It’s hard to know what to call the 92-page St. Augustine issue. Tabloid size and chalked full of high quality color imagery, it’s perhaps too substantial to be called a zine. Yet, the range of St. Augustine-related content spread across those large format pages—from a black and white photo essay on the famous Alligator Farm to an illustrated history of the Oldest City to profiles of noteworthy Ancient City dwellers and plenty of surf-centric content—paint much too broad a narrative for it to be considered a cohesive book.
The projects mastermind/Creative Director, Matt Titone, sometimes refers to it as a “city guide.” Yet, he does so with some trepidation.
“You can’t just do a one-off printed piece and expect it to be the definitive authority on everything cool in a town,” he says. “Our focus is on creativity and how that manifests itself in a coastal town…There’s surfing, but there is also food, music, art and design, history, nature, and even social change.”
“That’s pretty vague I know, but again, most of the stuff featured in the issue is personal — it’s what we know and like. There’s a lot more to St. Augustine than what is in this issue, but this is our version told through our lens. It’s our love letter to St. A.”
The St. Augustine issue follows the Venice issue, which was the first edition in this series of (for lack of a better term) city guides, produced by former Flagler College student and current Southern California resident Titone through his Venice-based design studio ITAL/C and its surf-y offshoot, Indoek. The 37-year old is also the author behind the beautiful coffee table book, Surf Shacks, which features interviews with distinctive, international surf personalities and photos of them inside their respective bohemian/minimalist/lavish/modern/floating soul pads. It’s a bitchin’ book, to be sure!
Titone’s in town this week to celebrate the release of this gorgeous new city guide and the people and places featured, therein, and he swung by the Void office to chat about his various passion projects and his newest love letter, addressed to the Ancient City.
(Full disclosure/Editor’s Note: I contributed to the St. Augustine Issue)
So, I think if people are familiar with your work, it’s likely through Surf Shacks. It’s a beautiful book, but am I right to say it started off as a web series? How’d the book project come together? Where’d it take you? Whose abode were you most psyched to feature in the book?
Yikes, this is a four-parter!
Yes, Surf Shacks started as a web series, but the intention was always to publish a book of the series one day. We have designed plenty of books through our design studio ITAL/C, but having never authored or created the actual content for a book before, it was a lot easier to start posting the stories one at a time on the Indoek website and see where that went.
Once we got up to 40 stories shot for the site, it was clear we had enough content for a substantial coffee table book, so we finally put our design skills to work on the project and got the book together. Around the same time, Gestalten, a publisher in Germany expressed interest in publishing the project. At first we wanted to self-publish our book, but considering Gestalten’s resources and distribution reach, we decided to go the route of having them publish the book.
From the first surf shack posted on the site to the release date of the book, it was pretty much a four year project. In that span of time I personally shot about 30 peoples’ homes all over the world on weekends and vacations in my spare time off from my design work with ITAL/C. So far I’ve shot for the series in California, Hawaii, New York, Florida, Australia and Japan.
It’s hard for me to pick favorites, there are so many stories in the book that I am stoked on for different reasons. If based purely on home aesthetics, two of my favorites were Jess Bianchi’s home in Kauai and Randy Hilde’s in Laguna. For me the most interesting part has been getting to know interesting characters in the creative surf community though, Surf Shacks has given me the vehicle to access these folks and learn more about them. That said, I really enjoyed interviewing people like Jon Rose and Steve Zeldin—they had some good stories to tell.
Surf Shacks was a passion project you executed through your company Indoek. What is Indoek? What kinds of things do you do on a day-to-day basis? And what other passion projects has Indoek produced?
Indoek has taken many forms over the years; it’s been a creative and surf culture blog, a purveyor of weekly mixtapes, maker of random product collaborations, photo and video content creators, a book author, publisher, magazine maker, art show curator and host, a place to celebrate our friends and peers doing cool shit, and it’s been a constant work-in-progress. That said, it has always been a home for the personal passion projects of my design studio, ITAL/C.
At ITAL/C we focus on client service based design work for various brands like Patagonia, Facebook, Google, Reebok, but also startups and local restaurants. My business partner, Ron and I are both designers and we only hire designers. We don’t have a new business person or anything like that. So when we have down time between projects at the studio, instead of stressing and going out looking for work, we spend that time on creating more work that we like doing (and want to be known for) under the guise of Indoek.
Some other Indoek passion projects of ours have included The Anatomy of Owen motion graphics piece, the Venice Issue (our first printed piece), the 27 Frames project, On Surfing series, we even made a high end wax kit with our friend Todd St. John many years ago. Indoek has just been a sort of play pen for random shit we want to do.
Tell us about the Venice Issue. Was the idea to put out a hip, surf-y city guide? And why Venice?
The Venice issue was our first printed issue. The idea was that we wanted to come out with a new issue every year featuring a different coastal town with interesting creative stories. Venice was an easy one to kick off with for many reasons, most importantly though; we live here.
For me personally as a surfer, I have always been fascinated by the idea of localism and earning that “local status” versus the constant desire to explore and travel to new destinations and live that romantic vagabond lifestyle. I grew up in Delaware away from the beach, but spent my summers at the beach. To my summer friends, I was always an outsider at the end of the day since I didn’t live at the beach year round. It’s kind of the same thing for me living in Venice: I’ve lived here for 12 years now, but I still don’t really consider myself a “local” because I’m not from here originally — it’s super weird, but I feel like any surfer can relate to these feelings. We want to belong to our community, but also embed ourselves in other places naturally when we travel — not just go to the top rated Yelp spots for dinner or whatever.
That said, we wanted to make more of a meaningful city guide that isn’t the usual “city guide.” Our goal was and still is to have these be timeless pieces that don’t feel like dated material.
Anyway, without getting super heady about it, the idea for the Venice issue was born out of those notions of what it means to be a local, plus witnessing all the changes that were happening to our neighborhood at a rapid rate. We wanted to preserve our impression of Venice, what drew us there in the first place and document the things we love about it without trying to be an authority on it.
Which brings us to the second iteration of the series: The St. Augustine Issue. Why St. Augustine? What’s your connection to the Oldest City and why was it a good candidate for issue 2?
I love St. Augustine. When I was 18, I was a bit of a trouble-maker and was de-admitted from my first college of choice and left with only two options that would have me: University of Delaware or Flagler College. I had been to Disney World once when I was a kid, but other than that I had never been to Florida and I didn’t know anything about St. Augustine. That said, it was far away from Delaware, so I decided to go there without even a visit prior. Anyway, I lived in St. A for two years before transferring to SCAD, but those were two of the best years of my life living there.
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for St. A ever since and I go back every couple years to visit since my wife is from Jacksonville. It has always felt like home to me since day one. Like Venice, there is a rich history and there are a lot of changes happening in the area: there are a lot of artists moving in and new design-forward businesses taking root, great local food, a distillery, breweries, there is gentrification in neighborhoods downtown, also climate change is really starting to affect the coastline and alter how people live their lives there.
It just seemed like a natural fit for me to do issue #2 on St. A since I love it so much, but it is also a pretty unexpected location going from Venice first — which I also love. Most of our audience has probably never even heard of St. A and in those cases I am thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce it to them in this way.
Lots of cool stuff goin on in St. Augustine. And it’s a place with a really eclectic and distinctive history and culture. How did you decide who and what to feature?
Deciding what goes in the issue is definitely a big challenge. You can’t just do a one-off printed piece and expect it to be the definitive authority on everything cool in a town. That is not our goal with these printed “city guides” anyway, but it’s still a notion that is hard to accept as we really do want to tell as many stories as we can in the 92 pages we have.
Our focus is on creativity and how that manifests itself in a coastal town. I think it is important to show a bit of a range though. There’s surfing, but there is also food, music, art and design, history, nature, and even social change. We tried to touch on as many of these topics as possible since for such a small town, St. A has so many unique things going on across all topics.
That’s pretty vague I know, but again, most of the stuff featured in the issue is personal — it’s what we know and like. There’s a lot more to St. A than what is in this issue, but this is our version told through our lens. It’s our love letter to St. A.
Can you talk about some of the stories featured that you think really marry the distinctiveness of the area with the mission of the project?
To give you a little overview; the content of the issue features photo essays by Julien Roubinet, Walter Coker, Jimmy Wilson and Sean Kelly Conway, an illustrated history of the nation’s oldest city, local artist profiles and food & drink stories, an in-depth essay on social change in the Lincolnville neighborhood by Michael Adno, a collection of tales from everyone’s favorite a gas station turned iconic surf shop (Surf Station), an interview with the founders of Yield; an SF-based design studio that moved to St. A, and much more.
As far as contributors go, there is a mix of locals and non-locals, which was important to us. Julien for instance is from France and had never been to the south before. Spending a week with him in St. A was hilarious, he had a blast and it was really cool to see his unique impressions of the area through his amazing photography.
Although not a big article in the physical context of the issue, I think the piece on Yield really answers the question; “why St. A?” Yield is a high end product design studio that recently moved from San Francisco to set up shop in St. A. They were already a reputable housewares brand before the move, but relocating to St. A has totally enabled their business to grow to unforeseen levels and redefined their brand by fusing modern design sensibilities with southern coastal lifestyle. St. A is full of unassuming, unique stories like this.
Another one is The Floridian. Jeff and Genie (the owners) have an amazing story and their restaurant is phenomenal. The food is all truly locally sourced, farm to table, but you’d never know — it’s still rich, inventive southern food and they don’t make a big deal about their commitment to sustainability, etc. If it were in LA, they would need a six month waiting list for reservations!
When and where can we find the issue and are you planning anything splashy for the release?
The issue is hot off the press and available now via the Indoek site. It’s on shelves in St. Augustine at Surf Station, Yield’s shop: Obscura, Cambium Surf Shop, and Coastal Traders. For Jacksonville folks, Hotel Palms in Atlantic Beach has some available.
As for the release, yes, we are planning a launch party at Yield’s warehouse in downtown St. Augustine on Saturday 9/15. Stay tuned for more details and hopefully see everyone there — I mean everyone!