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Newspaper design

We relish the demands and discipline of newspaper design and in today’s fast changing media landscape a great looking, well crafted newspaper is more important than ever…

Working with others

The best magazines and newspapers are born when there is great teamwork and collaboration between designers, photographers, editors and clients. Over the years, Nick has had the privilege of working with some of the best photographers and illustrators in the industry – working with great images makes a designer’s job so much easier. Click on the pic for a little taster…

Best of my summer reading

Notebook: 5 September 2017 | MAGAZINES

Earlier in the summer I visited the magculture shop in Clerkenwell and came away with a bagful of very attractive magazines and books, and last week, I finally got round to looking at them while away on holiday in Dartmouth. Here’s my pick of some of the best bits:

Row 1: The California Sunday Magazine
Row 2: The Happy Reader
Row 3: Pulp
Row 4: BE: The journal of the built environment
Row 5: Real Review
Row 6: Fleckhaus: Design, Revolte, Regenbogen 
Row 7: The Secret of Scent



Raw re-visited

Notebook: 11 August 2017 | ILLUSTRATION | COMICS

I have a collection of old copies of the dazzling Raw magazine and their spin-offs – the Raw One-Shots. They were published by Raw Books and Graphics who were established in Manhattan in the late 1970s by New York artist and designer Art Spiegelman (who later went on to create Maus) and his French partner Francoise Mouly (now long-time art editor of The New Yorker magazine) and Raw magazine was a showcase for some of the best alternative illustrators and comic book artists of the time and it featured and brought well-deserved attention to artists such as Gary Panter, Mark Beyer, Charles Burns, Sue Coe, Jerry Moriarty and of course Spiegelman himself.

The first eight issues (Volume 1) were large format and mainly black and white but with richly coloured card covers and often some sections on different paper stocks. The last three issues (Volume 2) were much smaller in size but a lot thicker and published by Penguin. I have every issue apart from the very first. The Raw One-shots focussed on just one illustrator and were a collection of their strips or in some cases a complete graphic novel.

Here’s my Raw Books and Graphics collection in all its glory – grouped into Raw volumes 1 and 2, Raw One-Shots and other Raw publications, all in chronological order and illustrated with the cover of each publication and a selection of my favourite artists strips:

Raw Magazine Volume 1

Raw Vol.1 No.2: The Graphix Magazine for Damned Intellectuals 1980: Cover by Joost Swarte. The highlight for me from Raw No.2 was Jack Survives – a comic strip that appeared on the inside front cover. It was, I think, the first of a brilliant ongoing strip drawn by Jerry Moriarty that captured the banal but captivating everyday moments in the life of a middle-aged and miserable character called Jack. This second issue of Raw carried a ‘tipped-in’ copy of Chapter One of Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (which was later published by Penguin as a complete book and went on to win the Pulitzer prize– see below. Maus tells the story of Spiegelman’s father who was a Polish Holocaust survivor) and later chapters were bound in to subsequent issues of Raw. Attached into the centre of Raw No.2 was a pack of five (?) City of Terror bubblegum cards by the artist Mark Beyer which accompanied his strip of the same name.

Raw Vol.1 No.3: The Graphix Magazine that Lost its Faith in Nihilism 1981: Cover by Gary Panter. Dog Boy on the inside back cover was my first taster of the dark but exquisitely drawn work of Charles Burns.

Raw Vol.1 No.4: The Graphix Magazine for Your Bomb Shelter’s Coffee Table 1982: The black and white cover, drawn by Charles Burns, has cut-out holes through which you glimpse parts of the full page and full colour illustration by Burns on p3. A flexi-disc ‘sound-collage’ entitled Reagan speaks for himself was bound in to the middle.

Raw Vol.1 N0.5: The Graphix Magazine of Abstract Depressionism 1983: Issue 5 with cover by Ever Meulen, carried a colour section printed on old style comic book newsprint which featured a luminous strip from 1940 called Stardust in tribute to the unrecognised genius of its creator Fletcher Hanks. One of my favourite Jerry Moriarty Jack Survives strips (pictured above) appeared on p45 of this issue.

Raw Vol.1 No.6: The Graphix Magazine that Overestimates the Taste of the American Public 1984: Cover by Mark Beyer.

Raw Vol.1  No.7: The Torn-Again Graphix Mag 1985: This issue featured the top right corner of the cover torn away with a random piece from another cover taped inside. I wonder who has my piece?!

Raw Vol.1 No.8: The Graphic Aspirin for War Fever 1986: This was the fattest (but last) of the large format issues and was perfect bound – the previous issues had all been stapled. The cover was by Kaz. This spot orange and green/grey drawing is a page from the Jimbo strip by Gary Panter.

Raw One-Shots

Raw One-Shot #1: Jimbo 1982: The first of the Raw spin-offs was the story of Jimbo drawn by Gary Panter. The punk character Jimbo had first appeared in the LA fanzine Slash in the late 1970s. The publication was printed on newsprint but had a striking corrugated card cover.

Raw One-Shot #2: How to Commit Suicide in South Africa 1983 by Sue Coe and Holly Metz. Coe was an English illustrator with a hard-hitting style and How to Commit Suicide in South Africa focused on the horrors of the apartheid regime in South Africa prior to majority rule. Words were by Holly Metz.

Raw One-Shot #3: Jack Survives 1984 by Jerry Moriarty. A collection of the Jack strips (see Raw No.2 above) in the same large format but with a special cover: the black line work was printed on an acetate wraparound with the colour work printed on the card cover beneath.

Raw One-Shot #4: Invasion of the Elvis Zombies 1984 by Gary Panter. A rural town is assaulted by a plague of dead Elvis Presleys! The format was much smaller and the cover was hardback with a cloth binding reminiscent of children’s books from the 40s and 50s. A flexi-disc with music from Panter was attached to the back cover.

Raw One-Shot #5: Big Baby: Curse of the Molemen 1986 by Charles Burns. I love Burns’ hard-edged retro style and his stories the are full of weird and creepy characters in suburban middle America. Big Baby tells the tale of Tony, an average American kid who spots strange goings on in the backyard next door…

Other Raw publications

Work and Turn 1979: A dinky sized booklet with drawings by Art Spiegelman and printed by Spiegelman and Mouly on their own press in their studio. This was my introduction to Raw – I picked this up during my travels around the USA in the summer of 1979 (more here). (I was so taken with it, that when I passed through New York, I tracked down the address which was printed on the back and knocked at the door hoping to speak to its creator – but there was no one at home.)

Dead Stories 1982 by Mark Beyer. Another Raw spin-off but not part of the One-Shot series.

Maus I – a collection of the Maus chapters 1-6 from Raw issues 2-7, was published by Pantheon Books in 1986, and then in 1987, Penguin published a UK and European version (pictured above). (Maus II brought together the last five chapters of Spiegelman’s epic Holocaust story)

Agony (1987 by Mark Beyer), Jimbo; Adventures in Paradise (1988 by Gary Panter) and Hard Boiled Defective Stories (1988 by Charles Burns) continued the Raw/Pantheon collaboration.

Raw Magazine Volume 2

Raw Vol.2 N0.1: Open Wounds from the Cutting Edge of Commix 1989: Cover by Gary Panter. After a couple of years break, Raw re-appeared (published by Penguin) in a smaller and thicker, ‘literary’ format with the focus more on longer stories rather than bold graphic experiments. This cover was by Gary Panter and the page of striking black and orange woodcuts are from a story called Wild Heart by David Holzman.

Raw Vol.2 No.2: Required Reading for the Post-Literate 1990: Cover by Joost Swarte

Raw Vol.2 No.3: High Culture for Low Brows 1991: With a cover by the 1960/70s underground comic artist Robert Crumb, this final issue of Raw ran to 228 pages. The magazine was put on hold to buy more time for Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly to work on other projects but then sadly, it never saw life again.

Raw Books and Graphics had re-invented the comic book as an art form, paved the way for the flourishing of the ‘graphic novel’, and provided an outlet for many talented but unknown illustrators. What happened to my two favourite Raw artists – Jerry Moriarty and Charles Burns? Moriarty had a series of illustrations published in Gin & Comix (1990), a large format Raw lookalike shown below (with cover illo by Philippe Lardy). He was born in 1938 so I guess he is now retired. Charles Burns went on to find greater fame with his book Black Hole (published by Pantheon in 2005), a creepy tale of teenagers growing up in a 1970s Seattle suburb.

Further reading: Eye magazine No.8 1993. Comics for damned intellectuals – a history of Raw by Steven Heller

Raw publications missing from my collection:

Breakdowns – an anthology of strips by Art Spiegelman 1977(?)
Raw No.1  The Graphix Magazine of Postponed Suicides
X – a paean to Malcolm X by Sue Coe 1986
Read Yourself Raw – an anthology of issues 1-3, published by Pantheon in 1987
Warts and All by Drew and Josh Friedman. Published by Penguin in 1990
Maus II
 published by Pantheon in 1992
The Narrative Corpse 1995








Transition: Elsewhere No. 5 – A Journal of Place

Notebook: 5 August 2017 | MAGAZINES | ILLUSTRATION

We live in a small hamlet on the edge of a South Norfolk village. Our house is part of the old Victorian manor estate and is nestled on the side of a gentle valley and sheltered from the prevailing winds by woodland and large hedges. I wander down the track to the road that follows the stream along the valley bottom and then I climb another track that takes me up and out of the valley on the opposite side. After a short while I come to the top of the track and open fields. Looking back behind me, all I can see of the manor estate is the coach house clocktower which peaks out from behind the trees and reminds me of one of Alfred Bestall’s illustrations from a Rupert Bear annual. In front of me and off to the west lie a dark band of fir trees that mark the edge of the brooding Thetford forest. It’s early August and the landscape looks very ‘black’ and ‘white’ with the pale and sun-bleached ripe wheat and barley, contrasting against the dark hedgerows and pine trees. There’s little bird noise and the only sound I hear is the breeze rustling through the trees…

There’s a super little indie magazine called Elsewhere: A Journal of Place and it explores people’s relationships with their environment. Each issue is a collection of essays from different writers about different places from far and wide, so for instance the latest copy (No.5) has content that includes features about Cáceres in Extremadura, Tbilisi in Georgia, four houses in Manchester, a photo essay on the Faroe Islands and a longer read about Inis Oirr, an Island off the west coast of Ireland. This latest issue is loosely based on the theme of transition – how a place may change, or how a place can make its mark upon, and shape a life.

Art director Julia Stone’s charming opening page illustration for the feature on Extremadura, Spain

A spread from the Faroe Islands photo essay

The design is clean and unobtrusive and the blue and grey drawings by the magazine’s creative director Julia Stone, are used to illustrate each article or ‘place’. The Transition issue also includes striking reportage illustration by a variety of artists including the sketches below of the Flemish town Doel that is slowly being demolished to make way for an enlarged port of Antwerp*.

Illustrations by Jeroen Janssen of the Flemish ghost town Doel.*

I like Elsewhere. Some of the articles make you want to pick up an atlas – to identify, visit and explore the streets and places that are described. Other features touch deeper inside – you snatch glimpses of people’s lives as they search for their sense of place: one writer revisits an island she’s been to as a teenager only to discover never ending rain and the ghosts of her past; another author describes her move from a dark basement flat where she had ‘loved and hated in equal measure’ to a new house that holds hope for her.

…It’s dusk and I’m on the hill looking back across the valley towards our house which lies hidden amongst the trees. As I wander back down the track to the road, hundreds of chattering rooks pass overhead and like myself, make their way home.

We have lived in our house in South Norfolk for 25 years – it’s the longest time I’ve ever lived in one place and one house – and I start to ponder where the years have gone to. In the not too distant future, we may well leave our home and all its memories behind us in favour of somewhere smaller, easier to maintain and closer to our families. I wonder how I may feel and what lasting effect this house and landscape – this sense of place – will leave on me.

Elsewhere journal is available from the magculture shop or directly from the editor and publisher Paul Scraton via the Elsewhere website.

*For more about reportage illustration/graphic journalism take a look at the website or the latest issue of Eye magazine 93 that has an excellent feature on the artist Olivier Kugler who documents the lives of Syrian refugees).

Here is my review of Elsewhere issue no.3

A square measure

Notebook: 29 July 2017 |  VOLUNTARY WORK | THE C-WORD

In 2006, spurred on by England Cricket’s epic Ashes win in 2005 and his love of sport, my eldest son Joe who was 11 at the time, joined the local village cricket club. He had a natural aptitude for the game and soon found himself playing for the Under 13 age group team and I was roped in as team ‘manager’. Most amateur sports clubs depend on an army of volunteers to help out – be it ground maintenance, making teas or, as in my case, ensuring that 11 youngsters were organised and turned up for matches on the right day and at the right time. They were a good bunch of boys (and girls) and they clicked as a team, enjoyed themselves and always seemed to do well. I remained manager and followed them through from U13s to U15s to U17s and in 2011 their hard work and achievements culminated in them winning the Junior Carter Cup, a knockout competition featuring the best U17 teams from across the county of Norfolk (pictured below).

Garboldisham CC u17s win the Norfolk Junior Carter Cup in 2011

Son Joe disappeared off to university and my days as youth team manager came to an end but the cricket club continued to keep me busy in my down-time, running the website and, fast-forward to 2017, helping mow and mark out the pitches. As an editorial designer I enjoy the discipline of working with grids and columns of type and lining things up. We measure in a mixture of millimetres and points and InDesign does the marking out for us. With a cricket pitch we work in good old yards but mix in metres (for good measure) and our marking out is done with a tape measure and string. I enjoy working on this grander scale and it’s good to escape from a computer screen.

This is how we mark out the pitches and prepare them for each game.

The cricket ground or field has a square within its centre. The square is more often a rectangle in shape but it is within this area that the individual pitches (aka wickets, tracks or strips) are marked out. On municipal grounds you will often see the square ‘fenced’ off to protect the playing surface. At Garboldisham CC we have two grounds and therefore two squares (pictured top). Our main square measures 33 metres by 22 yards with 22 yards being the length of an adult pitch. County cricket grounds such as The Oval or Headingley (pictured below) will often have a square that runs the whole width of the ground to allow for the numerous tracks that are needed throughout the season.

The ‘square’ at Headingley, home of Yorkshire CCC, has many tracks (aka wickets or pitches) that run almost the width of the ground

The square has steel markers hammered into the grass at each corner and it is from these markers that each pitch is measured and set out. (The markers would have been carefully positioned with perfect right angles many years ago). The width of each pitch or track is 3 metres: our square is 33 metres long which means that we can fit in 11 pitches/tracks which can be made use of throughout season (see diagram below). Typically a track can be used for three or four games before it deteriorates and becomes unusable and is then left to recover for the following season. Alternate tracks are used, generally in the sequence shown below.

Alternate tracks are generally used in the sequence shown. 1 and 2 are old and worn and are recovering. 3 has been mown to about 1/8″ and is all ready for playing on. 4 is half prepared and will be used the following week. 5-11 will be used later as the season progresses. 

New tracks are started off about a fortnight before they will first be played upon. With the measure, we position and mark out the 3m track width. Then the mower height is reduced from 1/2″ (12mm) which is the height used for the square, down to about 1/4″ (6mm) and the first cut is made. A hand scarifier (pictured below) helps thin and lift the grass and another mow takes off a bit more.

The new track is scarified several times to help thin and lift the grass

In early spring before the season starts, the whole square would have been rolled for several hours to remove any lumps and bumps and to start to compact and harden the surface. Now the new track is rolled and this continues the flattening and hardening process and the track takes on a curious blue-ish hue. A day or so later and the mower height is dropped again and the mowing/scarifying/rolling sequence continues. Finally the cutting height is reduced down to about 1/8″ the day before the game and the track is given a last roll to remove any moisture. By now, this carefully manicured strip of grass has changed colour from green to ‘blue’ to brown but now looks almost white and shiney and is as hard and flat as a billiard table, and hopefully the perfect surface for batting on with no hidden surprises for the batsmen.

Different tracks on the ‘square’ at Garboldisham CC. The ‘white’ one on the left has been played on once and then re-mown and rolled ready for its next game. The dark green one adjacent to the right will be saved for the back end of the season. The paler, blue-ish track in the middle is half prepared and needs a bit more cutting and rolling, and to its right is an old worn track that is finished with and greening over. On the far right is a recently used track that has been left to recover.

Close up of the edge of the ‘white’ track all ready for playing on. The grass has been reduced to about 1/8” to remove its green tips and reveal the pale cream ‘crown’ beneath. The dark green grass is the ‘square’ at its normal height of about 1/2″

Using the corner markers, tape measure and string, we mark the ‘backline’ and the point where the middle stump will be inserted. All the other lines are added in using diluted white emulsion paint and a handy guide frame (pictured below). Stump holes are hammered in and the pitch is finally ready.

A large metal frame is carefully positioned on the pitch and painted around to mark out the creases

Along the way, we may well have fought off rooks, who peck the surface for grubs, with a farmer’s bird scarer; worms, who bring up worm casts, with a stiff broom; and the weather – too much rain and the pitch goes dead, and if there’s too much sun, the surface can be too dry and breakdown too quickly, so we drag out the hose and sprinkler.

No two tracks or pitches will ever play the same and it’s not until the pitch has been played upon that you know whether it’s a ‘good’ one – and in our case, a good pitch is generally one where the batsmen can score lots of runs. Occasionally a groundsman may be asked to prepare a low-scoring track that favours the bowler – maybe one where the ball grips in the surface or spits off the surface to catch a batsman unawares – but this sort of pitch preparation is a dark art and a whole different ball game…

Liking US: University of Sussex branding

Notebook: 10 July 2017 | BRANDING

I like this cluster of publications produced by the University of Sussex (US) and picked up by myself and youngest son Harry on a recent University open day visit. There’s a strong and consistent identity across all the literature, and across the website, social media and signage on the campus. The branding was carried out by designer Dan Cottrell for Pentagram in 2015 and the Pentagram guidelines are now closely followed by a roster of approved independent designers that the University calls upon. There’s a bright, breezy and confident palette of colours that contrast well with the more academic and authoritative choice of typefaces – good old Baskerville (UOS Baskerville Titling – a bespoke version for the Uni’) and Franklin Gothic in assorted weights. Type is centred to echo the original 1962 prospectus when Sussex Uni’ first opened.

I particularly like the large format 12 Stories of Sussex publication – a collection of short interviews, quotes and photos from current and former students and members of staff – and three spreads are shown below. Photos are by Stuart Robinson and Andy Hall.

This year, all universities will be having to try just that bit harder to attract students following the drop in the intake of overseas students due to the fall-out from Brexit, and so having a good, strong university identity that prospective students can relate to – fun, happy place to be, great institution of learning and so on – is an essential part of a uni’s armoury.

The University of Sussex brand guidelines can be viewed here


It’s showtime: A visit to the LCC and NUA graphics exhibitions

Notebook: 5 July 2017 | DEGREE SHOWS

Last year I managed to squeeze in visits to 11 different graphic design degree shows but this year with time against me, I’ve visited just three exhibitions – Reading (see my previous post), the London College of Communication (LCC) and Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). LCC and NUA were both excellent shows – not only was the work of a high standard with plenty of editorial design and typography to satisfy my interests, but it was also very well presented with careful editing, clear captioning and lots of space around it to allow it to breathe and to show the designs off to their best. There’s no point in a student spending a couple of years producing fantastic work only to then present it poorly.

Both LCC and NUA choose to loosely group the work into sections – printed magazines here, book jackets there and so on, rather than displaying the work by individual student, and (rightly or wrongly, depending on your viewpoint) this allows them to wheedle out the poorer designs and focus on the good stuff – which is refreshing for the exhibition viewer, and it allows for easy comparison across subject areas.

LCC was up first and on Wednesday 21 June I emerged from the Elephant and Castle tube station into bright sunlight, busy traffic and a wall of hot air. It was the warmest June day in London since 1976. I dashed across the highway and into the cool of the LCC plaza. The Graphic and Media Design show was held in a large exhibition hall just beyond the main foyer. At one end of the hall a huge and captivating tv screen (pictured top) projected students’ work, and along each side of the room selected items were displayed on smaller monitors on the walls and as printed publications on tables. An antechamber housed the students’ process books or ‘roughs’ which helped show the thinking behind their designs.

LCC has a rich heritage from its days as the London College of Printing and alumni include the magazine designers Neville Brody and Kuchar Swara, and the photographer Rankin. Graphics at LCC errs towards typography, information design and editorial design as well as ‘visual design systems, design for social change and design for moving image and smart media’. Students are encouraged to be exploratory in their thinking and their use of media and materials. Here’s a snapshot of some of the work that caught my eye:

An interesting set of characters from a type design project by Samuel Bloch

Intriguing spread from a book by Francisco Casaroti. The book is a compilation of the thinking and processes behind three of his major projects

Phoebe Salter’s ‘Two Points’ project features striking photography from Shepherd’s Bush and Smithfield markets presented in a newspaper format

A favourite of mine: ‘The Obsolete Directory’ by Dennis Lee – a documentation of visual research carried out around two phone boxes in Bermondsey and presented in a thick telephone directory-like publication on thin newsprint

Tim Lucraft’s ‘process’ books that document the thinking behind his major projects

Peter Roden’s ‘process’ book. It’s good to see the students put as much time and effort into presenting their thought processes and rough designs, as well as they do, their finished design

Ball bearings roll around on a lightbox and generate data that creates random backgrounds for posters. Richard Underwood’s major project questions the role of the graphic designer in a world of artificial intelligence and automation

The work at LCC was fascinating, and much of it was beautiful and thrilling to look at. Before I dashed off I just had time to pop into the illustration show and caught sight of this comic book called ‘Strainees: The Martian Curse’ with illustration by Miranda Smart. I think she may be someone to watch out for.

On Friday June 30, I was back in Norwich for the NUA shows. Graphics students at Norwich have a choice of three options after their first year of study. They can chose the straight graphics course (BA Hons Graphic Design) which has always been strong in ideas-based design as well as packaging and branding; or they can opt for the Graphic Communication route (BA Hons Graphic Communication) which encourages students to solve complex communication problems and push the boundaries of their discipline; or finally, they can take the Design for Publishing course which focuses on editorial design and typography across both print and digital. The Publishing students are often encouraged to work in collaborative groups which is such a sensible idea as it helps prepare them for life on the outside – they learn how to debate and reason with others, and they discover their strengths and weaknesses within the team. Matt Goss, Natalie Sowa, Alicia Mundy, Julia Clark and Crystal Loh all worked together to produce Dickybird magazine which ‘explores life through language’ and their display is shown below.

There was some exceptional typography on display from DfP student Matt Longley who had designed, and had printed, a complete magazine, Politics and New Liberty – a collection of long- form opinion articles. Matt had also turned his hand to type design and Pathfinder Mono and Mondrian are two typefaces he created in just seven days from initial sketches to finished product, both of which embrace the imperfections of design that come from rapid prototyping. Both projects are shown below and you can see more of them on his link.

Natalie Sowa’s publication Brothers looked at the interesting similarities between Obama and Putin through the use of found Google images and then carefully edited and juxtaposed those images to tell a powerful story. And Natalie’s American Anxiety posters highlight unsettling messages with quirky and unsettling typography (below).

Other Design for Publishing work that popped out at me was a set of OS map covers by Alicia Mundy, Sights and Sounds – a series of posters by Matt Goss promoting an exhibition of the story of Stones Throw Records, and Hannah Moulton’s designs for the online Bridget magazine.

I moved on and, housed in a separate space, I found the NUA Graphic Communication in_form show. The students and tutors had clearly worked hard to create a bold exhibition that showed the work off to its best with hanging posters, table-top displays, monitors and a… confessional box. It was all done with clarity, confidence and a real professionalism and there was a buzz, energy and ‘hot-house’ atmosphere that reflected the ground being forged by these particular students who are working on the edge of the graphic design discipline. Here’s a taster below with four posters and a mag from (in order) Sophie Norman, Jake Gilbert, Jonathan Leonard, Louis Scott and Jack Lambert

The Design for Publishing and Graphic Communication shows at NUA both have accompanying websites where you can look at more of the students’ work – and on Hannah Moulton’s page I discovered her Sunday Times newspaper designs (pictured below), a project that the students undertake in their second year and one that I help run as a visiting lecturer. (See link)

The LCC show has been and gone for another year but if you’re quick you might just catch the final day of the NUA show which finishes on 5 July. And both LCC and NUA are exhibiting at the D&AD New Blood festival in Shoreditch on 5-6 July.

Good luck to all graduating students.



Reading, writing and typography

Pictured above. A collection of old signs and letters on display in the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. Photo by Rachel Bray

Notebook 18 June 2017 | DEGREE SHOWS | TYPOGRAPHY

Reading with a cap ‘R’ – the Thames Valley, Crossrail boomtown; home to the rock festival and the gaol where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated; and home for a while, to poor old Jude Fawley in Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure. Once upon a time I spent a week in Reading hospital having my appendix whipped out. It was my first encounter with a scalpel (a few years later I was to learn that the ’10a’ scalpel blade was the graphic designer’s preferred blade of choice). And in 1974 or so, I would have tottered on my platform shoes into Reading’s Top Rank nightclub to see the legendary singer Edwin Starr perform. The ugly old station-side nightclub has long since disappeared and been replaced by smart office blocks but the town is still rather dull and congested with traffic. But if you head south-east out of the centre you run into attractive, wide, leafy streets with large Victorian houses, and then the University of Reading campus. Tucked away on the far side of the campus, across the lake, are an assortment of unassuming single storey 1940’s buildings which house the University’s Department of Typography and Graphic Communication – an institute of learning and excellence with a world-wide reputation. Ex-students include luminaries such as the type designer Paul Barnes of Commercial Type.

The Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. Photo by Rachel Bray

The Department is made up from the 3-year BA undergraduate course in graphic design; an assortment of MA postgraduate courses such as book design, information design, design research and typeface design; and an unrivalled library which holds a collection of graphic design and printed ephemera. At the centre of the department is an exhibition space and past exhibits have included historical and contemporary graphic design, typography and print – such as sweet packaging, celtic inscriptions and newspaper design. I’d come to see their current exhibition – Emigre Magazine (which runs until the 14 July), and to take in the end-of-year BA degree show.

Emigre was a ground-breaking journal of experimental typography and graphic design writing and was self published by the Dutch designer Rudy Vanderlans in California from the mid 1980s until 2005. Early copies were large format, later copies smaller, and then smaller still. The magazine coincided with the birth of the new apple macintosh computers and Vanderlans and his partner Zuzana Licko were inspired to design their own custom fonts for the mac – and set up the Emigre font foundry which still exists today. Whole issues of the magazine would focus on particular designers of the day including Jonathan Barnbrook, Vaughan Oliver and David Carson. There’s a fascinating assortment of Emigre items on display at Reading which have been pulled together from the University’s own collection and from the collection of design writer Rick Poynor who also teaches in the Department. Some of the exhibits are pictured below.

Cover and spread from issue 11 1989. This issue was devoted to a collection of interviews with designers about their experiences of using the new apple mac computers

Issue 50 1999. Type specimens for Vendetta by John Downer

Issue 55 2000. Vendetta and Cholla Slab type specimens using texts from the 1901 book The Desert by John C Van Dyke and photos from a road trip to the Mojave desert

Palm Desert photo essay book

Next up was the end-of-year Graphic Communication degree show. It’s a graphics course with an understandable bias towards typography as well as problem solving and information design, across both print and digital. There was plenty of good work on show and because of my background, I naturally found my eye zeroing in on the editorial design and fine typography. Several students had wrestled successfully with the demands of designing a double-page-spread and footnotes, from Shakespeare’s Henry V, and many of the results were exquisite and showed a real understanding and feel for type. Other students had produced newspaper and magazine designs and I particularly enjoyed looking at Katy O’Hare’s Jaunt magazine and Susann Vatnedal’s Hygge newspaper pictured below. All work was well captioned and easy to understand. A minor criticism was that the exhibition space felt a little cluttered and wasn’t allowing the work to breathe.

Jaunt magazine by Katy O’Hare

Spread from Henry V by Susann Vatnedal

Hygge newspaper by Susann Vatnedal

Newspaper designs from Anna Scully, Eleanor Harris and Izzy Wedgwood

Discovering Reading website design by Claudia Smith

The Department’s library has a fantastic collection of printed ephemera and graphic design and this is a great resource for students. Head archivist Laura Weill showed me around and my eyes widened as she pulled open drawer upon drawer of old prints and posters. Some of the goodies in the collection include old manuscripts, ornamental Victorian playbills, old magazines (including Emigre) and the Isotope collection of early twentieth century information graphics – and even Egyptian hieroglyphics on papyrus!

Archivist Laura Weill displays a striking 1950s health and safety at work poster

With my visit complete, I made my way back into Reading town centre and crossed over the river Thames into the suburb of Caversham to visit an old friend from my student days at the Royal College of Art. As we chatted about the past and swapped anecdotes, he reminded me that one of our old RCA tutors, Ken Garland, had also taught at the University of Reading on the Typography course.


University of Reading Department of Typography and Graphic Communication

University of Reading BA Graphic Communication

Emigre Magazine exhibition details

Why Emigre mattered – and still matters. Rick Poynor’s exhibition review for Creative Review magazine

Emigre Fonts




Newies but goodies

Notebook 25 May 2017 | MAGAZINES

Last month I wrote about a cluster of wonderful old magazines that I’d unearthed tidying the studio. This month I’m taking a look at a selection of new purchases that I’ve recently enjoyed, starting with a couple of heavyweight and always good-looking consumer titles…

GQ (UK edition) June 2017. Creative Director: Paul Solomons, Art Director: Keith Waterfield

In some ways GQ is the perfect magazine. For anyone who knows me, I clearly don’t buy it for its features about fast cars, expensive watches and male grooming products. Instead I admire it for its consistently good looks. And it’s the magazine that I like to wave in front of journalism and design students as an example of ‘this is how you do it!’ – because it does do everything so well – from its rich mix of high-quality, short and long-form content, great flat-planning and pace – to its well-engineered design and typography that always makes use of the best photography, illustration and infographics. Highlights of this month’s issue (pictured above) include a profile of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan (with portrait by David Bailey!), Alastair Campbell’s interview with Tony Blair, The Drop (their culture section) and even their classified advertising section at the back of the mag which is presented in such an appealing, useful and crafty way that it looks like regular editorial rather than ads. Yes, this is how you do it!

HARPER’S BAZAAR (UK edition) June 2017. Creative Director: Jo Goodby, Design Director: Amy Galvin

Harper’s is always my pick of the women’s mags when it comes to design. I think it’s better looking than Vogue and it always oozes style and sophistication which is down to their delicate use of type and elegant photography. Above is a selection of some of my favourite June layouts.

THE DISH The Sunday Times Food supplement (UK) May 2017. Art Director: Matt Curtis

The Dish is the Sunday Times’ food magazine that comes bundled each month with the rest of their supplements. I like it for it’s positive, buzzy vibe. There’s a strong mix of fonts carefully working in tandem; a flexible underlying grid that allows for quotes, box copy and white space, all to sit comfortably together; bold photos and illustration that always work hard alongside the text; and it uses a delicious bright colour palette of pinks, reds and oranges.

EIGHT BY EIGHT (USA) Issue no. 10. Creative Director: Grace Lee

This New York based quarterly football magazine is a favourite of all the student sports journalists that I teach and it’s easy to see why. Unlike some sports magazines, it’s not at all throwaway – and with its excellent journalism, high-production values and bold ‘in-your-face’ design, it’s more like a book and definitely one to leave lying around on the coffee table. I love it for its super use of illustration – a complete mixture of styles from some top illustrators. Eight by Eight have a number of clever spin-off brand extensions including t-shirts, caps and prints of the illustrations – and if branding is your thing, take a look at their powerful brand statement which perfectly captures the essence of what they’re about.

MIGRANT JOURNAL Issue 1: ‘Across Country’. Art direction: Offshore Studio – Isabel Seifert and Christoph Miler

Take a look at Zurich based design company Offshore Studio’s website for a taster of their sharp and slightly edgy, contemporary editorial design and typography. In September last year they designed and co-edited the first issue of Migrant Journal, a collection of essays on the movement of people, goods and information across the globe. The authoritative, text-book-like design is raised to a higher level with a clever use of spot gold, refined typography and the use of a brilliant custom designed typeface called Migrant Grotesk – a regular sans font given a quirky, edgy and slightly unsettling feel with squared-off strokes on the lowercase ‘g’, ‘y’, ‘j’, ‘t’, ‘r’ and ‘f’ and on the ‘R’, ‘G’ and ‘Y’ capitals.

A feature that is published in both English (black) and French (spot gold)

Close-up of the standfirst which is typeset in Migrant Grotesk and which has quirky squared-off strokes on the descenders

Spot gold is used throughout the magazine as a background colour for infographics and for feature ‘title’ pages. Some diagrams combine 100% cyan with the spot gold, such as the one above illustrating how levees work. 

You can find a good video review of Migrant here by Stack, and MagCulture were even describing it as their magazine ‘of the week… if not the month… if not the year’. Do try and track it down – it looks like issue 2 is now available.

ROOT + BONE (UK) issue No. 13

Root + Bone is a free foodie mag that you can pick up at cafés and bars across London and I grabbed the latest copy at the magCulture shop in Clerkenwell. The design is plain and simple but with tasty dollops of white space and always lots of eye-catching photography and illustration – and to keep costs down it’s printed on cheap newsprint and held together with a couple of staples. It’s a mag I’ve written about before and you can read and see pics of issue 9 here.

THE CALIFORNIA SUNDAY MAGAZINE (USA) April 2017. Art Director: Leo Jung

I’ve saved the best till last – this is a beautiful magazine. It is simple and understated but its delicate typography, white space and striking (and sometimes haunting) photography give it a powerful presence. It’s a bi-monthly independent publication distributed with the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Close-up of the front cover showing the delicate but powerful typography

Two-page article on ‘Archiving the internet’. Note the deft touches: a small headline, the gully of white space at the top of the 2nd coloumn and the inter-column rule that pops out at the bottom of the page to pick up the page tab

Part of a four-page picture-heavy feature on migrant farm workers in Twin Falls, Idaho

Powerful portrait photography from a 16-page long-form feature on healthy fast-food restaurant Locol, set up by a top chef in the tough Watts district of LA

Another long-form article – this one on Argentina’s ‘missing babies’ and their grandmothers’ search for them. Note the horizontal rules in the right hand column to denote those that ‘disappeared’. This device is repeated throughout the feature

Part of a picture essay on ‘Dirty Birds’ – America’s national symbol, the bald eagle scavenging for food in an Alaskan fishing port

‘Letter from a drowned canyon’ – the headline (above) and quote (below) become ‘submerged in water’ with a simple use of black then grey type

If you want to see more of this wonderful mag, it’s available for purchase from the magCulture shop or take a look at TCSM’s website. And you can read an excellent review of the April issue by magCulture. Here’s my review of the August 2016 issue.

Finally, a quick mention for The Gourmand magazine. I see that their latest issue no. 9 has just been published. It’s a bi-annual magazine for food lovers and it’s been around now for at least five years but it still looks just as good and has the same impact as it did in 2012 when it first appeared. It makes use of a couple of old fashioned fonts: the serif Cheltenham with its longer ascenders and short x-height, and the sans Grotesque with its clumsy characters, both of which give it a curious retro feel. Intriguing photography and its combination of uncoated and super high-gloss papers all add to its ability to shine out alongside many other indie mags. Here are some cracking pages from the latest issue.


Oldies but goodies

Notebook: 28 April | MAGAZINES

The office is a mess. I have too many old magazines and newspapers cluttering up the shelves and I really ought to throw some of them away to make space for all the new stuff. Trouble is, they’re all great mags, despite their age. Here’s five that I’ve just unearthed and dusted down…

ELLE DECOR 1990 (US edition). Art Director: Jean-Marie Hatier

American Elle Decor still looks as stylish as it did 27 years ago – luscious pictures, tight grid, white space, carefully crafted headlines and unusually narrow columns. Delicious! I think the headline and text font are both Baskerville Old Style.

LUFTHANSA BORDBUCH 1995 (Germany) The Lufthansa in-flight customer magazine. Design/layout Alberto Garcia-Izquierdo and Rolf Kuhl

The Lufthansa magazine was cool and pared back with excellent photography and dollops of white space. The same features appeared twice – first in German and then in English, but with different pictures. Headlines and text are set in Helvetica. I believe that the magazine is still in production and that it looks very much like it did 22 years ago.

ECONY 1999 (Germany). Art Director: Mike Meiré

Econy was a short-lived but influential German business magazine that ran from 1998-1999. It had a brutal typographic simplicity that combined Univers with a stark mechanical serif text font (Times New Roman?) and consequently this allowed the pictures to do most of the talking. Art Director Meiré commissioned fashion, music and art photographers for the business portraits and office and factory interiors, and this gave the magazine a real edge. A decade earlier in the 1980s, the UK business magazine Management Today had had a similar approach with its unconventional, in-your-face business portraiture, but Econy’s pictures had a much cooler aesthetic and they set a style that is still evident in many publications today.


Mike Meiré went on to design the beautiful and even cooler brand eins, economics magazine, and in 2007 he redesigned 032c as a deliberately ‘ugly’ looking culture magazine with distorted typography and brash colours and which you can read more about here in Creative Review magazine. (And if you’re into anti-design, you may enjoy my RCA degree show poster that I produced in 1992.)

WIRE 1989. (UK) Design by Paul Elliman and Lucy Ward

Music magazine Wire is still going strong although I’m guilty of not having looked at a copy for a long, long time. The issue I have dates way back to 1989 (pre-mac, I think…) when it was a specialist Jazz music mag. What set it apart from magazines like The Face was its delicate and elegant typography which gave the magazine a literary/journal type feel, together with its use of white space plus of course, lots of very stylish black and white pics of jazz musicians. The fonts were Garamond with odd splashes of Gill Bold. Further reading: Eye mag profile of designer Paul Elliman (1997), and ‘The Elegant and stylish jazz covers of Wire magazine’ by Robert Newman

ANYWAY 2006/7 (Austria). Creative Director: Alexander Geringer

I’ve had this copy of Anyway magazine kicking around for 10 years or so but this is the first time I’ve picked it up and looked at it properly – and the more I look at it, the more I find to like about it. It was/is a stylish travel mag produced in Vienna by Ahead Media who publish other lifestyle magazines and who were evidently the very first publisher of Wallpaper magazine. It doesn’t shout at you – it’s just finely crafted like all the magazines unearthed here, with thoughtful considered typography (elegant serif contrasting with the all caps, dot font used for captions), cool white space and very attractive pictures.

OK. I’m not throwing any of these away. I need to build more shelves.

Photos taken by design student Eve who is on work experience with us. Eve’s favourite of the five mags is Wire for its black and white pics and simple design.  

Coming up in next post: Newies but goodies – my latest purchases from the MagCulture shop

magCulture Meets Real Review

Notebook: 6 April 2017 | MAGAZINES

magCulture Meets are a monthly series of informal talks by magazine makers and designers at the magCulture shop in St John Street, Clerkenwell, London and their most recent event was a session with the editor and designer of the award-winning Real Review architecture based magazine.

The talk coincided with the release of the third issue of the magazine and, just like issues one and two, it comes packaged in its distinctive cellophane wrapper and is branded with a red face illustration by the brilliant Nishant Choksi and a large, black, ‘brutalist’ ‘R’. But it’s Real Review’s tall, thin, double-folded format that really sets it apart – it is saddle-stitched and then folded again vertically so that it fits comfortably in the hand. The reader can then chose to read one slim page at a time or unfold the magazine further to reveal additional long-form content.

Editor Jack Self (from The Real Foundation) and designer Rory McGrath (from design agency OK-RM) explain how the magazine has been designed to feel disposable and not at all precious – they didn’t want it to be a beautiful publication that ended up sitting on a coffee-table unread. They deliberately chose a very thin, almost throwaway glossy paper in contrast to the thick uncoated stocks favoured by many independent magazines. (For paper geeks like myself, the stock is called Thin Star 50gsm and is a paper normally reserved for use by magazines with huge print-runs such as newspaper supplements. Consequently it is only available as large rolls for web printing – and so Self and McGrath have to have the paper guillotined down beforehand into sheets for printing on the short-run, sheet-fed press used for printing Real Review.) The thin paper can quickly become dog-eared especially when the reader unfolds and refolds the pages, but this is precisely the look and feel that Jack Self is after. The crackly cellophane wrapper was designed to protect the magazine prior to purchase and then to be tossed aside once the mag had been unwrapped but it has inadvertently become part of Real Review‘s essential uniqueness and identity, and many readers, including myself, like to delicately insert the mag back into its wrapper (taking care not to get it caught on the sticky seal!) once it has been read.

Real Review is not a traditional architecture magazine but instead, it has a basis in architecture and the environment, and explores how design shapes society. The latest issue has an assortment of intriguing reviews including: The building where we keep the world – a look at an anonymous town in Oregon that is home to row-upon-row of server stacks that house all of Google, Facebook and Apple’s cloud data; Café society which compares London’s 17th century coffee houses with today’s coffee bars; and Androgynous peripherals – a feature about travel adapters that touches on the development of an ‘androgynous’ docking system for Appollo and Soyuz space craft in the 1970s that avoided using ‘male’ and ‘female’ connectors – and hence any inference of the US being ‘penetrated’ by the Soviets, or vice versa!

The layout and typography of Real Review is simple and functional. Each review is set in either a larger point size across a one-column grid or in a smaller point size as the one-column grid splits into two columns. In places, the two columns break down further into four columns, and hidden at the back of the magazine, almost like a hidden, bonus track on an LP waiting to be discovered, there is one feature set in a tiny point size across the very narrow four-column grid. Generous portions of white space are placed here and there to add breathing spaces and structure.

The magazine has no online presence. If you click on their website you’re confronted by that big, bold, beautiful ‘R’, a brief description of the mag, the option to simply Buy or Contact, and nothing moreso stories appear in print only and remain untracked and so they have no way of knowing which stories are read more than others. But Jack Self is not bothered by this and he has described it as liberating.

Having explored every part of my copy of issue 3 of the Real Review, it has taken on that dog-eared, lived-in look with the red ink chipping away on the back cover and the edges of pages starting to tear. I like it like this. I insert it gingerly back into its cellophane wrapper and place it on my shelf next to its beautiful brother and sister.

magCulture Meets talks take place regularly and you can visit the magCulture website for details of forthcoming events. The talks are sponsored by Park, the independent magazine printer and by the Canopy Beer Company, a microbrewery based in Herne Hill, South London – their Brockwell IPA is a delicious fruity, hoppy beer and I can vouch that it is a perfect accompaniment to a magCultue Meets event, especially on a gloriously sunny evening in early April!

For my review of issue 1 of the Real Review click here