Local isn’t a word that comes to mind when flipping through the pages of UPPERCASE. The self-described “magazine for the creative and curious” boasts high-quality paper and printing, a unique design aesthetic and incredible attention to detail. It also features international talent representing the disciplines of graphic design, illustration, typography and craft. Now on its 15th issue, with over 2,000 subscribers worldwide, it would seem logical to assume that the bimonthly publication is the handiwork of a much larger design shop. That the magazine is essentially a one-woman show run from a small studio in Calgary often comes as a big surprise.
Prior to launching UPPERCASE in 2009, founder and editor-in-chief Janine Vangool did graphic design work for the arts and culture and non-profit sectors, producing print work for organizations such as Calgary Opera, WordFest and the Banff Summer Arts Festival. The idea for UPPERCASE came about after working on Beyond, a magazine for Christian young adults.
“It was a sporadically published magazine, but I enjoyed the design challenge of it since it was a topic that was not part of my lifestyle,” says Vangool. “I’ve always wanted to publish books and a magazine, so when Beyond magazine decided to stop publishing, I launched UPPERCASE.”
Within four or five months of making the decision to take the plunge with the magazine, Vangool had the first issue of UPPERCASE in her hands. Now 15 issues in, the process has been streamlined for efficiency.
“In the first issues — I would say the first six or seven, actually — UPPERCASE was still finding its footing and its voice,” she says. “Content planning and sourcing was issue-to-issue, but now that I know our readership quite well and have a roster of excellent contributors, I’m able to plan a lot of content in advance while still allowing for serendipity.”
Though the system of putting together the next issue has been set, new challenges always arise.
“The most challenging part is that running a magazine is mostly about logistics, selling subscriptions, shipping, juggling schedules, wrangling content...,” says Vangool “The actual design of the magazine is a very small percentage of my time. [That’s] the fun part of the process, but unfortunately, the time I have available for that is always getting eaten up by the logistics.”
Fortunately, overcoming these challenges has been greatly rewarding for Vangool, as the magazine has seen tremendous success since its inception — Issue 13 of UPPERCASE was even stocked at Anthropologie stores across the continent.
“I measure the success of the magazine in that it is supporting itself at this point,” she says. “I love creating UPPERCASE magazine and am grateful for all its support and the opportunities it has brought my way.”
Looking forward, Vangool hopes to expand the magazine’s readership, which hovers around 2,300 to 2,500 subscribers. With a never-ending list of ideas for future projects in her back pocket, UPPERCASE’s leading lady is constantly working hard to fund new endeavours.
“We’re striving to get more subscribers so that UPPERCASE generates more revenue so that I can support my staff and contributors while also investing into other publication projects.”
One such undertaking is Vangool’s current book project, The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine. The book is a visual history of the typewriter, one of the designer’s personal obsessions, and is being crowd-funded, DIY-style, on her website in order to garner pre-orders and generate enough money to cover the print production costs. Slated for publication next year, readers can look forward to yet another beautifully crafted title from this local design powerhouse — helping to put Calgary on the map as a city for the creative and curious.