Good Sport’s collaborative Issue 05 explores the curious question: what does sport smell like?
Since its inception in 2014, Good Sport has redefined what a sports magazine is; leaving the scorecard behind to showcase the interplay between people, community and culture. Each issue is devised collaboratively by a Melbourne-based team of photographers, editors, designers and writers – always beginning with a question, followed by a curious and playful intertwining of ideas. On the back of their fifth issue, we spoke to James Whiting – one of the creative leaders on the project – about what it takes to plan, produce and release an independent magazine.
EM For those that don’t know, what is Good Sport Magazine?
JW The summary of GS that I’d usually throw around over drinks is that for the most part, it’s an ‘Anti-Sports Sport Magazine.’ But in a bit more detail, it’s a sport-culture publication that stems from Good Sport’s studio practice, which revolves around a sport-centric creative consultancy. We really push the importance of aesthetic and narrative depth, and focus largely on the places in which the traditional recognition of sport collides with seemingly ‘other’ worlds: fashion, food, music, art, etc.. (hint: they are all the same world.)
EM How did you come together with Ben and Tim, and get involved with the magazine?
JW I got involved in mid-2017, right before I did a short trip to the USA, where I ended up photographing a series of interviews for the Good Sport website. Ben had started GS back in 2014 with a close friend who parted ways with the project after the second edition. Tim had written a story for that same second issue, and came on as our editor for the third issue, which was coincidentally the first issue that I also worked on front-to-back.
Issue 05 is definitely our most playful, thought experiment-based edition yet.
EM How has the magazine, and the process of producing it, evolved over the first five issues?
JW I suppose I can only speak for editions three through five, but even through that space alone the process has changed and developed to a great degree. Aside from a lot of experiments and fine-tuning in our printing and distribution, it has been mostly a case of growth in understanding each other as team members, and through that getting better at approaching creative problems with more risk and a greater ability to craft engaging and purposeful solutions.
I wish I could say the production process has gotten more efficient but that’s not quite the case, haha. But at the same time, it isn’t really our priority to be efficient. We want to make something that’s challenging and really interesting, and in a very Ross Gay, Book Of Delights way, it can be counterintuitive to be too structured, too streamlined. I feel like if we did work with a heightened sense of efficiency as a key priority, we’d end up making the same issue over and over again. In making Issue 05, we weren’t at all trying to create a new version of Issue 04. Without taking the time to follow the tangents and to look down the various rabbit holes we find along the way, I don’t think we’d ever really get anywhere of value. We instead would have just celebrated the release of Issue 04v2.
That being said, Issue 05 is definitely our most playful, thought experiment-based edition yet.
EM What does the process for deciding the content of each magazine look like?
JW This process changes from issue to issue and relates a lot to the sort of working sentiment that is going into the edition. For example with Issue 05, as a team we were really excited to push into more of a playful, research-heavy space, aligning the publication more closely with the studio practice. In the past, we had usually maintained a roughly even split between pieces commissioned by our team and pitches from contributors that we have helped to develop for print. However in the case with 05, we were thinking a lot more about this dynamic and began to prioritise a process of developing a creative problem as a team, and then venturing to find a way to respond to that problem. A neat example of this would be the 05 ‘cover story’ where, what began as almost a joke between Ben and myself, laughing about ‘the smell of sport,’ we actually took a moment to think, ‘well actually, what could that look like?’ From there, we did our digging, which landed us with Saskia Wilson-Brown of the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles who worked with us on actually developing three wearable scents that respond directly to a few environmental scenarios described by the GS team. We were also lucky enough to work with Saskia in crafting a text that looks at the history of scent, body odour and perspiration through a sporting lens.
EM What is the relationship between design and content in each issue? Are the articles and imagery usually ready by the time the design process begins?
JW Usually, prior to Issue 05 that is, this would have largely been the case. In the editions that preceded this new issue, it was a much more sequential process in this sense. However, for this new print edition, from the very beginning, we had discussed with our designers, Joëlle Thomas and Griea Taylor, the idea of the design process being a much more active component of the work that we were presenting. Meaning that, rather than the design process beginning, or ‘happening’ to the content when it is finalised, the design process needed to happen in order to finish our content as it was so much more entwined with the communication of our ideas.
We’re really interested in what can transpire through a combination of mediums presented in proximity to one another.
EM It looks like you’ve also held a few events alongside the magazine, from issue launches to short film nights – what’s it like putting those together, and why do you do them?
JW The events and installations come as an expression of our studio practice for the most part, supplementing the magazine and its ethos as best we can, as well as extending upon ideas that occur within the pages of a print edition. We really enjoy putting these programmes together – in doing so it feels like we can provide a much more rounded voice on our thinking. As much as we might like to think it isn’t the case, often having a story on a page remains to be somewhat one-dimensional. We’re really interested in what can transpire through a combination of mediums presented in proximity to one another, and how, in doing so, our impact on an audience is affected. Right before the global shutdown at the beginning of 2020, we were approached to develop a multi-dimensional exhibition to be installed at the headquarters of a large sporting company in Europe, and in doing so we were blown away by what we felt we were tapping into, and how true it felt to the Good Sport voice. The exhibition project was ultimately put on hold, but since then we have been chasing the ghost of this real-world work that we are really excited about.
EM What have you found to be the biggest challenges of producing a magazine – not just for one issue, but keeping it going consistently?
JW Personally, and I think I can speak for the whole team, a lot of the difficulty comes down to juggling the entire Good Sport umbrella with each of our respective lives. Ben and I have full-time practices as photographers, Griea and Joëlle as designers, Tim edits another magazine too, along with being a new dad. We’re really lucky to be able to do each project on our own terms, publishing when we see fit, knowing that at the end of the day we are all full-time humans. But as I said earlier, a huge part of the growth has been being able to recognise each other as team members, and how to make things come together amidst the points of chaos.
EM What do you have in mind for the next issue and beyond?
JW For the moment we’re still working quite hard on tying up some finishing touches on the process of Issue 05. We were lucky enough to have been approached to supply a second edition of this issue at over double the size of the first edition, which is thrilling. But soon I can see the team shifting our focus away from print for a moment while we develop a public programme for the 2022 Design Week here in Melbourne at the National Gallery of Victoria as well as a few more instances of a public-facing presence and possibly a commercial run of the scents developed as part of Issue 05. As for a potential 06, I’m not sure what that may hold, but I can bet it will be as inefficient as ever.