Block Editor, Susan Falk, Has Arrived
The Block Magazine
Susan Falk, Editor-in-Chief of The Block Magazine, sat down with Loaded Bow to reflect on her journey to her current position and the direction she is leading the magazine. She expressed so much gratitude for where her career has led her, and Gen and I left thoroughly inspired by her story and her passion.
Susan seeks to inspire. The Block is poised to inspire fresh faces to peer into elements of unseen design, gaze at innovative architecture and really admire all the glam and goodness that fashion and photography can offer. The Block is an overall feel-good and informative journey through all things tasty and new and it even gets us in that soft spot that’s always secretly on the lookout for something a little hip! “There’s a hunger in this city for design driven stories. This is evident in the popularity of events like Movers and Shapers currently on at the Vancouver Museum. People are looking to see what is cool and inspiring and not so mainstream. The Block reaches a demographic that magazines like House and Home and Chatelaine just can’t reach because they are too broad.” says Susan. The key to success has been filling out a niche that was always willing and waiting for this type of magazine. “There’s just nothing really in Canada like this.” Susan says.
Gen and I took Susan to coffee to get the details on how to move from a couch in Winnipeg to one of the most rewarding jobs in design journalism.
1) Susan begins a degree in Winnipeg in English Literature. She fell in love with a quirky teacher who was obsessed with grammar and teaching grammar. She loved the creative side of editing and proofreading. Susan considered going into Speech Therapy.
2) Lucky for us, Susan thought “I should not go into Speech Therapy. I am too creative.”
3) Susan graduated and spent some time on a Winnipeg couch. No, these are no different from the couches you spent your days after University on, they are just located in Winnipeg.
4) Susan got off the couch to look in the Yellow Pages for a job (seems like a good idea!). She looked up ‘communcations firms’ though she was unsure what those were exactly.
5) One of these so called ‘firms’ hired her…woooooheeeee!! “The first publication I worked for,” muses Susan, “was actually called Manure Matters… it was one of 5 agriculture titles I worked on at a communications firm.”
6) She then moved on to work for our Canadian History Magazine called The Beaver. Yes, that’s right, The Beaver! This is one of Canada’s oldest publications. She learned volumes in this position, where she was the Assistant Editor for 2 years.
7) Susan moved to Vancouver and called everyone in the industry that she knew or could look up and asked them all to coffee (on separate occasions).
8) She had a very serendipitous meeting with Jim Tobler, Editor of NUVO magazine, Canada ‘s premiere and original super-luxury publication. Jim led Susan to The Block, where she began as a writer! In November of 2007, Susan was offered the position of Editor-in-Chief. She has been with the Block now for 2 years.
9) Somewhere in this mix (in university times) Susan married a hot man friend!
Loaded Bow: What makes The Block unique?
Susan Falk: Its niche. It is consumable, readable, and has caught on because people are really into the whole package. To have food, travel, architecture, design, art, fashion and more all in one magazine is really key. The magazine is Canadian. We offer a peek at some things that are not shown in mainstream magazines, but we are not too cool. Readers are not intimidated and feel like it’s accessible to them and relevant to their culture. When we write stories or think about themes, we (Kris and I) always choose five different types of readers from different income levels and lifestyles (the yoga girl, the business lady, etc.) and we imagine if they could access it.
LB: Where has the Block come from? How have you shifted it since becoming the EIC?
SF: The Block was very suburbia focused when i began there. This does not work for various reasons. 1) People in suburbia already know about and support the local businesses and 2) If you want to cover fashion and architecture, you have to look to bigger cities and readers from the burbs really want to look outwards from their communities (sometimes) too to see what is happening in major urban centers. 3) To make a magazine work and thrive over the long term you need national advertiser and local businesses cannot always afford, nor do they always need, print ads.
LB: Where are you looking to take the Block?
SF: One of our main goals is to have the Block’s advertisers be completely in line with all that the Block offers. We want our readers to see the ads as a part of what we stand for and promote and we want the ads to never be jarring to the eye. We are looking for more national advertisers and are looking to take the Block out east. Everything that comes to us here in B.C. has a distinct feel of being from places like Toronto and Montreal and we are looking to have our unique West Coast qualities brought to print in Eastern Canada. We may get an office out east and may include more contributors from bigger places like NY to get that flavor in the mix as well. We are looking to open it up to new voices and new content always. We’re going to also get thicker paper and add some more pages too!
LB: Last month we looked at the Great Launch and one question that often came up from readers was how the name of a business relates to the business itself. How does the name “The Block” add to/create your image and brand?
SF: “The Block” says “”It’s for you. It’s where you live, it’s where you eat. It’s where you play. The letters make such a lovely shape and i just love that! I love the way the letters look together and the sound it makes…it’s just a great word. It also eludes to the shape of building blocks which lends itself to design and making something. The shape of a city block, or a building block. It has a polished look, but says “You can enter. You are welcome here.” It is casual so it breaks down the question “Am I cool enough?” and puts up no barriers for the reader.
LB: How do you maintain your brand and continuity through the contributers writing?
SF: I really have to drive them. It is up to me to show them what i want and communicate our brand to them by using words like “tone” and voice”. I can’t always expect them to bring that to the Block. The contributors are amazing. i am always in awe of them. For example i just assigned Kevin Chong to write up a Retrospective about Yves St. Laurent and he has taken it on fully though he is not an expert of fashion writing. I really admire freelance writers, they really do have a tough job and they always take on the task of new content with so much professionalism. You have to remember that we assign them something that they are usually not an expert on and then they have to go with it. The keys to a great writer are 1) solid research 2) grasping a concept and 3) skilled writing.
Kris Blizzard and Susan direct the show at The Block and are fortunate to have full creative control when it comes to the direction and content of the Block. Even Ho is the Publisher/President and he is the best anyone could ask for. They love working for him because of the flexibility he gives them. The three have a relationship built on trust which Susan says is essential. “Kris and I are always working together. He really has a vision that is in line with mine.”
Susan recently returned home from a Block shoot in NYC. “The photography group in New York that approached us and shot our upcoming fashion and space stories is called Ioulex Photography.” When she told them the budget, Ioulex said, ‘sure!’, even though she could offer them what a small publication could afford. Before she knew it, she was sitting on set in an amazing New York apartment watching a fashion photo shoot inspired by the movie “Repulsion” being undertaken by so many encouraging and creative people. “That is the best part about this job; I am so energized by meeting such generous and creative people. I regularly have to pinch myself.” Hence the amazement.
zoe+gen of Loaded Bow