Hello Mr. and the Art of the Artifact
Ryan Fitzgibbon reminds us that publications are still coffee-table worthy
Hello Mr. magazine is the definition of indie. It is a small publication unaffiliated with any large or well-known publishing conglomerate. The literary and visual arts that populate its pages are usually from obscure or yet-to-be discovered talent. (Although this has begun to shift as a number of queer talents from publishing powerhouses like BuzzFeed and Huffington Post are adding their names to a growing list of contributors). It is also indie in a sense that it is sub-cultural, meeting at the intersection of decidedly queer and hipster aesthetics.
These men may very well become the Capote’s and Baldwin’s and Mapplethorpe’s of our queer generation. And Ryan Fitzgibbon, founder of Hello Mr., wants to document their talents in a corporeal way, with something you can hold in your hand, or store away in the cedar chest you inherited from your grandmother.
The magazine was the culmination of his vision to create an eye-catching product at a time when the publishing world was (and still is) moving was away from the costly venture of print, focusing its reach of audiences online and now, on mobile.
Fitzgibbon sought to bridge this gap between print and digital media, using clean imagery and a brand-specific aesthetic. More importantly, he was able to leverage the power of social media to build an audience months before ever going to print.
Hello Mr. is perhaps the prototype for what every up and coming style-guru (or Williamsburg band, Bushwick artist, etc.) wants to achieve. It harnessed the power of social media and connection — through well-branded images — to find an audience willing to purchase products or personalities in a tangible way. And the Hello Mr. brand has done so with what we all (read: legacy media) thought was an antiquated mode of production: paper and ink.
The social media tool became the mode for building the printed brand.
Fitzgibbon and his gaggle of gorgeous gays placed a premium on the non-ephemeral nature of the collectible.
When indie magazines are well placed on your coffee table, that shit says something about you, perhaps in a way that a social media post cannot.
“It’s more visible as a product. It says something about me, my interests and my taste level,” Fitzgibbon said during a brief discussion with the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, social media tools class.
He also shared a simple and effective principle to follow when building your brand.
“You don’t have to say much to get your point across, to state your point of view,” Fitzgibbon said.
As a subscriber and follower of Hello Mr. myself, I knew how true his advice was, and how it continues to reflect the brand through clean and focused visuals. A Hello Mr. cover will likely consist of a matte portrait, while the well of the magazine will feature smart articles and more images with high key lights or soft ethereal compositions. Some of the imagery will pop like an American Apparel advertisement, and all of it will be beautifully raw and homoerotic.
Fitzgibbon also touched on the importance of transparency when building your audience/brand.
Allowing your audience to go behind the scenes is smart business, because it fosters connection. Influencers — creatives within various industries with significant social followings — have been doing this for some years now. Legacy media is playing catch up, making this attempt now on new platforms like Periscope, Snapchat and Facebook Live. The point is to let us behind the curtain.
Perhaps, Hello Mr. shows us that you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Instagram can be a phenomenal tool in building brand awareness and driving revenue for a printed product.
Hello Mr. is also available on tablet, which matters less to Fitzgibbon, who does not “really promote it because it’s not as fun, the experience is not as nice,” he said.
“It’s not going to be pretty, sitting there next to your latte.”