Ideas On Paper

The Nottingham magazine shop shares its six favorite reads


by Ian Sanders

Alex Smith started his career working for big London retailers like Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, yet his ambition was always to open his own shop. In March 2014, he did just that. It feels a world away from London’s fashionable department stores: his shop, Ideas on Paper, resides upstairs in a cluster of old buildings that make up Cobden Chambers in Nottingham. Ideas on Paper offers a thoughtful selection of products linked by the theme of paper: magazines, journals, books and stationery.


Many entrepreneurs would have been deterred by the humble size of the shop, but Smith likes the challenge of the constraints—with limited space to display and stock items, he has to choose carefully. Smith explains that any title he stocks must be well-written and combine great images, illustration and photography. “My objective is to bring new ideas to Nottingham that then stimulate and excite the people of my city to begin new projects of their own, thus making the city a more vibrant and exciting place to be,” he tells CH. Ideas on Paper is a venue that feels intimate yet welcoming and enticing: the small space has been designed to feel like a graphic designer’s apartment, where customers can browse magazines while sipping fresh coffee made in his Chemex coffee-maker.


Smith feels that customers are poorly served in the independent magazine market. While there are lots of new titles available, there aren’t many shops selling them. In celebration of these hardworking publications, CH asked Alex to pick his six favorite magazines and tell us what’s special about each of them.


The Barber Book

“This celebrates the world of the barber shop with a respect and attention to detail that comes naturally to its Japanese magazine maker. Traveling the globe photographing some of the most interesting and inspired businesses, it shows a love and respect for the tools of the craft and those who wield them. The Japanese text is impenetrable to many a ‘reader’ and yet the publication is still a delight.”


The Great Discontent

“Ryan and Tina Essmaker brought their passion project offline and onto the printed page with interviews based around the theme of leaps (of faith) into the great unknown. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the first issue of The Great Discontent showcases the stories of 17 creatives combining an interview style format with portraits of many of the artists at work. The magazine is a hefty beast; it feels very real and certainly does justice to those within.”


The Rake

“From its linen effect cover emblazoned with silver foiled lettering, to its occasional supplements, The Rake is a magazine that revels in the world of the charismatic and sartorially gifted man. Covering subjects as diverse as artisanal shoemaking through to the summer holidaying habits of the 1960s’ jet-set, this title has quickly gained a loyal bunch of readers that appreciate its confident swagger and feel.”


The Forecast

“This is Monocle magazine’s older brother, smaller in format though offering up longer form pieces. The Forecast looks at the people, places, trends and ideas to be aware of in the year to come. Spanning Monocle’s usual mix of design and global affairs, its content is printed on a range of fantastic Finnish paper stocks that are a joy to leaf through as well as read.”



Desillision is an English/French bilingual title that celebrates skate and surf culture in its broadest sense—from jumping on your motorbike for a life at the beach to exploring the work of artists and photographers who are intimately connected to the surf scene. The magazine comes in hardback format but doesn’t pretend to be a conventional book; its content is peppered with well-placed advertising that makes sense to the reader and does not detract from the magazine itself.”



“Each issue [of Huck] is executed with tight, finely tuned art direction by the legendary Timba Smits who draws the various subject matters together with effortless poise. The current issue is ‘Origins’ which considers the fire in the belly that propels us forward to achieve great new things. It’s a fine combination of clean presentation and economically executed design that uses space as an asset without fetishizing the blank empty parts of the page.”

Images by Joe Dixey