by Chloe Walker
For the first decade of this century the freelancer reigned supreme. Everyone wanted to break free of the 9 to 5, and thousands of blogs and books and seminars sprang up promising to show us the escape route. The least polite of these would paint those who remained in the traditional workforce as hapless fools, doomed never to experience the dizzying heights of success that are only made possible through running your own enterprise.
I read and believed a huge amount of this freelance porn, but never made the leap myself. There are numerous reasons for this, but one that seems a bit taboo to admit is this: I like many aspects of having a day job. I like the reliable pay check, obviously, but I also like the structure it gives my days. I like having access to a colour photocopier and all the highlighter pens I could want. I like systems and processes and observing when they work and when they don’t. I even have a weird passion for cubicle architecture and culture. There are a lot of things that frustrate me about office life, and the freelance fantasy remains, but I’m not sure if it will ever be right for me – for now, day jobbing gives me more of what I need than freelancing could.
So I was intrigued to come across Day Job Magazine, its inaugural issue funded by Kickstarter and helmed by New York designer Elliott Walker. Self-described as ‘a magazine about good work for its own sake, about earning a living, and about the search for some utility and meaning in the way we spend our day’, Day Job looks at the world of work from a variety of angles and brings dignity to a subject that is often depicted as meaningless drudgery.
The Kickstarter funding meant that issue one of Day Job could be produced free of advertising, and the result is 192 pages of diverse, surprising content around the theme of ‘manufacture’. There are profiles of people from all lines of work – the president of a rolling ladder company; a Dominican priest-slash-architect; a Beirut calligrapher; brief encounters with New York street food vendors; and a conversation between graphic designer Milton Glaser and his longtime client Steve Hindy of the Brooklyn Brewery, just to get started.
But it’s not all interviews. Kelly Rakowski of nothing-is-new.com presents a weird photo-collage-essay of retro, redundant office supplies. Daniel Payne takes us through the history of the spreadsheet (fun fact: an Excel spreadsheet contains a potential 4.38 trillion cells, not that a standard-issue desktop computer could process that much data). Excerpts from Timothy Pachirat’s PhD research slash memoir about the five months he spent working in an abattoir provides a surreal insight into industrialised meat production. Industrial designer Jonathan Olivares puts forward a case for working outdoors. And in ‘Problem Dreaming’, my personal favourite, Hunter Slaten draws parallels between the aspirations of minor league baseballers and the fallacy of the American dream in a nuanced defence of mediocrity.
There’s much more, too – Walker has crammed a lot into a small package. Having a designer leading the team has also given Day Job a wonderful look and feel. The format is slightly smaller than a regular mag and feels great in the hands. The paper is nice and weighty with a few different stocks used throughout, mixing up matte and gloss, full colour and black and white. The layout and photography have a nice retro appeal.
It’s obvious that Day Job has been made with a great deal of passion and diligence – hard work and dedication to the craft of publishing a quality product. I can’t wait to see what they do with issue two.
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