Latest Posts

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…

NYT mag masthead mash-up

Notebook: 12 January 2018 | MAGAZINES | PHOTOGRAPHY

Some of the best looking and most effective magazine covers are a bit like the best of the old print adverts with a ‘less is more’ approach that uses just a couple of simple ingredients: a strong image and a well written cover line. The designer and editor work as a closely knit team in much the same way that a designer and copywriter might do in an ad’ agency. Think back to the well known George Lois Esquire covers from the 1960s and compare them with the famous Volkswagen adverts from the same period, or a Nova cover with the Saatchi pregnant man a decade later, and you’ll see what I mean.


In the 1960s and 70s I enjoyed the advert-like covers of Drive, The Sunday Times and Nova magazines and in the 1980s it was Time Out mag that hooked me in with its simple but striking covers.


These days it’s the covers that pop up each week on Twitter from The New York Times Magazine that enthuse me. They are often simple but beautiful arrangements of type and picture that rarely ‘shout’ at you but always draw you in (below right or below bottom on phone).


The creative team behind The New York Times Magazine are Design Director Gail Bichler and Art Director Matt Willey together with Director of Photography Kathy Ryan and Editor Jack Silverstein (plus their designers, picture editors and journalists) and their collaboration is key to the magazine’s success. It needs Ryan and the picture desk to source and commission all the exceptional imagery, Silverstein and the sub-editors to write the powerful copy and headlines and then Bichler, Willey and the other designers to pull it all together and work their design magic. Pictures are often left to ‘do the talking’, with simple, pared back typography and smaller headlines (see above) helping to give the words almost more presence. (See my post The NYT mag – less is more from January last year).

The NYT Magazine is the supplement to the weekend newspaper and as such, it has the freedom for its covers to be more adventurous than a consumer magazine or newsstand title. They are able to use just one coverline to promote the cover story rather than having to flood the cover with numerous headlines to vie for a shopper’s attention. And they are free to run unconventional cover pictures and obliterate parts of the masthead. Of course many consumer magazines run for instance, cut-outs of a celebrity that mask a portion of their magazine’s title – and these mags can get away with this because the masthead is so well known and is still recognisable.

However, The NYT Magazine take this one step further and recent issues (as well as some older issues) have featured the headlines actually running over or across parts of the magazine’s title. This overlaying of headline over masthead is never done as a gimmick but is done to make full use of that rectangular area of paper allowing type to be pushed out to the edges of the page to open up delicious voids of space. In the careful hands of Bichler and Willey it all adds to the potency of the cover. Take a look at the examples below.


Week after week The NYT Magazine dazzles us with its covers which never look tired or repetitive. I look forward to seeing more pop up each week on Twitter throughout 2018.

You can enjoy looking at two archives of back issues. The first is from the NYT themselves and links through to their digital editions and goes back to 2013. The other is from coverjunkie and goes back even further.

Radio Times covers from the late 70s/early 80s

Notebook: 8 January 2018 | MAGAZINES | ILLUSTRATION

I’ve unearthed a bunch of old Radio Times covers that I saved from the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was a graphic design student at the time at Lanchester Polytechnic (Coventry) and then the Royal College of Art, and like many students, I would hang on to any odd bits of print graphics that I liked and tape them into a scrapbook. These simple but striking Radio Times covers (shown below) have stood the test of time well and are dated only by their white borders¹ and single cover line and picture².

The Radio Times was art directed at the time by David Driver (1969-1981) who transformed the magazine from being a rather worthy, old fashioned ‘journal’ into a captivating and beautifully designed publication. Driver had a real grasp for visual journalism and he commissioned some of the best illustrators, photographers and information designers of the day. The Radio Times had always had a history of making use of top quality black and white line illustration³ dotted within its listings pages but with the advent of better printing facilities and higher quality paper, David Driver was able to use beautiful 4-colour illustration (and photography) on the front cover and in other parts of the magazine.

My small collection is shown below and is just a tiny, tiny example of the huge body of work that Driver and his team produced week-in, week-out at the Radio Times. (A couple of them are from 1982-83 so would have been produced post David Driver – but they follow the same style)I’ve added in four classic Driver covers taken from the design blog of Mike Dempsey – and for a real insight into David Driver’s time at the Radio Times, I urge you to read Mike Dempsey’s excellent article from his Graphic Journey blog – which as you’ll see, created a lively debate comparing the design of the RT in the 1970s with how it looks today. David Driver went on to become head of Design at The Times newspaper and Mike Dempsey looks at that period of his career here.


Note the last couple of covers drawn by George Hardie. One is in black and white on newsprint: I believe that it was produced when there was a problem at the printworks – maybe a strike or a paper shortage. More on George Hardie here.

Covers by Peter Brookes/Nigel Holmes, Ralph Steadman, Frank Bellamy and Adrian George, all reproduced from Mike Dempsey’s Graphic Journey blog.


¹These days Radio Times covers are full bleed but I think I’m right in saying that back in the 1970s, the printing technology, and the fact that the covers were regionalised and printed independently to the main mag, meant that they were unable to print right up to the edges of the paper. However, the resulting white border helped give the RT its distinctive identity and set it apart from ITV’s TV Times.

²In the 1970s there were only two TV listings magazines: the Radio Times which carried the BBC listings and the TV Times which carried the ITV (and later Channel 4) listings – and newspapers were not allowed to print 7-day listings. Consequently these two magazines had a monopoly on the market and huge circulations as a result. However, in 1991 with the de-regulation of TV listings, many new listings magazines entered the market, and finding themselves up against this competition, the Radio Times abandoned its more stylish thought-provoking covers with a single cover line, in favour of celebrity driven covers with multi cover lines very much in the style of the other listings magazines.


Two recent, much more commercially driven covers from the last five years. The second of the two from 2016 is illustrated by RT stalwart Bill Sanderson. These days it is rare for the Radio Times to use a cover illustration apart from for their Christmas specials. I believe that the current art director is Shem Law.

³Since its earliest days in 1923, top artists have graced the pages of the Radio Times with their illustrations: Edward Ardizzone, Eric Fraser, Mervyn Peake, Ronald Searle, James Boswell and more recently in David Driver’s time: Frank Bellamy, Adrian George, Ralph Steadman, Peter Brookes, Tony Meeuwissen, Brian Grimwood, Bill Sanderson, George Hardie, Nigel Holmes and many others. The art of the Radio Times has been celebrated over the years and in 1981 the V&A hosted an exhibition of original illustration from 1923 to the then present day, and then in 2013 on the 90th anniversary of the magazine, the BBC produced a commemorative book. More here.

Exhibition catalogue from the V&A’s The Art of the Radio Times 1981. Cover illustration by Eric Fraser

Line drawings by Edward Ardizzone and James Boswell from mid 20th century editions

Part of the RT’s clean, distinctive look was down to its use of the bold sans-serif typeface Franklin Gothic for its main headlines and listings page programme titles. The magazine would have been a familiar ‘old friend’ to millions of readers – not just for its use of pictures but for its quiet typography which readers would only have been aware of on a subliminal level. For more on the Franklin Gothic font, take a look at my post on its use as the headline face in Architect’s Journal, Time Out and Campaign magazines here.

The TV programme times and titles were set in Franklin Gothic Heavy – a typeface that would have become a familiar but nameless friend to millions of Radio Times‘ readers


Stuffed in amongst my Radio Times covers I found four old adverts for Robinson’s Lemon Barley Water. I think they may have been Radio Times centre spreads, saved at the same time that I collected the covers. Each advert is a series of puzzles beautifully illustrated by Tony Meeuwissen and designed to keep the cold or flu sufferer occupied while they were convalescing in bed. I have no idea who the designer or advertising agency was but I believe that the typeface is ITC Bookman used with the popular ‘close-but-not-touching’ letter spacing of the day. Its a shame that they don’t make print ads like this any more!

Tony Meeuwissen was a popular choice with David Driver for Radio Times covers and a couple of Meeuwissen’s RT covers are pictured below together with some familiar book jackets and other illustrations.

Above: Meeuwissen’s Robinson’s Barley Water adverts from the late 1970s

Above: Three Meeuwissen book jackets that will be familiar to many older graphic designers


David Driver’s first Radio Times Christmas special cover illustrated by Meeuwissen in 1969 and his 1981 Christmas Cover

Tony Meeuwissen is still beavering away today and can be contacted through Folio Art Illustration Agency.




Notebook: 13 December 2018 | ILLUSTRATION

We are creatures of habit. Our routines give our lives order and help keep us sane in this mad world. My mother Nesta always had coffee at 11 and dinner on the table by 1pm and everyday she would make dad a bowl of Bird’s custard to have with his pudding. Mum made her custard with a large spoonful of syrup: this was a hangover from the war when sugar was rationed – but it made the best custard ever and dad and myself would fight over who could scrape out the bowl.

In about 2009 my niece, and Nesta’s granddaughter, Bridie Cheeseman, captured Nesta preparing her dinner, in a series of delicate paintings as part of a school art project. They are reproduced below.

Bridie now works as an illustrator and you can see more of her work at and on my blog.

In memory of my mother Nesta. 19.12.1923 – 13.12.2014

A History of Fish in the Home

Notebook: 4 November 2017 | ILLUSTRATION

I like fish. I like the way they look, I like the way they move and I like to eat them.

Nigel Bents likes fish too. He’s an artist and in 1982 he produced a lithograph entitled A History of Fish in the Home. His print is a ‘montage’ of collected 1950s images of fish from old magazines, books, other printed ephemera and ceramics. I loved his print (pictured below), bought a copy from him and it has hung on our kitchen wall for the last 35 years or so.

Nigel described the background and inspiration for his artwork and his continuing love for fishy things:

I love fish and I loved 1950’s homes, hence the 1951 Antelope Ernest Race chairs abounding in the print. I was in my mid twenties, doing a postgraduate fine art printmaking course at Central School of Art; I spent two happy years doing 8-colour offset lithographs, gradually building up the colours from lighter to darker. I got the images from design annuals, old mags, comics, MAD books and my own fish ceramic bits and bobs; the top half of the image is the dining room, the bottom the kitchen. I would photocopy all the images down to a similar size and then trace off the images onto kodatrace or tracing paper stencils, which were then exposed onto photo-sensitive litho plates. The lower image of Esther Williams, and the aproned figure drawn by another student at Central, Herbert Maly, are the only two adults in the image. I always liked the ‘hollywood happy couple’ images I grew up with. At the time I would have been obsessed with Doris Day, and frequented 50s clubs at the time to look for someone who looked like her.

I collected 50s stuff incessantly in those days. It’s so much easier – and cleaner – nowadays online. We spent years piecing together how it all linked together. Hindsight and the internet have made it much more simple now; you can be an expert without being obsessive. But I still love it all. Fish, the 1950s and Print.

Fish are just great. I love a kipper for breakfast and had skate and chips yesterday on the seafront at Shoreham. Best fish meals would be the ones in the Cap Mesquida restaurant in Menorca two years ago and my most memorable fish would be plaice in breadcrumbs with chips in D & H Evans with my mum and sister in the early 60s.

Nigel Bents is represented by the Peter Harrington Gallery in London and you can see more of Nigel’s work on their website. Nigel currently works as a senior lecturer running the first year of the BA Graphic Design at Chelsea College of Art & Design.

We have a collection of fishy items dotted around our house in Norfolk including a splendid fish weathervane created by my brother-in-law Robin Cheeseman. A small selection are shown below.

‘The Visual History of Type’ reviewed

Notebook: 2 October 2017 | BOOK REVIEW | TYPOGRAPHY

The Visual History of Type by Paul McNeil. Published by Laurence King 2017

Wow! What a fantastic book this is. The legendary Dutch designer and typographer Wim Crouwel has described it as, ‘amazing, overwhelming, stunning’ and ‘wonderful’ and he’s not wrong. It is an essential record of every major typeface created since the development of printing with moveable type in the 1450s and it is well designed, easy to navigate and beautiful to look at. I couldn’t put it down.

As a graphic design student in the late 1970s, my knowledge and understanding of type was built on what I gleaned from the Letraset catalogue, fusty old art college library books (apart from Sutton and Bertram’s rather good Atlas of Typeforms first published in 1968) and what I saw around me in print. These days, students can raid the internet for information but they will still welcome Paul McNeil’s book, which I’m sure will become the definitive reference guide for students, professionals and anyone else with an interest in type.

Rather than organise the typefaces into categories they have been arranged chronologically which puts them into their historical context and makes it much easier to follow how the design of type has developed. Each typeface is given a spread and a date top right reminds the reader of where they are in time. (In my head I’d always pictured Claude Garamond in a curly powdered wig and thought of his type as being a product of the 18th century but I was reminded that he cut his elegant Roman typeface 250 years earlier in about 1538!) Key information such as type style, designer, year of creation, foundry, country of origin and typefaces with similar characteristics, are all presented in a side panel together with four or so paragraphs of text explaining the history and development. Each spread is illustrated with the foundries’ or printers’ original type specimens – which are often beautiful artefacts in their own right such as the wonderful example shown below from c1585 which displays a typeface crafted by Hendrik van den Keere, a Flemish punch cutter who worked alongside Christophe Plantin. (Note the large x-height and sharp contrasting strokes, which are almost a taster of designs that were to follow over 200 years later with faces such as Fry’s Baskerville or Scotch Roman.)

Van Den Keere’s Roman c1570

Early chapters follow the development of book faces – there’s Gutenberg’s Bastarda (1455) designed to look like German blackletter scripts and Jenson (1470), the first of the Roman types that followed the style of Italian manuscripts. It was interesting to discover that when the Protestant Reformation swept across Germany in the 1500s, Protestant propaganda was deliberately printed using Fraktur – a blackletter type, whereas Catholic views were printed in Latin in Roman types – this must be one of the earliest examples of type design being used to help sell a message.

Caslon c1725

Fast forward to the 1800s and the book looks at the explosion in the use of display types designed to be used as headlines in big sizes on posters and advertising. There’s Thorne’s Fat Face (1806), Thorowgood’s Egyptian (1821) and Figgin’s Sans Serif (1832: the very first sans available in caps only) plus the quirky Italian (1821) and French Antique (1862) – some of the first display types to defy convention by making the thin strokes fat and the fat strokes thin*.

Italian 1821

In the same year that Vincent Figgins released his sans serif, William Thorowgood produced his own version – a condensed sans with lower case drawn in one size only. It was called Thorowgood’s Grotesque (1832), with the word ‘grotesque’ probably used to describe the boldness and perceived ugliness that some viewed it with.

Thorowgood’s Grotesque 1832

The German type foundries picked up the sans serif baton with the introduction of Breite Grotesk (1890) and Aksidenz Grotesk (1898) which came in a full range of weights and styles. In the USA Morris Fuller Benton developed a number of different sans serif types including good old Franklin Gothic in 1904 (which continues to be a bestseller today and has been a familiar part of my own life having grown up with The Radio Times, Time Out and Campaign magazines – all of which have made use of this enduring typeface – more here).

Franklin Gothic 1904

McNeil’s book is stuffed full of visual and historical goodies and looking through the 1900-1950s chapter I am reminded of the huge number of geometric sans serif faces that were produced in the first half of the 20th century and that captured this Modern age – Erbar Grotesk (1922), Futura (1927), Kabel (1927), Nobel (1929) and the lesser known Metro (1930) designed by William Dwiggins for Linotype in the USA. Metro‘s capital letters follow the fashion of the hard geometric sans but the lower case have a warmer and more human character that give a nod towards the ‘humanist’ sans that would make their appearance in the latter half of the 20th century such as Syntax (1969) and Frutiger (1976).

Metro 1930

(It would be fascinating to chart the development of the sans serif style by plotting an axis with ‘Geometric’ sans serifs at one end, ‘Humanist’ sans at the other and everything in between depending on their characteristics. So Futura and co. would go on one end, Frutiger at the other and then the likes of Metro, Gill, Avenir, Gotham and LL Brown dropped somewhere in the middle. If you then add in the ‘Humanist’ sans serifs on another axis you’d end up with a fascinating diagram – in fact I’m sure someone must have done this exercise already!).

I have a favourite chapter: 1950-1980. Here are the typefaces of my youth. Many of these faces have long since disappeared from use (phew…) as they literally followed the fashions of the day – there is Artone (1968) with its huge bell-bottomed serifs and the space age Data 70 (Letraset 1970).

Artone 1968

Letraset’s Data 70

I was disappointed, or maybe not, that the swirling 60s Art Nouveau revivalist typefaces Arnold Bocklin and Davida are not featured in the book! A couple of beauties from the 1960s that capture that swinging, optimistic Mad Men moment are the Italian designed Eurostyle (1962) and Olivetti’s Quadrato (1963) designed for their Valentine typewriter – a funky, lightweight, portable, personal accessory – the laptop of its day. Quadrato had a radical, squarer and more expanded letterform compared to traditional typewriter faces. Another 60s classic that originated in Italy was Forma. It was designed by Aldo Novarise in 1968 and was a beautiful variant of Helvetica but with a larger x-height and a warmer feel. It has enjoyed a recent revival in the Asian Tatler magazine.

Eurostyle 1962

Forma 1968

The New York based International Typeface Corporation (ITC) and their designers Herb Lublin, Ed Benguiat, Tony Stan and others, had a huge influence on graphic design in the 1970s and the book displays delicious type specimens from ITC’s U&lc magazine – there’s Avant Garde (1970), American Typewriter and Lublin Graph (1974), ITC Garamond (1975), ITC Eras (1976) (pictured below) and Benguiat Gothic (1979). Their photoset type allowed designers to have individual letters set very closely together and with tight leading and this became the fashion for headlines in magazines and print advertising.

ITC Eras 1976

Some of these 1970s typefaces, we loved to hate, but there’s no denying the mark that they made. One that has been much derided (but is absent from McNeil’s book) was the hugely popular Souvenir which was originally cut in 1914 but redesigned by Ed Benguiat and re-issued by ITC in 1971. (I remember a typography tutor at college trying to persuade me to use it for a project. I wisely opted for Gill Sans instead.)

Come the late 1980s and we’d thrown out our sheets of Letraset and photosetting was on the wane as desktop publishing raced in. Now we had digital typefaces designed specifically for use on the Apple Mac and many classic faces were digitised for use with the new technology. Font Bureau was one of the new digital type foundries that had sprung up and their type specimens, reproduced in the book, are some of the most attractive such as Belizio (1989) a Clarendon style slab serif (pictured below), and Miller (1997) a re-working of Scotch Roman (1812) that has since become a very popular newspaper font.

Belizio 1989

Until I read the book I hadn’t clocked that a large number of very attractive digital-age, serif ‘book’ faces have originated in the Netherlands and their finely crafted type specimens are a delight to pore over: FF Scala (1991), Collis and DTL Documenta (1993), Capitolium (1998) and Dolly (2001).

Scala 1991

Capitolium 1998

Other choice typefaces and spreads from this period are:

Paul Ellian’s Found Fount (1989) based on his collection of discarded objects found in the street

Suburban (1993), one of my favourite typefaces from Rudy Vanderlans and Zuzanna Licko. The Emigre foundry produced many innovative faces that fully embraced the new Macintosh technology. (Read more about the recent Emigre exhibition at the University of Reading here)

Farao (1998), a quirky Clarendon type slab serif from the Storm Type Foundry in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic appears to have a tradition of intriguing and slightly odd type design and in the book you will find, for instance, Pressing Antiqua (1925), Tyfa (1960), and Storm Type’s Serapion (1998)

Paul McNeil’s final chapter 2000- brings us bang up-to-date with key typefaces from the new millennium – web fonts, re-cuts of old classics and new designs created for specific magazines and newspapers that have quickly become established classics in their own right and adopted by all (Gotham for GQ, Archer for Martha Stewart’s Living and Guardian Egyptian).

Archer 2003

Designers continue to develop the sans serif form in various ways. The powerful NB Grotesk (2008) from the Neubau design collective in Germany has been designed systematically, using an algorithmic process which gives it a raw strength combined with a slightly naive characteristic. LL Brown (2011) is a monoline geometric Swiss face very much in the style of Futura but with delicate tweaks here and there that inject it with a friendly warmth.

NB Grotesk 2008

LL Brown 2011

Other new sans serif faces carefully mix in slightly jarring characters that give the face an edginess – such as the squared off strokes in Euclid Flex (2012), the introduction of the odd archaic letterform in Doctrine (2013) or KLF Kade (2011), an innovative sans based on the lettering found on old Dutch sailing craft.

Doctrine 2013

KLF Kade 2011

The book runs to over 650 pages with 350 illustrations and it took Paul McNeil over seven years to complete. McNeil is a typographer and graphic designer and he works in partnership with Hamish Muir (formerly co-founder of 8vo) as MuirMcNeil. He also teaches as a Senior Lecturer in Typography at the London College of Communication and while working with students on a daily basis, he became increasingly aware of their comparative lack of knowledge of the history of type and this, together with the absence of any definitive publication on type history, prompted McNeil to research and write the book. The result is wonderful and if you love typefaces, you’ll love this book. If you know little about them but need to know more, then this is the book to invest in. It’s designed as a reference book to dip in and out of. I dipped in but I couldn’t put it down, read it from cover to cover and re-surfaced late in the day, wiser and inspired by the creative brilliance of the contents.

Further reading

An interview by FormFiftyFive with Paul McNeil

An article about Paul McNeil and Hamish Muir in Eye magazine no. 84. MuirMcNeil created the 8,000 different covers for the latest issue.

*Reverse contrast typefaces

As an aside, it is interesting to track, via the book, the development of those quirky typefaces that have a deliberate weird looking imbalance due to their horizontal strokes being thicker than the vertical strokes – the so called ‘reverse-contrast’ typefaces. So we can start with the display faces mentioned above – Italian and French Antique and then in 1890 we have the first(?) text face – Blackfriars Roman – that takes this path. In the 1960s there is Antique Olive and in 1973, the wacky display face Sintex. FF Balance in 1993 has echoes of Antique Olive, and Elephant from 1995 is full of clunky but charming irregularities. Typefaces with a horizontal stress are oddities and there are too many for Paul McNeil to cover in his book – others not mentioned include a jolly script  Crayonette from 1906, Signo  a contemporary sans from 2014 and Nordvesta recently released reverse-contrast serif in a range of weights from the Monokrom foundry in Norway.

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 the 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 scarifying/mowing/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