Monday, 13 December 2010

Food is Fun!

Food is Fun! Yes it is, and even more fun now there is the 164 page foodie book for kids.
Written by Cathy Olmedillas, designed and illustrated by myself, it's a thing of beauty – even if I do say so myself. Printed in two colours (Pantone 021 and Pantone Process Blue for those of you who care about these things) with a sprinkling of overprinting throughout to get a third colour. it's the biggest publication I have produced to date.

It's a brilliant Christmas present and can be bought from direct from Anorak here for £15 including postage (for UK & Europe, 50% off for everyone else!)

I've made the video above to show how lovely it is. I also made the music.
Rolf Harris is worried. I'm worried to.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Merry Christmas...

Monday, 29 November 2010

John Sewell

I don't know much about John Sewell, I know that he designed covers for Penguin and Calder & Boyars in the 60s and 70s. I know that he liked stars, dots and tearing paper. But that is about it.

I bought The Clown by Heinrich Boll a few years ago (which is a great book by the way) and I've always loved the cover. There is something odd about it, it feels crude but knowing, and there is something troubling about the repetition of the mouth instead of eyes. I also love the use of colour.

A few years later I was in my local bookshop – where I spend quite a lot of time – and I saw a Terry Southern book. The cover style was immediately recognisable to me, although I wasn't sure where from.  Sure enough when I got it home and compared it to The Clown, it was the same designer.

The Terry Southern cover is even more playful and crude than The Clown. The use of the design brief on the cover might have been a first – it reminds me of Hipgnosis' treatment of XTC's Go 2 but that was designed in 1978, 12 years after this. What I really enjoy is the feeling that this is making fun of the brief. The fact that they ask the designer to 'Emphasize author' and John Sewell has approached this by putting Terry's name on there four times and the initials T S crudely and boldly placed smack in the centre.

There is something about Sewell's style that is instantly recognisable – in these later examples at least, covers for books like Stan Barstow's A Kind of Loving are much more generic – and surely that is what most designers struggle for. There is a sense of playfulness about them and a joyful careless quality. You can sense the designers hand. I like that fact that his best covers are treated as pure compositions. On the Writing Today designs each cover is a wonderfully playful composition with the Penguin logo treated as a tool to balance the layout and because of this is is placed anywhere and on any angle that is required for it to work. He seems to work best when there isn't any constraints. The covers he designed using the standard Penguin paperback layout look like they are straining to break free of the rules placed up them.

If I had never bought The Clown I would have more than likely never heard of John Sewell and I think that would have been a great shame. I don't think that the covers he designed could have been produced by anybody else and without knowing anything about the man, I get a sense of someone who had a carefree sense of humour and wasn't afraid to experiment or ignore rules and for that I am grateful.


You can see John Sewell's designs for Penguin HERE

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Anorak 17

Anorak 17 is out! It's theme is books. As part of the feature myself and Cathy got to go to the British Library and see some really lovely old books including the Caxton second edition of the Canturbury Tales from 1483, it was pretty amazing.

You can get an Anorak subscription for only £13 a year here
A perfect gift for children this christmas!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

(Not So) Perfect Print

Let's face it, perfection is boring. There's something much more interesting in a slightly imperfect face than one that is scientifically beautiful, of course it is a nice thing to look at, but for only a while, soon the very thing that makes it beautiful also makes it boring, there are no surprises, no uniqueness or character. So it is with print. I have noticed over the past few years that the work I've had coming back from the printers has looked more and more like the artwork that I produced. Now, this is really what I should be hoping for but there's something of an anti climax when you open a package of your new bit of print and it look exactly like what you were expecting. There is a lack of process involved in modern print, with artwork going straight from computer to plate. The result of this is things are so crisp and perfect that they look cold and flat. There's little in the way of texture (unless you are printing on textured paper) and everything is ultra sharp. (I've scanned in an example of new print, but even the process of scanning has softened the modern print a little, but the differences to the print on the Penguin cover are very apparant)

When I first started working as a designer artworks went through a range of processes way before it got to the plate stage. Typesetting would be produced photographically, which immediately gave it a softness, logos may have been duplicated many times, so they also had a warmth about them that comes from repeated copies being made on a bromide camera, everything had a physicality about it. Then, once the artwork had been produced, the films had to be made. If colours were jutting up against each other, the film of the lighter colour was made slightly out of focus to give it some spread or choke to compensate for the imperfect printing press. This trapping would add another element to the final print – which was never really part of the design – that would give a screenprinted feel. The translucent nature of the inks was very apparent, the printing process was not hidden. Now things look very similar to what you see on screen. Even the halftone dot has become so small (or replaced completely by dithering) it's beauty is invisible to us.

Of course, you can't make printing unpredictable again. The majority of people using print will find the consistency a wondrous thing, and for designers it means the nerves before getting that print job back are not quite as bad as when things were a little bit more unpredictable. The thing is I don't think the end result always looks as good as it once did when things were much more analogue. The warmth and beautiful softness of paste-up artwork has been replaced with coldness and sharpness that lacks a certain humanity about it. Typefaces that were designed with ink spread in mind are now reproduced exactly as they are when viewed on the computer, and it doesn't really suit them. 

When I'm designing a logo or typeface, I often round off the corners slightly (see sample below), it's very subtle and most people will not notice, but the difference is the difference between old print and new, the difference between warm and cold and, given the choice, I'd go for warm every time.

Rob Lowe - 21st November 2010

Friday, 19 November 2010

Hand Lettering

I've been doing a LOT of hand lettering over the last few weeks, here is a sample of just a bit of it.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Not InHouse

I did little talk last week at BrandHouse which was fun.
They screenprinted a limited edition print, the proceeds of
selling it are going to Unicef. There are still some of the 50
left, if you want one email Keely ( )
More pictures here:

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Elephant Magazine

I have a ten page feature in issue 4 of Elephant magazine, which is published my Magma.
It looks wonderful, however, the interview is a bit weird, I think something must have got lost in the transcription of my Midlands accent as it doesn't sound like me at all, it kind of sounds like English isn't my first language, and the end of the interview is very weird. Anyway, that's probably vague enough to get you intrigued enough to go out and buy it!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Anorak 4

Issue 16 of Anorak is in the shops, it's ourt 4th Birthday issue and the theme is friendship.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

It's Nice That

So, I did a reading of my words, for the first ever time in public, at the It's Nice That launch of their fourth compendium. I was very, very nervous but it actually went well, people laughed in the right places and didn't laugh at the more serious ones. I'd actually go so far as to say I enjoyed it, and I really am not a fan of public speaker. The whole night was really great, with a hugely eclectic range of speakers talking about all kinds of things from balloon sculpture to a person try to make a toaster from scratch.

The new issue of It's Nice That is really great and you can buy a copy here:
Copies of my booklet of words "Extra Ordinary" can be bought from Present Joys here:

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Colour Seps

Thought this might be of some interest to some, maybe.
I draw all the colours for my prints separately on tracing paper,
none of this photoshop nonsense.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Horniman Museum

I Went to the Horniman Museum at the weekend and it is now my favourite London museum!
The Natural History exhibits are in a wonderfully dark room, all incased in dark wood, glass sided cases 
which suit perfectly the slightly creepy animals on display. Elsewhere there's an exhaustive selection of musical instruments, anthropological collections from around the world and even an aquarium!
Outside are some very nice gardens wander around and they had some music on at the bandstand when I was there (I didn't stay to listen, the description was: folk mixed with world music and electronica which screams FUSION. Shudder.) It's in South East London so now you have a reason to visit South East London.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Hand Painted Type

Spent the day painting this title for Fire & Knives...I put the comma in the wrong place!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

LA & Edinburgh

I have work in two shows, both opening tomorrow, one in LA and the other in Edinburgh.
Here are the details...

I found this animated gif I did a long time ago

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Lettera 25

Is it wrong to be more excited about the arrival of my Olivetti Lettera 25 typewriter than my new macbook pro?


Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Dead Can't Dance

I visited Highgate Cemetery at the weekend and not only was it a lovely quiet place, there were also some brilliant headstones. My favourite was the artist Patrick Caulfield's, very to the point.
Douglas Adam's grave has pens stuck into the earth left by fans, which is oddly touching and  Malcolm Maclaren's hand carved, Warner Brothersesque, headstone was also a fitting tribute.  
I recommend a visit!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Big Bad World

I'm working on some large paintings/drawings. Here's a little preview.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Anorak 15

Cover for Anorak 15, the birds issue, at last an excuse to put an owl on the cover!
Out next week...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Collective Edition

Collective Edition of Australia have just released some limited edition tee-shirts with one of my drawings on it. The print is huge on the tee and I'm very happy the way they have come out.

They are available from their website and are print in editions of 100 (hand numbered) 
so you'd better be quick if you want to get yourself one!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The Independent Review

Cover design for today's Independent on Sunday magazine. Includes an article on the rise of graphic art.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Fire & Knives 3

Just in the middle of designing issue 3 of the food magazine Fire & Knives. Here is the cover, the bunny looks pretty happy to be skinned!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

New Print Coming Soon