There comes a time in the lives of many young Substacks when, having demonstrated a certain maturity, they ask for extra responsibility. They change and grow and, well, turn on paid subscriptions. The short version of this post: after four months of weekly essays and interviews, our initial thesis about Frontier Magazine has been validated by your interest. So we are asking for support to continue and expand our efforts. Nothing is moving behind a paywall, though, because we believe in a patronage model recently described as “unlocking the commons.” Supporting us, at $6/mo or $60/year CAD, helps everyone enjoy the fruits of this labor.
Read on for a longer version that discusses what we’re up to, what you can expect in the months to come, and a fistful of Good Links updating and expanding upon the stories in recent issues.
Love all ways,
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Curiosity and the Commons
This newsletter grows out of initiatives that stretch back to 2015, with the first printed issue of Frontier Magazine. Building on years of print and digital publishing experience, we launched this weekly newsletter in January 2023 with the tagline “designing for joy makes everything better.” The Frontier studio thesis is that good design accelerates positive change—by making the right choice the better choice, we will more easily make progress toward equity, health, and fulfillment.
The company’s thesis holds, but this newsletter is also an intensely personal effort. I’m obsessively curious about new ideas in the arts, technology, and the built environment. I love reading, then thinking with, new books and essays, or responding in writing to artworks, films, and albums. Here and elsewhere, I habitually gather, sort, and recombine information, find ways to make that knowledge accessible, and then share its insights—whether with readers of this newsletter or with friends and loved ones. It’s how I work. Scratch that—it’s how I live. Where I work is Frontier, but I’m privileged to follow my own interests in choosing what to write about each week.
The studio is doubling down on its bet that you’re just as curious as I am—as all of us here are. We all believe there’s an audience eager to pause, consider new projects and perspectives, and discover how creativity underpins broader efforts to make the world a better place. So, with the support of newsletter subscribers, we’re not only continuing the weekly newsletter, but also re-launching our podcast with insightful new interviews and sharing even more Good Links.
To start, paying subscribers will have priority access to an expanded, standalone Good Links digest, with more context and commentary, every few Fridays. It’s the perfect setup for weekend reading, listening, and watching—and will be unlocked for all subscribers the following week. Other perks and benefits may follow, but always be time-boxed rather than paywalled.
The key is that everyone gets access. Tim Carmody, writing in 2019, crystallized something about media that I also believe: “The most powerful and interesting media model will remain raising money from members who don’t just permit but insist that the product be given away for free. The value comes from not just what they’re buying, but who they’re buying it from and who gets to enjoy it. The bigger those two pools get—the bigger the membership, and the bigger the audience—the better it gets for everyone.”
I’m putting my money where my mouth is, too, and have just subscribed or re-subscribed to other publications I admire and learn from, including Kottke.org, Sentiers Media, The Point, and, here on Substack, the, by , and ’s . I’ve likely shared in past issues ideas or stories originally found in these publications, and I encourage you to check them out, too.
This is the Frontier Magazine proposition: that you want to read about subjects like Chinese architects repurposing abandoned mines as cultural centers; that you agree the natural world and our cultural affinities show us the value of recognizing everything is interconnected; that you believe in open protocols, well-designed software, and technologies that emphasize rather than reduce our humanity; that advancing our understanding of new realms like biotechnology can come from artists and companies alike; and that there are tons more stories like these worth finding, learning about, and amplifying.
I hope you’ll consider supporting us, whether through a subscription or by sharing links, in bringing these stories to as many people as we can.
🔗 Good Links
Here are updates related to some recent Frontier Magazine stories:
📐 Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari, featured in our March 29 issue, was awarded the 2023 Royal Gold Medal of the by the Royal Institute of British Architects. It is one of the field’s highest honors. The book Yasmeen Lari: Architecture for the Future, which I discussed in my post, is now available from MIT Press.
👂🏻 In February, we published a “love letter to Wikipedia” occasioned by its redesign. A short time later, designer Alex Hollender, who led the redesign, offered some notes on the process. It’s a thoughtful take on designing for user needs, volunteer communities, and many languages and cultural contexts.
📚 Two weeks ago, I wrote about Brian Dillon’s new book Affinities. It’s been written up in many places; two of my favorite takes are Becca Rothfeld’s, in the Washington Post, and Apoorva Tadepalli’s, in Artforum.
🇲🇽 In late February, I wrote about two exciting Mexico City–based architecture firms and their lessons on humility and climate resilience. Since then, my web browser seems to have become a magnet for Mexican architects and their projects. Two that have stuck out to me: Taller Mauricio Rocha’s expansion of the Anahuacalli Museum won the 2023 Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize, and the Oficina de Resiliencia Urbana won a 2023 Emerging Voices prize from the Architectural League of New York.
🤖 In early March, I wrote a case for (cautious) optimism about AI. I continue to read essay after essay on the subject as I try to gauge how it will fit into my life and work. Recently, I appreciated Ted Chiang’s comparison of AI to McKinsey, in the New Yorker; academic danah boyd’s emphasis on deskilling; and L.M. Sacasas’s “fragments” on the subject.
🇱🇧 Last but not least, way back in fall 2020, I interviewed the talented graphic designer Chantal Jahchan about the revolution in Arabic type design, among other subjects. I recently came across and wanted to share the nonprofit Arabic Design Archive.
Very exciting! Can’t wait to see what comes for you all!