Everyone should hear happy news, according to The Happy Newspaper Founder Emily Coxhead. Emily, a graphic design graduate, is using the newspaper as a platform to share positive news and stories about wonderful people. If you need to restore your faith in humanity, this paper is a must-read. Check out our interview with Emily ahead of Issue 4, and make sure you subscribe to this little ray of sunshine.
You graduated in 2014 – what have the past two years been like as a newbie designer. Is it what you expected?
"I didn’t really know what to expect at all. I probably knew what society expected more than what I expected myself. After 17 years of education you kind of expect to have, or at least be able to get a job at the end of it. But it doesn’t seem to work like that anymore, a degree doesn’t necessarily equal a job (especially in creative industries). Luckily I’d realised this pretty early on at university, and did a lot of other ‘stuff’ out of my studies - Photographing as many gigs and festivals as I could, nearly all for free just so I could build up a portfolio of work, contacts and more importantly friends in the industry. I studied Graphic Design but had this other side of my work/life too, and they would both sometimes merge, which was great. Weirdly, there wasn’t a point where I just thought I’m going to do less photography and focus on design/illustration, it just happened that way. I’ll never fall out of love with photography, I guess different opportunities come along and you do what feels right at that moment.
"In a nutshell, the past two years have been the biggest roller coaster, in all the weirdest, most stressful and wonderful ways! I’ve learnt more in the past two years than I think I ever could have at university - I guess because you see actual, real consequences, or equally amazing results in the ‘real world’ which you don’t often see as a student."
Why did you feel the world needed The Happy Newspaper?
"It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time, probably since I was little, wondering why only the bad is reported in the news - you very rarely see stories of hope and happiness. I think because of the constant news stream we now have on our TVs and phones it seems to becoming even more overwhelming. I feel as if we wake up every morning to see which city is hurting or which heartbreaking hashtag is trending on Twitter. The news is so instant now yet so throw-away that it almost doesn’t feel real. It’s hard to comprehend a lot of the awful acts of terror going on in the world, seeing it constantly popping up on every social media platform makes you feel like you’re a part of it but at the same time a million miles away from it. The attacks in Paris in 2015 (both at the beginning and end of the year) resonated a lot with the UK, because it’s so close to home and a place many of us have visited.
"It was around this time that I was launching the first issue of The Happy Newspaper, because through all of this sadness, along with the refugee crisis, I was still trying to find the good as best as I could. There were strangers opening up their homes to help others, people queuing down the streets to donate blood, taxi drivers turning off all of their meters to help anybody they possibly could, communities coming together… And although these people may not be worthy in mainstream media, I felt they should be celebrated just as much (if not more) than anybody else."
How did you go from an idea to publishing your first issue (so how did you get funding, resources, contributors etc.)?
"I set up a Kickstarter campaign and set the target at £500 because although any ‘business-minded’ people said I probably couldn’t set up anything with that amount of money, I wasn’t doing it for the money. I thought if it did reach that amount at least I’d be able to spend some time producing the first issue and print a few hundred copies. It ended up tripling the target, as well as receiving some extra funding from Lindt which meant I could print an extra 2,000 copies (on top of the initial 1,000) to distribute for free in hospitals/care homes and anywhere else that needed a little lift in the run up to Christmas. A few people I know wrote poems, and even recipes for the first issue. Through social media, writers or students studying journalism contacted me to say they were interested in helping or generally liked the idea, and all of a sudden I had a small and wonderful bunch of volunteers to help bring in the content.
"People from all over the planet email us stories and nominate ‘everyday heroes’. I distribute a certain amount of stories to each writer to research and write up themselves. I then edit all of the text, illustrate quite a lot of sections throughout, write some of my own pieces and generally do all of the design side of things - It’s pretty intense! But SO worth it when it all comes together. Most of the people from issue one are still contributing now that we’re on issue four, but each time it grows a little more with new people adding a wonderful article or recipe, not to mention all of the amazing illustrators who contribute little or big drawings which make the whole thing look extra special."
How do you balance The Happy Newspaper with your other design commitments and work?
"As best as I can! It’s difficult because although I’m only producing the newspaper quarterly, as soon as I’ve finished one issue I have to then focus on promoting it and everything else that comes with distributing etc., by which time I’m usually starting the next issue. It’s quite hard to be organised because I don’t always know what’s happening from one day to the next so I kind of take each day or week as it comes and if one week I need to focus on my cards or other ‘happy products’ then I will do that. Likewise, if I’m asked to do a big commissioned piece of work I will move things around so I have a certain amount of days/hours to spend on that. I used to do a lot more smaller commissioned pieces like handwritten/illustrated artwork and cards for people but it’s just not possible at the moment. I have to prioritise what is do-able and what’s not and although that means not always being able to please everybody, I’ve begun to realise more and more that you really can’t please everybody all of the time."
What does the future hold for The Happy Newspaper and yourself?
"I’m currently working on issue 4, each issue has a theme and I decided this issue is going to be based around ‘unity’ - I think the whole world needs a little more of that right now. We just launched a brand new website where people can subscribe to receive the newspaper four times a year and also sign up to a newsletter. Issue 4 will be out September and there will be another issue out in December (people who subscribe get a surprise gift with that issue!).
"Hopefully we will eventually be able to stock the newspaper in more shops/cafe’s around the UK (or the world!) - I just want to try and make it as accessible to everybody as I possibly can.
"I feel like everybody should hear some happy news every now and then, it’s a way of restoring our faith in humanity, even if only a very small amount."
Reach Emily on Twitter @emilycoxhead
Sign up to The Happy Newspaper: www.thehappynewspaper.com
All images courtesy of Emily's Instagram account.