Representing the creative future

i-D’s founders Terry and Tricia Jones talk about their story

A young couple with a desire to make a great publication - four decades on

In times like today, when external factors are limiting young creatives more than ever, we revisit the inspiring interview of i-D’s founders Terry and Tricia Jones which originally appeared in 1 Granary Issue 5

“He has to tell people further down the line: ‘Don’t straighten it up! It’s not meant to be like that!’” Tricia Jones is giving a glimpse inside Terry Jones’s work process over tea and cake in their North London home. “I wanted it to be like a crime thriller,” says Terry, with a serious look on his face. “So I did the whole layout where I spread it over the floor and chopped the pages up, and taped it. Obviously, that worries a photographer.” Terry is also convinced he once did a project that involved cutting up and mixing 12 different stories in an issue of i-D, the publication he founded in 1980. According to Tricia, this idea would always “freak everyone out.”

Talking with the duo makes you understand why the magazine has stood its ground for nearly four decades. While Terry indulges in discussing the nitty-gritty of making a physical product, Tricia has the fire that, among many other things, keeps relations strong. But why go and create your own magazine when you’re the art director of Vogue? The reason is fairly simple in Terry’s opinion.

TERRY: The point of creating a magazine – and today when it’s something online – is that you give a voice and an experience to people. I always saw i-D a little bit like a university. I gave responsibility to people right at the beginning of their careers, so they had the opportunity to really grow in the job. Like Edward [Enninful] who’s now at Vogue, or people like Dylan Jones, Caryn Franklin, and Robin Derrick. He came on board because of the project I was doing with Fiorucci, and I needed somebody who knew how to work with a computer.

The communication industry has gotten so incredibly interesting. The whole thing about what’s real and what’s not real. There was a time where we would make up stories in i-D, so that people would really have to think, and do their own research to check things out. That’s becoming more and more important, particularly with anything that’s to do with political issues. If I was producing anything today, I would try to make the links to where it has come from. So, let’s say, clothing. Tricia said for years: “The strength you have is what you have in your wallet. What you’re prepared to pay for.”

TRICIA: No, I said: “We have power in our purse.” If we choose to buy something, we support something. If we choose not to spend our money, because we don’t like it, we have more power in our wallet than we think.

TERRY: Where the money comes from and how you spend it, where the clothes were made; did the person who made the clothes get a decent meal and a place to sleep? Food, the same deal. Where does your food come from? Politics, what are you voting for? All of these things I think come into communication today. And people who have an interest in that, they want to know the source. Finding out the DNA of where ideas come from.

TRICIA: When we first started the magazine, there was a real feeling that as a journalist, you have a lot of power. I always resisted that and said: “I think we have a responsibility.” To me, it’s much more about that. Maybe it’s different now because there are so many bloggers, but the words of a very important fashion journalist could either build up or ruin a designer if the words were used irresponsibly. People had a lot of power twenty years ago. There are all sorts of stories of people misusing that power, and to me it’s always been like we have a responsibility.

“There are so many other things that you can do after going to art college without necessarily being an artist.” – Terry Jones

In an interview you’ve done in the past, you mentioned the importance of being a ‘fan’ and not a ‘critic’. 

TRICIA: Terry always said that.

As a publication we’ve always steered clear of criticism related to designers, as we don’t feel we are in the position yet to evaluate the work of those who have been in this business for dozens of years. And on the other side, our mission is to support emerging talent, not to criticise them. What we are more interested in right now is critiquing the state of art education, as it is currently not realistically preparing students for the industry.

TERRY: The other thing which is always necessary to have is an idealism. I think in colleges today, the facilities are so enormous that you almost need to get down to reducing. Cut the power for two days in college, and just get people thinking, so there’s no lights. Just to get people communicating in a different way, where it’s a verbal communication rather than just relying on the information they’re getting from a device.

TRICIA: You can be negative about something, which is kind of easy. It’s very easy to say: “We don’t like this.” But then the people who are at the top think: “Alright, well maybe you don’t like it, but what do we do?” So if you are offering some positive ideas, that is really helpful.

TERRY: It’s really difficult, because you’re going to college thinking you’re going to come out with a profession, and you’re going to get paid for that. There are just not going to be that many people who will reach the level of being a new Lee McQueen or Christopher Bailey. But there are so many other things that you can do after going to art college without necessarily being an artist.

TRICIA: But we went to college and didn’t have to pay. We didn’t come out with these huge loans. That’s a real issue.

“Creating with less is an important discipline.” -Terry Jones

And people feel they need to make the most out of this specific thing they have studied. 

TRICIA: We’re the lucky generation. We’re well aware. When we bought this house it was super cheap. It was just before it all went bonkers. At the same time, the generation right now… Terry always says: “In a time of austerity, it makes people think. It makes them creative.”

TERRY: Creating with less is an important discipline. That’s something I was taught with a really great teacher – Richard Hollis – that you just scale things down. You start minimizing where you’re coming from. So when making a magazine, everyone who came in had to use the typeface Univers. We distorted and did everything we could to it. Meeting the designer Adrian Frutiger who made it, in Germany, I was so impressed by such a fantastic craftsperson. He had such an understanding of all the details of the lettering. I don’t think students today go into those details in the same way, that you become trainspottery in the way somebody physically can create something that goes from a metal type to a photographic typeface.

TRICIA: But they’re looking at the future – that’s another huge challenge.

TERRY: The future is to find people who get interested in language. Get interested in the fact that now we are a global society. You have all these different people who are coming from all around the world. I always said that 70% of communication is nonverbal anyway. So it’s about how you deal with that going forward, and how you find like-minded people, which was always one of the aims of i-D. That’s something you try and do by breaking down barriers. You try and break down the mistrust, and you start looking into cultures that you don’t know too much about. Try and understand them.

TRICIA: Again, this is looking back, but I think that as communicators, that is a really important thing for all of us. To do exactly that. We’re all becoming such separate entities, and it’s all kind of closing in on itself. And actually what we want to do is to open it.

TERRY: Breaking down prejudice. I think that’s what art school is really good at, when it works in a perfect way.

“Cut the power for two days in college, and just get people thinking”– Terry Jones

You spoke about type, and how our generation is all about the future, and we don’t look into the details. When you research older magazines, the graphics are so different and experimental. Now all the magazines look the same in comparison. It’s very clean. Why do you think it’s happening?

TERRY: It’s about how to juggle egos. This is why you get magazines looking the way they do. It’s because they have a very strong editorship with a strong support from the contributors. You then have to decide how much you let the contributor – the photographer, who’s maybe spent a lot of money on doing a shoot – provide you with his final things. If you have an art director who disagrees with what the photographer is doing, you then have to decide who you’re going to upset. At the end of the day, printing the material is expensive. The more copies you are doing, the more expensive it gets. So you either got the photographers on board who are really happy to be involved – they will trust you – or the person who will lay it out. Or you just see it as a vanity publication, which a lot of magazines are these days. And once you’ve agreed: “Okay you’re going to get 10 pages…” That’s the politics of magazines and producing something.

TRICIA: I believe that at the end of the day, the more you stick to your own guns and decide what you want to do, if you are producing something that you are happy with – and other people are coming on board and joining you – keep on doing it. Do not try and please other people, because you’ll end up pleasing nobody. You won’t please yourself. Somebody once said something about something: you give them your hand, they want your arm. You give them your arm, they want everything. It’s really important.

Keep questioning why you’re doing what you’re doing. Who are you doing it for? There’s too much stuff around that has – excuse my French – no fucking integrity. And that is what kept i-D relevant for all those years: we were very clear about who we were and what we wanted to be. We’re not going to copy what other people are doing. We want to celebrate diversity: whether you are gay or straight, black or white, orange or purple, who cares? We don’t want guns, and we don’t want violence. So there were very few things that we would draw the line at. You’ve got to decide where your focus is. Don’t let people say: “Oh everybody is doing this.” That’s a very good reason not to do it. Do what you feel in your stomach. When we had a partnership with Tony Elliot from Time Out, he really helped us. He gave us a financial framework in order to continue the creative work. I don’t think we would have survived without Tony’s input and making us grown up, in terms of business plans, etc.

TERRY: i-D was like our second job. Our full-time job was actually doing commercial work.

TRICIA: Tony’s thing had always been readership surveys. They were really important for Time Out. “What does the reader want?” There was a point where he was trying to encourage us down the route of readership surveys, and Terry was always like: “Oh for goodness’ sake. Do you ever fill out a readership survey? Do I? Do you?” No, of course we don’t! By the time it comes into the office, gets processed, it’s out of date anyhow. I think we might’ve done one. Now I’ve learned not to apologise about it anymore. Over the years, people were like, how do you know? It’s your stomach. Should I be doing or not doing this? Is it important? Why am I doing it? Listen to yourself. It sounds arrogant, but I don’t think it is. You cannot please all the people all the time, absolutely 1,000% not. And people will try and bully you. You’ve got to stand up to bullies. We had an incident where someone phoned us up in Africa once and said: “You can’t use our photographers.” I’m standing in a cafe on an African island, and someone on a Saturday called and said: “You can’t do this.” So, big people will come and try to bully you. You mustn’t listen. You just have to see them off.

“i-D was like our second job. Our full-time job was actually doing commercial work.” – Terry Jones

When you work as an editor with a young team, how can you get the best out of them? How do photographers the calibre of David Sims get discovered? 

TERRY: It’s quite difficult. There would be a point where you get really good photographers, and they would be so frustrated because of all the commercial work, that they would then want to do something that was the opposite, and be confrontational. That would sometimes become an issue, because we would then be an outlet for people’s anger. What you then have to re-evaluate is what you’re trying to communicate.

I think that you find a way of looking for new talent. Over the years, you’re going to have people who aren’t necessarily photographers but just have their eyes open. My point, when I started, was the street. Super exciting. It’s diverse. It’s always a whole lot of different opinions. I didn’t try and work with one photographer to define those people. I was interested in the subject more than who did the picture. There are talents out there who are interested in the subject more than themselves, but you’ve got to hunt them down. It’s the same with journalism. I didn’t want to have a journalist going out and doing words, I wanted the words coming from the person we thought was interesting. If you’re doing fashion, you want to understand the fashion designer’s point of view. Or if it’s not a fashion designer, but somebody who’s wearing something that’s particularly interesting… All the time I see people who look great. We were at the Royal Welsh Show over the weekend and I said: “Trish, this is more interesting than most fashion shows!” Because people make an effort. It’s like photographers. I would see a hundred portfolios, and if I saw one that I wanted to use I felt really lucky. With fashion it’s the same.

TRICIA: Terry always said that the magazine should be like minestrone. So it’s got lots of flavours and different things. There are certain editors who want their magazines to be only their vision. And we were not people like that. There were times where I said I didn’t really like a story, but Terry would say: “Yes, but so and so did that, and I really value their point of view.” So apart from the few things that we wouldn’t have, it was a broad church and a broad vision. You have to decide whether you are going to be the sort of editor who puts their massive stamp on, and it’s going to be their vision only – there’s definitely people who are doing that – or whether you are allowing other voices, and that’s what Terry did. It’s just different. It’s not that one is better or worse, but it’s a different way of editing.


It feels that most magazines are dictated only by aesthetics, as opposed to content in terms of ideas or text – what it is they want to say.

TERRY: This is a starting point. When you’ve created your text, you then search out the visuals to support the dialogue.

TRICIA: Also you build up a trust with the people who are your contributors, and that’s really important, so they know where they stand. If you’re going to change something, you’d discuss it with them. That’s really important, I think. Sometimes people get worried.

TERRY: If you’re getting really good interviews, you can then set your own limitations. You could say that all your photography needs to be done with a film camera, or done on an iPhone. How you look for your photography and set your parameters of what you’re after. Some of my favourite issues were the ones where the limitations were put in place – like the elevator issue. Each photographer had a double page in the issue and it was about how they would get their subject into an elevator. It’s my favourite issue. Creating certain limitations helps to give cohesion to a particular issue; it makes that issue special. There are so many different ways.


You used to personally choose all the final pictures, after carefully looking at every image that was shot. Do you think such a way of selecting is still possible?

TERRY: That’s when things were done on film, putting them on slide.

TRICIA: Terry once actually got real eye strain.

TERRY: I worked for three days on a shoot – it was for a German company, and my fee would go up if we didn’t complete within a week. If we didn’t complete on time, I would get more expensive. There’s a picture that a photographer took of me – my eye was so strained that I had to tape it up.

TRICIA: That’s a really great picture!

TERRY: After a while I said: I shouldn’t have to go through this process, and that’s where I got people shooting with plate cameras, and just asked for one shot. When i-D started, it was a roll of film. 32 shots, 16 portraits. Wolfgang Tillmans was sent around to the one-hour lab Snappy Snaps.

TRICIA: We didn’t have any money!


In general, are you still following a lot of media and other print magazines?

TERRY: I never did! I never followed other magazines.


Everybody looks at so many references, yet I’ve read that you never collect anything.

TERRY: As a student I read comics. I’d pick up a magazine and go through it if I’m sat down. I like the concept of producing a physical print. It’s that excitement; you get it off the press, freshly printed.

TRICIA: It’s always been the other way around. If Terry would have an idea, he’d have somebody come up to him and say: “That’s already been done by so and so.” Because he actually wouldn’t be checking up on all the other things. Some people check up on all the other things to see what they should be doing. It’s completely the other way.


Were you looking at art, or anything else?

TERRY: I can credit going to art galleries as being an inspiration when I was a student, and now. When I go to galleries, I’d love to go to the end. I walk against everybody and I’ll clock the things that I want to go back to, because often I’d find that when you go through an exhibition the conventional way, you’re exhausted before you get to the end. Your brain has taken in too much. I’d much prefer to do the filtering process first by seeing how big the exhibition is.

TRICIA: If we’re around and there’s an interesting exhibition, we always try and check things out. We don’t usually go to openings, because that’s generally just lots of people talking, and I think we’d rather concentrate and see the actual work!


How come you never became a photographer?

TERRY: There are tonnes of photographs that I’ve done over the years. Now I look back at my pictures of that period and they’re a social document. I’ve videoed a tonne of stuff; I always had a camera. I’d shoot from the hip, crop people’s heads, do stuff that was blurred. I’ve learned a lot from photographers over the years, but being a photographer myself where you’ve got to understand technicalities and production – it’s so stressful. I’d much rather pass on the stress to somebody else. My belief is that everybody has a talent that they can capitalise on.


With making a magazine, what are the things that people should generally be looking out for?

TERRY: Paying the printer!

TRICIA: Financial stuff. For so long, it wasn’t what paid our mortgage or for our kids to go to school – it was always secondary. Those were our limitations.

TERRY: Paying people a salary.

“When we sold the magazine [to VICE], I said to Terry: “I don’t ever want to have to go and raise money again.”” – Tricia Jones

What is the role of fashion magazines right now? 

TERRY: They exist to carry advertising.

TRICIA: Hang on, you can’t say that!

TERRY: Tricia, I think it is true. It’s people communicating what their message is, in print. And the whole debate about that right now is that certain people value the physical image, the single shot. That is a power.

TRICIA: I hear exactly what you’re saying, in that years ago we would go to the shows, our stylist would choose certain looks to shoot, and people wouldn’t see it until the magazine came out. Now everything is so instant. It’s on their Instagrams: “Love this look.” They’re not actually looking at the shows in the same way. Everybody’s got their phones out. It is different, but there is still a place, like the way that Edward Enninful has promoted diversity through the models he has used, things like that. There is still a place for image-making within fashion magazines, but it’s different than it was for sure.

TERRY: I think also Holly [Shackleton] at i-D – again, somebody who started at the front desk and grew into an editorial position – she has the ethos of i-D, which is encouraging new talent. She’s bringing young writers on board who are promoting the same values that we tried to put into place editorially. The ethos has stayed, and it also has broadened into the online world.

TRICIA: It goes back to what we were saying. It has to do with integrity, with sticking to the vision that you have, and a feeling of responsibility.

TERRY: A lot of magazines are produced because the photographers are doing commercial work, and then the magazine is a creative outlet. We would not have survived as i-D without those photographers. For example, Tim Walker – a shoot he’s done for us, he must’ve spent half of his Pirelli calendar fee. But better to spend it on i-D than the taxman! Photographers can make that decision, where they have a level of freedom that they don’t get in the commercial world – unless you have independent financiers. How you finance producing a magazine, you’ve got to have another sort of income.

TRICIA: When we sold the magazine [to VICE], I said to Terry: “I don’t ever want to have to go and raise money again.” I just hate it. I got to the point where I was always asking for sponsorship. It was fine because you’d go to your friends, and they’re people you know who’d support you. It’s really tricky. Of course if you’re asking in a time of plenty, then people have got extra. If you ask it in a time of austerity, it just gets harder and harder.


Did you have a specific approach when you started the magazine?

TERRY: I always said with i-D that we wanted to infiltrate.

TRICIA: That is totally true. He always said he wanted to infiltrate the mainstream, from the very beginning. And if you actually think about people who have come through i-D, it’s quite interesting.

“Everybody has to put food on the table and pay their rent. It’s one thing to teach the younger ones who are coming in, but if you want to hang onto the people who are leaving, then you do have to start paying them as properly as you can.” – Tricia Jones

Did you ever fear that you’d become ‘too mature’ for editing the magazine, as the magazine is for young people?

TERRY: I always wanted to have it done by other people. We were always pushing them to have a voice.

TRICIA: When you have been doing it for a certain amount of time, the people who come to your door are those who like what you do. You’re not having to convince them. If it’s just the older voice, it will get stale and repetitive. If you have the young and the new with their vision, and you have us oldies with our… It’s like having grandparents. We are grandparents now. You want to be the best aunt, the best grandma. I always say to Terry that with our kids and with our grandchildren, we are making memories. So if we can make good memories, when we’re dead and gone, then they will remember what they did with grandma and grandpa. That’s really nice, and hopefully you carry the best forward. It’s the same with a magazine. We had a team who to us were like a family. I would get terribly upset when people left. People would stay with us for usually three years, sometimes five, sometimes more. We were most times people’s first job from college, and there would come a time in a small team, where there wouldn’t actually be somewhere for you to grow to. So another company would come along with a chequebook and say: “Hey, I could pay you more than i-D.” Because we were known to be a really good ‘school’, it would be hard for members of our team to say no. You’re teaching people and then you’re going to lose them. I would get terribly terribly upset. Somebody once said to me: “Trish, you have to understand: we love them more than they love us.” It’s a hard lesson, but maybe sometimes it’s true.

TERRY: My view is that there is a point where making a magazine is expensive. You can’t afford it to be a school anymore. You need to have the experience to know how to piece something together, so that it’s still serving the function.

TRICIA: You want to hang onto people, because you’ve trained them, and they‘ve learned from you. At the point where they go because you can’t pay them enough, those are the people you want to hang onto. That’s what happened to us. That’s where you do have to try to start paying the going rate. They have to eat like we have to eat. Everybody has to put food on the table and pay their rent. It’s one thing to teach the younger ones who are coming in, but if you want to hang onto the people who are leaving, then you do have to start paying them as properly as you can.


What do you think is having the biggest impact on the industry at the moment?

TERRY: [Jokes] We’re out of it!

TRICIA:  Our true answer I think would of course be social media. Luckily we have joyfully retired. Honestly, it’s been the best fun. People ask: “Do you miss fashion week?” Really no, not at all!