Meet the Women Behind Sindroms, the Exquisite New Mag Pushing the Possibilities of Colour

We talked to the team about all things red, working with ugly colours and 'monochrome states of mind'.

To this day, people still like to grumble and say that print is dead. And sure, the advent of digital media may be forcing traditional publications to rethink their strategies—but it’s also led to a bold backlash embodied by an influx of hyper-curated independent magazines. Proof? For example, independent-magazine subscription service Stack recently reported a 78 per cent increase in revenue within a year, with its number of subscribers growing by 76 per cent. But most of all, every new independent publication launched seems like it’s raising the bar for quality of concept, content and production—the latest and most impressive of which is Sindroms Mag.

Founded and funded by Copenhageners Monique (Editor-in-Chief), Miruna (Creative Director), Ana (Business Development), Ausra (Art Director) and Kotryna (Communications), Sindroms is a journal for ‘monochrome states of mind.’ Meaning, every issue is dedicated to exploring the breadth of a single colour—whether delving into more conceptual frameworks, like how colours make you feel, or practical levels like how artists work with specific shades. For example, the first issue, ‘RED SINDROM’, contains short anecdotes about emotions like fury, love or anger; musings on protanopia, or colour deficiency; interviews with designer Henrik Vibskov and artist Daniel van der Noon on their uses of red; and plenty of photoshoots of product and people that exude an ecosystem of red emotions and visuals, with art direction that makes you gasp in awe.

Which is an important point: although Sindroms is one of the most immaculately designed magazines we’ve come upon in a long time, the content isn’t just minimalist and beautiful for the sake of it. Instead, it ebbs and flows between heaviness and lightness, pleasure and pain, appreciation and criticism of red. Because of that, we thought we’d ask the Sindroms team why it’s important to push the possibilities of colour in our daily lives. Here’s what Monique, Miruna and Ana had to say.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Monique, Miruna and Ana. How did the idea for Sindroms come about?

Miruna: About a year and a half ago, we started flirting with the idea of making our own magazine. Having a design and a communications background, the idea seemed like the perfect chance to combine our interests and create something together. Plus, we were super into independent magazines and felt like they were really making print thrive. But we also noticed that there was a big focus on minimalism and slow lifestyle; don’t get me wrong, we love that, but as big colour enthusiasts we felt like something was simply missing. Something more colourful, more daring—something different!

What are the possibilities and limitations of making a mag based on a single colour?

Miruna: We are obviously working within a limitation. And I love that! On the one hand, it made things very easy for us—we weren’t browsing the entire world out there in search of good stories, only the red parts of them. And on the other hand, it made us get so creative and look at colour in ways most people don’t. The crazy thing was that we imagined that after working only with red for more than a year we’d get really sick of it, but it’s been quite the opposite. We completely fell in love with it along the way.

Monique: You definitely go through waves of thinking anything is possible to feeling locked inside a framework that you created yourself. For the most part, we actually realised that we can do a lot with only one colour because it allows us to go in-depth with every detail and think about colour in a way that we haven’t before. In our first issue, we obviously talked about love and anger because what would a red issue be without these topics; but we also thought about more conceptual ideas such as a nightvision approach (seeing through a red lens) to unfold new layers when we interviewed Daniel van der Noon. It’s a rocky process but in my opinion, that’s just part of creating something powerful—if it goes too smoothly, something’s definitely fishy.

Ana: On defining the concept and the content’s focus, our starting point was the subjectivity of colour. What we found interesting is the degree to which someone identifies with red or allows red to play as a motivating factor in their buying behavior, in decorating their house, or in curating their experiences. We wanted the magazine to be something we use to look more in depth into topics of interest, like how artists use a specific colour strategically. It was about strong visuals, but also about how states of mind dictate perception.

How does Scandinavian design influence your aesthetic?

Monique: It’s funny that you’re asking, because living in Copenhagen means that you’re constantly surrounded by a lot of muted colours and very polished looks. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything about Scandinavian design and the Copenhagen uniform—been there, done that!—but I’ve been craving colours a lot lately. In that sense, we’re providing a more playful layer to traditional Scandinavian aesthetics, but of course we can’t hide the fact that we live in Copenhagen.

Miruna: I can clearly see the influence here and there in our aesthetics. If we’re talking colours then yes, we are a bright, screaming, drop of colour disrupting the usual Scandi palette. But when I think about our aesthetic, it’s a lot about simplicity and conceptuality as well. Let’s be honest: it’s impossible to not be influenced by it when you live here. You grow to love the minimalism and it can get hard to break away from it.  That’s a note to myself for the next issue—to let go more.

Ana: Exactly, there’s an imperfect balance between what Sindroms and what Scandinavian design and aesthetics stand for. I definitely see it as a daring choice we made, especially aesthetically speaking—trying to introduce an in-depth perspective on colour in a place in which there is a game between raw vs polished, neutrals vs pops of colour, tradition vs innovation. Sindroms is a red thread between these elements and a fresh perspective on unexplored ideas and aesthetics.

What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned so far about doing your own mag?

Monique: Doing a magazine is not as glamorous as it looks like! Looking back, the hardest part was producing a mag outside of our work hours because we’re all occupied with our ‘real’ jobs from 9-5. That’s probably not going to change in the near future, but it has definitely helped us go through the first cycle of establishing Sindroms because we’re more familiar with the ups and downs. But one thing is for sure: I could have never come this far if it wasn’t a passion project of mine (been dreaming of having my own magazine for years!)

Miruna: It kind of comes down to the most important thing: we really have to love what we’re doing because we’re doing it at the expense of our own free time, full-night sleep and even savings. That ‘spark’ can be difficult to hold on to at times when it gets very stressful and we find ourselves at 10PM in an electricity shop arguing about what type of extension cords we need. So we quickly figured out that making our own mag was not all about the artwork, the photoshoots, the connections—it’s also a lot about the not-so-sexy stuff.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve published so far and why?

Miruna: That’s a tough one because we work so close to some stories and it’s hard to pick favourites. I’m especially fond of ‘Painful Treasures’, the story behind the Museum of Broken Relationships, told by its founder. It’s a personal story as much as it is everyone’s story, and it’s about taking heartbreak or unpleasant memories and turning that into something beautiful.

Monique: My favourites are the think pieces that explore the different emotions connected to the colours—especially the ones that get too little attention in our everyday life. I often feel that print publications only touch upon things that I can’t really relate to. It feels great to have the luxury to really dive deep into the entire spectrum of emotions and, at the same time, not be afraid of long-form journalism when diving into specific aspects of one colour at a time.

Ana: It’s like choosing a favourite kid! No, it has to be the interview with Vibskov—I feel like his approach to answering the questions was so similar to what Sindroms stands for. Another favourite is ‘On everybody’s lips’ for the amazing and delicious work they did, as well as for the complexity to which they thought through every detail. I’m also a big Italian foodie; maybe that makes me a bit biased as well.

What’s your take on working with some of the more unpopular colours—for example, the notorious puke green or vomit yellow?

Monique: If it was me, I would only focus on the ugly and provocative but probably only because I fall in love with things that are ugly and unconventional. I am sure that most of our readers and the rest of the team would probably not enjoy that, though, or am I totally wrong? Even though we most likely won’t touch upon puke green, we want to be daring and cover things from our everyday lives that normally wouldn’t gain that much attention. For example, for the Red Sindrom we interviewed a guy who only eats raw meat—not because we necessarily endorse that type of lifestyle, but to redirect the focus to something less polished.

Miruna: I totally agree—it would be exciting and challenging to work with more ‘unconventional’ colours that you could say are considered ugly. We definitely don’t want to be looking just at the ‘pretty shades’ when working with a colour.

What are some of your top moments you’ve personally experienced with colour?

Monique: Growing up, I never gave colours a lot of thought because they were part of my everyday life. But it hit me when I moved to Copenhagen—everybody was wearing black, even kids. It was a big culture shock at that time, especially for somebody who is a sucker for neon lights. The second time I was totally shocked by  a certain colour palette was when I saw Dennis Morton (or @detokay on Instagram) for the first time because he wears nothing but white. Even though ‘white’ is technically not a colour, he really stood out in the black-and-grey-infused Copenhagen.

Ana: I think I’m always paying attention to colour. In the end, it affects our mood and how we express our personality. So I wouldn’t say I can point to something specific; it’s more that I involuntarily associate moments with colours. And when I revisit them, those specific colours kind of dictate the mood I associate to the memory. So for example, you can be having a beer in a bodega where the predominant colours are black with warm tones from the dim lights, but then a specific element pops out, like a purple or green painting. That shifts the whole visual experience and kind of changes your perception of the place completely.

Why do you think it’s important for people today to be attentive to colour?

Miruna: Because everyone is affected by it. That’s why Sindroms is structured on feelings and states of mind evoked by each colour. It’s amazing how a certain colour can influence your mood, the way you feel about something—for example, whether you feel cosy or anxious in a certain place.

Ana: People don’t really realise how powerful colour is and how much it can influence them and the way they perceive their surroundings. Awareness is important – simply being aware that this happens, that designers and advertisers use it as a tool to enhance and influence your experiences and ultimately your decisions.

Monique: Perhaps you’ve always been unconsciously drawn to one colour—for example, your favourite—without really investigating why, how it influences you or why it matches your personality. Sindroms is an invitation to make people reflect even more about their colour choices and untangle all their layers, so you avoid choosing colours that have a negative impact on you or your mental state of mind.

Since you’re so focused on colour, I bet you’re pretty picky with materials, ink, printing, etc. What’s your production process like, from the paper you print on to the format you choose?

Miruna:  That’s spot on—being picky can’t be helped! Since we are biannual wanted it to feel more like a book rather than a magazine – something people collect and display in their homes – quality was super important to us. We ended up with a pretty high production cost because we couldn’t compromise on paper and finishings. We also did a lot of testing before – getting the right colours can be tricky in print, and while for other mags getting a slightly different colour come out is not a big problem, for us getting it right felt vital. When I got the very first copy in my hands all I could see were the mistakes! This picture is too dark, this colour was a different tone, etc. I only relaxed after seeing people’s positive reactions to it and how nobody else noticed all those tiny things that were so obvious to me.

What’s coming up next for you?

Miruna: Besides focusing on getting the Red Sindrom out there in the world, we started working on the second issue. We’re now in the brainstorming phase, reaching out to contributors and partners and so on. We can’t reveal the colour just yet (soon!) but I can say how thrilling it is to be working on a new one. Working with red for more than a year was wonderful and overwhelming in a good way, and now it feels almost like it’s hard to let go but it’s so exciting at the same time—it’s like a clean canvas and we’re more than ready to start again.

Ana: We’re also focusing on pushing the ‘monochrome states of mind’ out there and make as many people aware about the idea behind our concept and what the magazine delivers. We’re also looking into experiential things like events, art installations, and of course collaborations. We got the validation on the concept since our launch through our audience, stockists, and collaborators, so all we need is to push it even further and see what new potential we unlock.

Monique: I still can’t believe that we’ve actually published a magazine—after hiding it for one year, it still doesn’t feel natural to talk about it every time somebody asks about it. With the next colour, we can hopefully touch even more people and push the concept further to combine the physical, the digital, memories of colour, and what’s directly in front of us.

Thanks, Sindroms.

See Sindroms’ stockists here or buy it online, and keep your eye out for the next issue coming out Spring 2018.