Imperfekshun Magazine: Imperfectly Perfect for San Diego’s Streets

Magazines are flattering. They’re shiny, fun and fully disposable lumps of recycled trees. And because we live in the digital age, when everyone routinely checks e-mails and Myspace messages, it’s much easier to digest a magazine within four weeks than it is to turn over a broad sheet on the daily.

And so, with the presentation of newsworthy content having shifted toward a friendlier, glossier infotainment package, magazines are steadily on the rise. In fact, we are exposed to 300 start-up magazines each year – on top of the 15,000-plus magazines that already exist across the country. Each has its own niche. There’s garden, home theater, cars, brides, fashion, music, gaming, and the list goes on.

One of the newest additions to the local market is Imperfekshun magazine. It’s a mutt, really, because it’s a community news-themed publication that dabbles in the entertainment, military and automotive sector.

Manned by only one person, Imperfekshun magazine is just what it implies. And its publisher, Joseph Wallace, will point that right out to you. He is, as you might suspect, the ad director, photo editor, content editor, graphic designer and staff writer, when he isn’t moonlighting as the art director.

“My first thought was doing something on a small scale for the City of San Diego – something newsworthy,” Wallace, 31, said. “Then I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to do this, I might as well dominate the market.’”

He did. When he started out in mid-December of 2004, he was laying out a mere 16 pages at circulation of 2,000. Now, his 90-plus page, monthly publication has jumped to a whopping 35,000 issues, while it’s gearing up for a Los Angeles launch by this year’s end. Getting there was a lot tougher, though.

“I ordered six books off of, went to library and checked out two how-to books on writing, and that was it,” Wallace recalled. “I spent December and January doing layout and it was kind of ewww … It was garbage.”

Wallace had to immerse himself in the self-help books, because, frankly, he didn’t have any experience in publishing. Prior to his magazine job, he served seven years in the Navy before he ended his term in 2003. Following his military career, he ventured into the rapping industry and performed several shows.

“Music is OK, but it wasn’t for me,” he admitted. “Doing shows is good money, but I was thinking outside of that like, ‘What am I gonna do next?’ The point is, recording music doesn’t last forever. Even 50 Cent doesn’t last forever.”

Starting out a bi-monthly magazine, he took some field data from Blacks, Whites, Mexicans and Asians to figure out who his publication would cater to.

“It pretty much led me to what I was thinking about doing,” he said. “They don’t have a publication out here that branches out to everybody, and everybody thought the same thing. So I thought, ‘Man, that’s what I’m gonna do. If everybody is thinking the same thing, and I’m thinking the same thing, then this is gonna to work. And it’s been working.’”

The magazine covers lots of street fairs, local concerts and provides military veterans with information on programs aimed at special job opportunities for them. It also features a collage of the “car of the month.” But while everything sounds dandy and delightful, Imperfekshun magazine still has some necessary tweaking to look forward to.

To start, its entire layout is composed in a photo editing software, not a page layout program. The result: The text looks heavily pixilated and some pictures look distorted. There isn’t much of a design, let alone a style sheet or template, so the publication appears to have been thrown together in Microsoft Word. There are grammar mistakes. There are punctuation mistakes and, sometimes, you can hardly fathom it’s a news magazine with its FHM-like pin-up girls.

Additionally, the staff on Imperfekshun’s masthead isn’t really real, because nobody is actually on payroll aside from Wallace. Everyone is outsourced, including his cousin, who is his go-to man for second opinions on its content, and his mother, who handles most of the magazine’s accounting.

Wallace also didn’t know what “CMYK,” “bleed,” “trim” and “live area” meant (common printer terms), in the beginning stages of building the magazine. He charged more money for the front-inside cover than the back cover, and he placed the content page before the credit page.

Still, he managed to get his magazine on its own two feet, despite working 18-hour shifts per day. And above all, he’s managed to ring a certain truth about San Diego. That truth is, regardless of whether “you’re a multi-millionaire, you want to know what’s happening in the streets, too.”

Imperfekshun magazine may be raw, harsh to the eyes and every bit as newsworthy as The Onion, but what Wallace has created has gone far beyond what anyone could have expected of him. In retrospect, he has turned something ordinary into something appealing, so much so that the magazine’s deliberately misspelled name is quite fitting. And that may be what this magazine is trying to achieve.

“I wanted the name to highlight what the magazine is about,” he said. “It’s different. People think of imperfection, and they think of things that’s not right.

“In every issue, there’s a column that says what’s perfect about imperfection. And the purpose of that is, people think of perfection and they think of people in the gym all the time – females have to be a certain weight to be perfect, but it shouldn’t be like that. Perfection is what is in the viewers’ eyes. So right now, I’ve got the most perfect magazine out here, because perfection is what I create.”

This article originally appeared in The San Diego Union-Tribune.