Our Salon with The NYTimes, Apartamento, & Garage

25 April, 2017

In our recent panel, produced in partnership with Passerbuys, some of print’s brightest thought-leaders shared their perspectives about publishing’s use of technology and design in the Internet era. Moderated by Jorge Balarezo from Calvin Klein, the panelists included Renda Morton, Executive Director of Product Design at The New York Times, Omar Sosa, Founder and Art Director at Apartamento, and Thessaly La Force, Editor-in-Chief of Garage. Here, we’ve captured some of their observations about the present and future of print and digital media.


“[Our app] allows us to compete in the fashion space with other ways of visually telling stories. If you scan a page in the magazine, the picture turns into a video or gives you a 360 panaromic experience. It’s been a tool for us in attracting high-caliber talent like photographers.” — Thessaly La Force

“Getting access to extra content is very nice because it makes us think in a different way when we’re making a story.” — Omar Sosa

“A lot of brands are becoming magazines. And a lot of magazines are turning into brands, and asking, ‘do we need an app right now? Is that the next thing?‘” — Jorge Balazero

“You have to know your audience, who you are speaking to. And maybe sometimes it’s not right to do an app or speak on Snapchat.” — Renda Morton


“The truth is Apartamento is made out of the internet. Our contributors are everywhere, so we are really a digital magazine. Why don’t we put everything online? Because then it loses a little bit. If you find everything you want online, it’s not special. It’s nice to know that you can’t find some things.” — Omar Sosa

“Until very recently, I wasn’t attracted by things on the Internet. It wasn’t sexy to read on a screen. You want touch the paper, right?” — Omar Sosa

From left to right: Renda Morton (The New York Times), Omar Sosa (Apartamento), Thessaly La Force (Garage Magazine)

“I see the print for Garage as the anchor, the high-water mark. This is the absolute best of the best it's going to get. Then digital, you just let go a little bit and let it be what it is, which is ephemeral. Think about how you read the internet. It's this big river and you wake up and decide to dip your toe in that morning and then maybe you get on the subway and check it again. If you accept that it's just a couple minutes of your day every so often, that’s the kind of stories you tell. It can be a little liberating, as opposed to the end of literacy or something.” — Thessaly La Force


“Everyone is using culture or art to market a product. It’s everywhere now. Our first issue had tattoos and Nick Knight. It was really compelling, but the challenge is that everyone is doing it. It would be really fun to experiment and not look at who’s trendy, but whose work actually reflects that instantaneous way of expressing yourself, and just allow them to be weird and free, because authenticity is very much in demand right now.” — Thessaly La Force

“Collaboration is really key. When you actually reach out to a person that you admire, you want to make sure that they are actually speaking on behalf of your publication or your brand.” — Jorge Balazero

“We never sold out to brands and we didn't want to open that box. If you’re small, you open up this Pandora’s box of getting a sponsor. But then you need the money, you'll get used to the money. You’re at their mercy… it’s a whole different system.” — Omar Sosa

“I joke that I now work at an art agency with a website attached to it.” — Thessaly La Force

“If you think about Vogue, and the ad pages it has to sell, and the fact that Ralph Lauren is a big advertiser, invariably there is a Ralph Lauren dress in one of the shoots that so-and-so does, versus a branded video that actually tells a story. We’re in this transitional stage, and I’m hard pressed to actually articulate what the differences are. It just feels like we flipped the coin.” — Thessaly La Force

Thessaly La Force speaking
Omar Sosa, co-founder of Apartamento


“How do we maintain consistency? I think it has to do with the fact that we are three people making the editorial choices, and we all respect each other. We’re in different cities and have different interests. That makes the magazine feel like a surprise.” — Omar Sosa “It’s really messy and it’s not easy. We don’t have a process, really. It’s very collaborative and everyone is on an equal footing when they’re working together. The team can be 40 or 50 people, doing custom stories for digital, mostly designers and some developers on top of all of the reporters and editors. We have 400 developers and they all have to work together to make one website.” — Renda Morton


“We have a very reader-centered design. We do general research to find out what people’s needs are and how they’re reading our products, and what they expect from us. We use that to guide our design process.” — Renda Morton

“I find contemporary magazines so difficult to read. Like, I have to sit down, I have to put it on my lap. The format [of Apartamento] was definitely something that we didn't do on purpose. We did it because it was half price, literally. Then we realized that it was very good for reading, so it kind of became what it is because of the format. It's easy to read.” — Omar Sosa


“We started with a hobby. It became a company and companies have to keep growing, but we can do many other things. The magazine doesn't need to change that much. It has to evolve, but the same way that our taste or our mission evolves. It doesn't need to evolve in a commercial way, but through the brand, we can do many other things that we're trying to do now. When we walk into our office, we just do whatever we want, and change it one minute before, and nobody complains. It feels good.” — Omar Sosa

“If you're copying someone, stop yourself. If it's being done, it's over. I did a story for New York Magazine about designers and agencies that were creating magazines as a way to promote their work. They were getting a lot of organic attention, and that would feed back into the agency. So now you see a lot of magazines with the same girls and the same jewelry and the same ficus lyrata. Either you have a very clear idea of what you're making and what it is, and the story it's telling, or you have some sort of indescribable chemistry that just cannot be replicated, but if you're just trying to promote sneakers with a magazine, you're going to look a little pathetic.” — Thessaly La Force

“[The Times] is really old, we were founded in 1851, which is as old as Kiehl's. Our name, our brand, and our equity is the most valuable thing we have, and it's so good because we've spent, like, 168 years working on it. Now we don't even have a style guide for visual stuff. We have a style guide for writers, but we don't have a list of colors, there is nothing written down. It’s just you can feel it, because it's been there for so long.” — Renda Morton

“I realized, at some point, either you grow up reading the brand, and you've internalized it already, or you internalize it because it's been blood, sweat, tears, and screaming for five years of your life with these other people. You can create all this documentation and brand guidelines and they're really helpful, obviously, but people also just have to spend time reading and making the magazine and that becomes the DNA.” — Thessaly La Force

Jorge Balarezo (left) our moderator, with Thessaly La Force
Our three speakers: Omar Sosa, Renda Morton, Thessaly La Force


“We never make any editorial decision thinking, oh, what will our readers buy more of, what color will be more successful? That’s very difficult to tell when you do a printed magazine because the feedback is slow. But it’s very easy on Instagram; you just post and you get more likes and you know this is the one.” — Omar Sosa

“Of course, you face it when you get bad comments, and then it's like, do you have to answer to the stuff, or is it just people that do that, or is it a true voice from the audience? Some people are really posting to get an answer, and it's a good dialogue because it's very interesting feedback. But it's also dangerous, because then you get a little paranoid. It makes you less free in a way.” — Omar Sosa

“Most people want to feel like they're having a conversation, without actually having the conversation. They’re happy talking to their friends and co-workers, and they don't really look to us to connect them to other readers but to other interesting people who can help them make sense of the world.” — Renda Morton

“The president tweets us. He calls us some bad things, and we have to really decide if we're going to reply to his tweet. It's surreal.” — Renda Morton

“I was just looking at a deck about best practices on Facebook. Racy things don't actually do that well. I'm not going to post that weird article I clicked on toe suckers on my Facebook; that's highly embarrassing. I'm going to share the article I feel reflects me and is interesting. Some of the best performing stuff is often really innocuous and just what people identify with on a very basic level.” — Thessaly La Force


“Did you read that #Vanlife in the New Yorker? That's what. They’re like people who got a van to be free of their lives, and now they're just trapped in a world where they have to create content for Instagram. They can’t live in their van anymore. It's just like two normal, regular people and they have to make Instagram content to live their free lives of surfing and hiking. Everyone feels like they have to be a content creator.” — Renda Morton

“I think the apocalypse comes and then, you know.” — Renda Morton

One of many questions from the audience

“Print sales overall might be declining, but certain print magazines are not. What you see is the narrowing of the field. The landscape, where there was once Harper's and the New Yorker and Descent and The Nation and Mother Jones, now really there's just going to be the New Yorker and Vogue. The diversity of the landscape allowed other kinds of creativity in writers to thrive. I don’t know what’s going to happen now, if everyone just strives for one kind of voice. I think print is here to stay, but it's going to be monolithic.” — Thessaly La Force

“Before I started at The Times, I thought the work was so amazing. Now that I’m on the inside, I feel like we have so far to go just to keep up. There’s such a gap between what we are delivering, especially to people under 40. If our median reader is in their 60s and it’s a man, that’s not going to work out.” — Renda Morton

“Stories are our mission, and so we are going to tell them in every format that we possibly can. We want to meet people wherever they are. In the past, we wanted people to read our stories so badly, we invented a whole system for delivering newspapers to people’s doors.” — Renda Morton

“The internet is full of garbage. I read the paper in print because I don't want to feel like I'm at work in front of a computer. It's the ultimate luxury to read in print.” — Renda Morton

Words by The Editors, Renda Morton, Thessaly La Force, Omar Sosa. Photos: Harrison Sheehan.

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