Three questions for: Robert Hofmann, ZurQuelle
There are at least as many student magazines as there are universities. Of course, in most cases these simply serve as channels for internal news and focus on helping their readers finding an internship or reveal this week’s menu at the canteen. However, the following examples show that you do not necessarily have to come from a design school to publish a student magazine that features broad-based content and is aesthetically convincing and – perhaps most importantly – relevant. These publications feature themes such as society, politics, and culture, while at the same time revolving around the student perspective.
“Colourful, crazy, critical, and challenging” – the student magazine by and for magicians manages to combine all of these contradicting characteristics, while at the same time sending an important message. The reporting is based primarily on the things that characterise student life: openness, tolerance, a love of learning, hedonism, and sometimes also getting plastered and silliness. The editors are independent and pieces are aimed at all of the universities in the Berlin and Potsdam area. The trashy look of the magazine is surprising at first glance and may even be a little off-putting to the newcomer, but it facilitates a direct and easy access to the content. We talked to Robert Hofmann, the editor-in-chief of Zur Quelle magazine, about his work and the magazine’s message and future.
1. How did the student magazine Zur Quelle come into existence? And how did it get its name?
Zur Quelle came from a realisation that other student magazines are boring. You have your zany Neon, Zeit Campus, and Unicum, and the thousands of other local or university-based magazines, but none of these are much fun. So we came up with a plan to take matters into our own hands. It started off with a handful of friends and acquaintances at Potsdam University, and then over the course of the year we were joined by more and more people who thought it was high time that someone made such a magazine. The first editorial meeting took place in my local pub, although at that time we had no idea what an editorial team really did. Or how to run a magazine, for that matter. But being a geeky history student, I did know what the publication should be called – as did everyone who frequented the “Zur Quelle” pub: we became “ZurQuelle”. The geeky bit comes from the fact that in the wake of the 1848 Revolution, the very first democrats in the first democratic, all-German parliament at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt were not named according to their political affiliations. Instead, the factions were named after the pubs in which they congregated in the evenings. We decided to follow suit, and as such consider ourselves to provide a continuum with the earliest German democrats in the Frankfurt Parliament.
2. What are the editorial aims behind the magazine, and how do you set yourselves apart from other magazines?
First and foremost, we want to entertain our readers. But entertainment is both an end in itself (we’re pretty daft and silly for the most part) and a means to an end. We do have a political message. It’s not explicitly spelled out or defined, but it’s always there. Calling it “left” sounds a bit uptight. We prefer to describe it as “humanist”. Of course, that’s enough to make us left wing these days. We want our playful feel to draw in people who do might not necessarily share our convictions. In doing so, the hope is that we might be able to plant the seeds of our ideas in their heads. Inception. We are automatically a bit different from most other magazines in that we have a clearly defined target group – students. We set ourselves apart from other student magazines by our political conviction, coupled with our apparently unique no-bullshit take on life. What’s more, we don’t make university the focus of everything, but rather the students. We don’t want to engage them just at university, but everywhere. After all, university is just a part of studying. It also involves unbridled hedonism, a critical attitude, a willingness to reflect on things and, quite simply, a more relaxed approach to life. Your time as students is the best of your life, which is nothing to do with the university itself, and that’s what we want to capture.
3. What role does design play in your processeas? And what are your plans for the future?
The editorial and design teams work together closely. It goes both ways. Our design is our pride and joy, and the designers are awesome. In order to make sure that it stays like that, we try to meet each other halfway, to be mindful of one another and, above all, not to fight over the balance between text and design. If we need more room for a good-looking typeface, we cut the text; if the editorial team has a grandiose vision for the design, the designers at least listen to what they have to say.
In 2015 we won a prize as the best German-language student magazine. We intend to maintain this level of quality. Of course, we do have plans for expansion. Sooner or later expansion will become inevitable in any case, as we are looking to finance ourselves in the future. We are currently considering possible sales channels, an on-going regional – or even cross-regional – presence, and stable funding from advertisements, parties, and other sources. But what matters most, and I don’t care whether it’s a total cliché, is that we want to continue to have fun with our work, without overburdening or shutting anyone out, and simply carry on making the coolest magazine around.