Telum Talks To…Philip Annetta and Suzy Annetta, Design Anthology / Fifth Black Media
Managing Editor Phil Annetta and Editor-in-Chief Suzy Annetta talk to Telum about why they set up Fitth Black Media and Design Anthology Magazines, future plans and what's the best way to pitch them.
Hi Phil and Suzy, thanks for your time! First of all, please introduce Fifth Black Media to our readers.
Phil: We actually started with Design Anthology before launching Fifth Black Media as a content agency. I’ll let Suzy tell the full story of Design Anthology, but my background is in editorial and Suzy’s is in interior design, so a design magazine seemed like a logical choice! Through Design Anthology, clients started to approach us to work on custom content, and eventually we launched the Fifth Black Media brand (named after a printing term, as we’re print geeks). We’ve been lucky to work with some great clients like Swire Properties and Swire Hotels, Lane Crawford, Grosvenor Asia Pacific and Rosewood Hotels, to name a few. We’ve expanded from design content into fashion, lifestyle and cultural content across print, digital and social - it’s fascinating to see those channels all evolve in the way they work together. Nominally I head up the content agency arm and Suzy heads up Design Anthology, but we’re a small team, so we both work across everything to a greater or lesser degree.
Suzy: We launched Design Anthology just on six years ago now, and it was motivated by the gap we noticed in the market for an upscale design magazine that was focusing on design within the region. As Phil mentioned, I was an interior designer, and hence a consumer of design media. I was tired of how most design magazines looked – too cluttered, and not enough emphasis on good quality imagery – and I couldn’t find anything that catered to my interests (art, travel, design and architecture) and spoke to me in an appropriate way. Most other magazines we came across in the region were either aimed at an audience that didn’t know much about design – or they were really academic and quite dry. So we try to bridge that gap. As a result most of our readers are practicing designers or are just passionate about design.
As for the mix of content, to me it seems logical. I’ve always felt as an interior designer that you don’t work in a bubble, and therefore understanding cities and how they are planned is important, as well as the architecture that lives within them. This would be the macro end of design. On the micro level, all the items within an interior – art and product design – are also areas of interest. Many people don’t understand the connection to travel, but my last role was designing hotels so its an area I’m still passionate about. But additionally designers and creative people find travel an important way to stay inspired and to constantly be exposed to something new. So to me the travel section was a no brainer.
Design Anthology Magazine has achieved great success - can you share a bit about your editorial strategy?
Suzy: As I mentioned earlier we found that there was a gap in the market for an upscale magazine in this part of the world. Whenever I picked up something there may be one or two homes in Hong Kong but the international projects would still be in Australia, Europe or USA. This made no sense to me as I felt that neighbouring design cultures would be so much more relevant for us here. With issues like density and the shared climate the design would be more interesting and inspiring for readers in Hong Kong. So we made a conscious decision from the outset to feature work from across Asia and in doing so also found another point of difference for Design Anthology.
To further this we thought that it would make sense to also distribute the magazine regionally, and so rather than just be considered a Hong Kong magazine we felt it would be more appropriate to take on the role of a regional publication.
Further to this, we had noticed earlier on that Europe has quite a dynamic design community, and while there are vast differences between Europe and Asia, we felt that it would be of benefit to everyone in the creative community if there was more of a sense of community. So the magazine to us is as much a platform for regional design as it is for conversation and dialogue.
Design Anthology recently stepped out of Asia and expanded to Australia. Congratulations on launching the Australia Edition in December 2019!
Suzy: Thank you. Actually we launched a UK/European edition first at the end of 2018, although that’s a slightly different scenario as its published by a separate entity who licenses the brand from us. But the launch of the Australian edition is quite exciting for us – for a number of reasons. Firstly we are publishing this magazine ourselves, with the same editorial team in Hong Kong, plus both Phil and I are originally from Melbourne, so it's nice to have a reason to be spending more time there. But that wasn’t the reason behind launching the new edition.
Over the years we’ve had a number of designers send us their work to be published, and while we wanted to foster a sense of a wider APAC community that includes Australia, we were also conscious of not overwhelming or drowning out all the great work we were (and still are) seeing in Asia. So it really came about by the demand from the design community in Australia who seem to really appreciate our point of difference.
The Australian (and New Zealand) edition of Design Anthology will be published in print only twice a year (for the time being) and will focus on finding, supporting and promoting design talent in those two countries – just as we do for Asia. So the philosophy is the same.
Give us some insight into your plans for the brand this year…
Phil: Isn’t life what happens while you’re making other plans? As I said, it’s a fascinating time to be working in content and to be working in Asia. There are a lot of stories worth telling, both within the design field and for our clients, but there’s obviously a lot competing for people’s attention. We try to create high-quality content across channels, and we find people respond to it. We’re going to keep doing that and keep refining our approach as the landscape develops.
Suzy: We have a lot of goals on our list of what we’d like to accomplish in the next few years. First and foremost is maintaining the quality of the editorial content that we produce for the two editions of Design Anthology. We are looking to expand and grow across the region further. We now have an office in Melbourne to support the new publication, but we have our sights on further locations in Asia. First will be Singapore, and then potentially Tokyo, Bangkok…Shanghai? Let’s see.
We have our first Design Anthology branded book launching early this year which is exciting for us. And we hope to be producing more in the near future.
It’s probably too soon to be talking about anything else just yet, so you’ll just have to stay tuned!
How should PRs best pitch / collaborate with you?
Phil: The most important thing is to understand what we do and be well targeted. There are a couple of PR firms who understand us, and we know that when they approach us with something it’s going to be worth having a look at. We’re a small team with limited capacity and we get a lot of emails, so PR firms who do it by mailout numbers and send information that’s only peripherally relevant - or not relevant at all - won’t get far and might get sent to the spam folder forever.