Hello Mr.: Interview with Ryan Fitzgibbon

Hello Mr. got me with the amazing campaign, before the magazine was even published. The aesthetic it aimed for already during the funding period was promising, it just had to turn into an amazing product. The magazine is not just another lifestyle bible, telling you how to dress or behave. It is a collection of writings of talented people from all around the world, indeed about „men who date men“, but not in a narrow sense. From short stories, to essays to travel logs: the magazine depicts the state of the art of gay sensitivities. Ryan,  mastermind behind Hello Mr., answered some questions about his project. 

DSL_RyanFitzgibbon_04What fascinates you about magazines?

As a graphic designer, I’ve always loved magazines. My taste evolved as I matured and began exploring the world – Indie bookshops became the landmarks of my memories, and magazine became the relics of the different cities I visited. To the dismay of my luggage allowance, it always seemed to be the heaviest magazines that I was attracted to; Apartamento, Monocle, Fantastic Man, Elephant, etc. The quality of design and density of content made me an instant subscriber of titles in this genre. As I devoured their content, I started forming my own opinions of what qualifies a quality publication.

A theme I uncovered about many of my favorite publications was how inherently gay they were, not in the literal sense, but in who was responsible for creating them. It baffled me to think that with so many great publishers out there; why there hadn’t been a specific title catered to me, a gay man who loves reading magazines on the go. While I loved BUTT and Mate/Winq, I personally would never be caught dead reading those rags on an airplane, let alone anywhere in public. That’s the basis of why I started Hello Mr. magazine. The how I started is an entirely different, and not so simple story.


You got started with Kickstarter. Crowdfunding has huge potential, but you also had an amazing campaign. Would Hello Mr. be possible without this source?

I could have gone to investors or advertisers straight away and raised the funds, but the response wouldn’t have been the same. I also don’t believe in “the great unveiling” method that so many brands employ when launching a new product. It’s too authoritative and often doesn’t consider the end user as thoughtfully as it should. Sure I’m gay, have an aptitude for design, and an empathetic outlook, but that doesn’t make me an expert. When I started the Kickstarter campaign, I only had the structure of the brand and about 30% of the content underway. Aside from the obvious funding and awareness objectives, I consciously leveraged the campaign to discover new content, and to refine the editorial direction based on the feedback and opinions I was receiving. The individuals that were engaged in this shaping of the brand are now the greatest advocates of what Hello Mr. aims to achieve. More than a magazine, Hello Mr. is a community of men who date men that collectively hope to rebrand their image by starting new conversations about their interests, values, fears, and aspirations. This shared sentiment of a generation of gay men made the grassroots approach of using a crowd-funding platform a clear choice.

A lot of texts in the magazine are very personal. Is that what you aimed for?

Absolutely. I allow ample room for emerging voices to share their stories. What made the first issue so successful was how relatable the contributions were to so many who had experienced, or are experiencing similar truths in their lives. Once I know that I can trust a contributor, I try to give them as much freedom as possible to explore their passion and create something meaningful to them. In work and life, this always results in a positive outcome.

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Do you want to share an anekdote about a weird or funny submission with us?

Ha! Oh gosh. The first issue garnered over 100,000 words in submissions, in addition to a slew of photo essays. Needless to say, with only 168 pages available, many of these pitches were left on the cutting room floor. It’s challenging to shape a brief for contributors without having an established tone of voice or back issues to refer to. It’s especially hard launching a gay magazine when the precedent bends mostly towards erotica, pop culture, and politics. One of those palms-to-forehead moments was reading a short essay about a sexual encounter that involved bubble gum and butt cheeks. I’ll leave it at that.

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“About men who date men“ is a very plain motto, which is a big part of the initial crush I had on your project. Are we seeing a change in how gay men approach the world and each other? Or is media just too slow to depict it?

It is, it’s just my coy way of saying gay. Of course there are many other shades of gay, like the committed or married variety and the more casual NSA types, but I needed an opening line that caused just enough of a temporary pause to keep people’s attention as I pitched the concept around. Try getting a local bookstore in middle America to take you seriously after saying that you’re starting a “gay lifestyle magazine.” They may have never actually seen one (or admit to it) but they have a pretty distinct visual in their minds about the category as a whole (and they already have a spot for you on the bottom shelf, in the back of the store, behind the dark shield labeled ‘ADULT CONTENT’). But it isn’t just the small towns. I experienced this even with a large bookseller in gay-as-they-come Los Angeles. I think we are starting to see a shift toward a broader understanding of “gay,” but the clichés used to portray LGBT people in media aren’t going away anytime soon.

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How do you see the future of Hello Mr.?

The biannual format meant that I was able to learn from the feedback on this first one before I jumped into the creation of issue 02. I anticipate elements of the magazine to evolve, just as all magazines do as they mature and grow, but the core principles of the brand will remain. In time, beyond just expanding our reach to more people around the globe, I hope to expand our offering into products and services that are both relevant and attainable to this demographic.

Thank you for the interview, Ryan!

The issue 02 will be published in autumn. Buy issue 01 online to see cute guys in denim and more.

All images (c)  Daniel Seung Lee.

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