In conversation with

Matt Alagiah

Editor of It's Nice That

Introduction

Introduction

There are many places that claim to be creative hubs – cafés, co-working spaces, entire cities. It usually means decent wifi, overpriced coffee and sometimes free beer (WeWork we’re looking at you). What it means for It’s Nice That – the cross-platform brand made up of a website, bi-annual magazine, summer symposium and monthly talks series – is a genuine championing of new approaches and ideas. Walking into their Shoreditch office there are illustrators, writers, designers (and dogs) all brainstorming together. You get the sense no two days are the same.

“The company’s mission to champion creativity is so central to everything we do”, says Editor Matt Alagiah, who joined It’s Nice That last year from Monocle Magazine. This commitment filters through everything the company turns its hand to –from concepts for new issues to fresh takes on corporate content. It does it all with a playful and irreverent tone of voice which makes the creative world seem open rather than intimidating. It’s nice, that.

Question and Answer

What stories did you love growing up?

When I was younger, I devoured anything even vaguely in the fantasy genre. I grew up pretty much in step with Harry Potter, so those books were always around (I’m not sure I’m quite alone in that either). I loved the Artemis Fowl books, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, and a wonderfully weird fantasy series called The Edge Chronicles. But perhaps the pinnacle for me growing up were the Anthony Horowitz crime novels. I mean, can anything beat The Falcon’s Malteser?

falcons malteser
"Perhaps the pinnacle for me growing up were the Anthony Horowitz crime novels"

What’s your role at It’s Nice That? What appealed to you before joining in October?

My role is editor of It’s Nice That, which basically means I oversee everything we publish on a daily basis (along with Lucy, our deputy editor) and look after our longer-term editorial plans. I’m also quite often involved in leading our commercial work with brand partners. With regard to what appealed about It’s Nice That, a few things really stand out – first and foremost, the company’s mission to champion creativity is so central to everything it does and I was really attracted by that; secondly, It’s Nice That has such a unique tone of voice, which is both playful and irreverent as well as respectful of the people we write about; and thirdly, there’s a huge amount of potential looking into the future for It’s Nice That, and that’s really exciting.

“It’s Nice That has such a unique tone of voice, which is both playful and irreverent as well as respectful of the people we write about”

The mission of It’s Nice That to “enable creativity to thrive”. How does Printed Pages support this goal?

Printed Pages is our biannual print magazine. At the moment, it’s a kind of compendium of all the best articles and features that have appeared on the site over the previous six months – although we’re looking to potentially update that format at some point in the future. The magazine is a great way for us to do what we already do on the site on a daily basis: champion great creative work across the broadest possible range of topics and disciplines. There is still something special about print, though, and I think creatives of all stripes really love to see their work printed on a nice paper stock. So it’s great that we’re able to do that with Printed Pages.

How does your content support the other parts of the HudsonBec Group (It's Nice That's parent company)?

We keep it fairly church and state, to be honest – what connects the companies in the group is more an ethos and a culture rather than shared work. Occasionally we’ll cover projects on It’s Nice That that Anyways have been involved in, but these stories go through the same rigour and checks that other stories would. Plus, we always explain our link to Anyways, to make this clear. We work more closely with Lecture in Progress, but only on specific projects, such as The Graduates, our big showcase of graduate talent each summer.

What have been some of the most interesting stories you’ve worked on so far?

Alongside the daily stories, we’ve done some really great long-form pieces since I started: one on the benefits of boredom and its influence on creative ideas; another on a brilliant but nearly-forgotten magazine from the 1980s and 90s called Yolk, which focused on the Asian-American community; and one looking at the legacy of Stanley Kubrick ahead of the Design Museum’s new blockbuster show on the director.

matt it's nice that bookshelf

How do you approach working with brands? What questions do you ask before diving into a partnerships?

The main question is always: Is this brand the right fit for us? We’re really selective about who we work with, because we want to make sure our audience will be interested in and engaged with the content we create, whatever that content might be, whether an event or a content series or something else. We wouldn’t want to alienate our audience through a partnership that felt wrong. But if we’re happy there’s a really solid and interesting alignment, then we like to really collaborate with brands and partner with them to deliver something really exceptional. We also – and I think this is quite unusual – always make sure we ask ourselves how a commercial partnership might offer us as a team opportunities to expand our creativity. We’re all about enabling creativity to thrive, so we’ve got to walk the walk, too!

“We also – and I think this is quite unusual – always make sure we ask ourselves how a commercial partnership might offer us as a team opportunities to expand our creativity.”

What have been some of your most exciting partnerships?

We’ve done loads of really interesting partnership projects, but a couple stand out. One was with Harry’s, the direct-to-consumer shaving brand. They wanted to connect to a creative audience and demonstrate that Harry’s is a shaving brand for every man, regardless of his shape, size, background or appearance. So we set up a life-drawing class with models reflecting the diversity of men in London, and invited our audience as well as some professional illustrators and artists to come and take part. The results were stunning and we showcased the work and the story on It’s Nice That. Last year, we also worked with Dropbox on a fantastic project, which saw us commission two creatives each month across the year to work together using Dropbox Paper (the brand’s collaborative workspace) on a bespoke poster. We then printed the finished designs and gave copies of these posters to every attendee at our monthly event, Nicer Tuesdays. We also then told the stories of the collaborations on the site.

makings of a man harrys

Which magazines do you read for pleasure?

I really try to make sure I read a wide variety of different magazines, to keep up with trends, get different perspectives, and generally find inspiration. I really enjoyed the last issue of Anxy, a great magazine about mental health; I’m a big fan of Good Trouble, which feels very zeitgeisty at the moment; and I also pick up Wrap and Courier from time to time. Aside from that, you can’t go wrong with The New Yorker!

What are the best books you’ve read recently?

Three very different books, but all superb in their own ways: Woman on the Edge of Time, a great feminist sci-fi novel by Marge Piercy; Milkman, last year’s Booker Prize winner by Anna Burns; and There There, the excellent, eye-opening novel by Tommy Orange, which I picked up in the US and which was recently published in the UK. All three are well worth a read.

marge piercy book
"A great feminist sci-fi novel by Marge Piercy"

The Storylist

Matt's Storylist

Books

  1. The Falcon's Malteaser by Anthony Horowitz
  2. Women on the Edge of Time by TKTK
  3. Milkman by Anna Burns
  4. There There by Tommy Orange

Magazines

  1. Anxy
  2. Good Trouble
  3. Wrap
  4. Courier
  5. The New Yorker
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