From Pixels to Paper

I’m not a great writer, in fact I’m not even an average writer. So it has taken me a fair while to finally sit down to type out a few thoughts about the direction we’re taking with Sidetracked, an online project that I’ve been working on for a little over two years. Stick with me, I’ll be as brief as possible.

I’m a designer, a user interface designer to be specific, having spent the last 12 years working with pixels for interactive TV, CD-ROMS (in the early days) and of course websites. I was lucky enough to work with some high profile brands and — on the other end of the scale — I was probably behind one of those dreadful, animated flash introductions that you could never skip past in the early days of the web. But don’t hate me, that was the trend at the time!

Three years ago, whilst beavering away on another ecommerce site for another client, I started thinking about how to combine my passion and training for good design and typography with my other interests — in particular, being engrossed in adventure, expeditions and exploration; learning about new places, the geography, the people and the emotions and affects that adventure has on the individual.

Shortly after this, the concept of Sidetracked was born; an online environment to capture and present the experience of some of the most breathtaking adventures taking place throughout the world. Stories, told by the individual, accompanied by incredible photography and presented in a long form read. At it’s launch, Sidetracked was pretty unique.

I won’t say for one moment that this has been an easy ride (but don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a ‘look how hard this guy has worked’ type of thing). At the time, long reads online didn’t really exist in the mainstream and here I was pulling together stories into collections of 10 or so 1500-word essays and hoping that the world would a) instantly find the site, and b) sit and read each and every story. I was in for a bit of a shock. Yet the concept was new and exciting and I was loving working on it. The reaction from readers far surpassed my expectations.

Research, design, coding and social media management all takes time and, as a result (along with earning a living having to take priority) growth was initially a little slow. This last year I’ve had help from an incredible team of volunteers and things are starting to happen. The brand is evolving and our hard work is paying off. Big time.

Early draft cover mockup.
Photo by Mads Pihl

Which takes me back to the Pixels to Paper title of my ramble. Whilst I’ve worked in web design for years, there is nothing in the digital domain that can compare to the real thing. Holding a book in hand — the feel of the smooth uncoated stock and the smell of the inks far outweigh any digital counterpart. Flicking through a magazine with a mug of tea is a more pleasurable experience than scrolling through a website. Some say that the magazine industry is dying. That may be so for the cheap paper-based weekly throw-aways. But I firmly believe there is a renaissance in premium, well-made publications and that is where we are going with Sidetracked.

Hence we’re pleased to say that in January, the challenge to produce Sidetracked in print form commences. Of course, digital lies at our core, so we’ll be progressing and growing the website significantly and exploring other digital channels too. But lots of new adventures await, new experiences and new headaches too I expect. But, you know what?
We can’t wait.

So, that’s all I wanted to say really. If you believe in something, if you have a unique idea, something that makes your hairs stand on end and stops you sleeping at night because you are continually planning and thinking about it, then do it. Simple.

John Summerton
Founder, Producer, Designer |

    Sidetracked Magazine

    Written by

    Adventure travel magazine featuring inspiring photography and stories of adventure, unique journeys, expeditions and exploration.

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