. Keep yourselves nice.
Michael Bojkowski, 2013