By now, most people within BMX are familiar with The Albion. They either have one, have seen one or they’re fiending to get their hands on one. The quality of the content, combined with a strong and minimal layout makes for a great overall magazine.
…But how about the person in charge of making it look as good as it does? That person is Robert Loeber. He hails from the UK and you may already be familiar with some of his stuff.
I threw some questions his way about a few things, so click below to check it out.
For those who are not familiar with Robert Loeber, please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m just a guy keeping very busy. I’m a graphic designer, I like shooting photos, building websites, making typefaces, curating projects and eating burritos.
How’s London treating you?
It’s great! Summer’s just around the corner and I’m looking forward to the next few months. Coming from a pretty small town I love everything the city has to offer. You can never get bored, there’s always something new to see or some new spot to explore and everything’s pretty much available 24 hours a day. There’s a ton of good spots and another new skate park opening really close to my flat in the next few months.
Was there any one thing or inspiration that got you into design?
I don’t really have a specific moment. Design was something I kind of fell into by accident. I was really lucky to be taught by a great tutor at University and can safely say that without Paul Heys’ (dtam.co.uk) influence, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you now. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was just a creative guy with no creative direction.
Looking at your main page, I can only assume that you are into photography as well. True?
Completely! It’s always been an interest of mine. Whether it’s for work or fun, photography has always played a big part of my practice. For the past year now I’ve always carried a 35mm point and shoot with me. I just like to document what I’m doing.
For a long time this was simply a personal thing that eventually lead to some really nice opportunities. I was helping out my friend Ross Teperek (Almond Art Director) and Paul Robsion (WTP Team Manager) with some stuff for Almond. I was designing some of their t-shirts and building their site when the opportunity came up to shoot a look book for this site. At the start of the year I also had the pleasure of joining the crew in Tenerife.
Your site says you work at Urban Outfitters. What do you do?
I work full time doing graphic design for Urban Outfitters Europe. This mainly involves updating all the European websites’ graphics, generating seasonal campaigns, designing packaging, laying out adverts as well as a whole host of other web and print jobs. I also curate, produce and art direct a photo project in which I invite up-and-coming photographers to have their take on the brand. This week I finished a shoot with Lithuanian still life photographer Paul Herbst. It’s pretty wild. I can’t wait to see some of the reactions it gets when it goes online in a few weeks. I recently set up a Tumblr to archive all the images from this project. Check it out here – m-o-d-e-r-n-i-s-t.tumblr.com
How did you get involved in art directing The Albion?
It was an opportunity that Benson mentioned to me one day… I’d have been stupid not to say yes.
The mag has a great use of type, negative space and there’s nothing listed on the cover. Is there a non-BMX influence at hand?
From day one it was really clear with everyone involved that they wanted something totally different to your normal action sports publication. My main aim was to produce a sophisticated BMX publication that would interest and invigorate an older target market. With a publication leaning way more towards a lifestyle magazine, it was obvious that the design had to follow suit.
The two main points that popped up when we started working on the publications’ aesthetic was the use of large running imagery and a clean consistent layout throughout. I got the impression that all of the guys wanted to put some integrity back into BMX. When looking at stuff for reference, fashion and design magazines really know how to maximise the impact of great photography, balanced with the use typography. We were looking at a really eclectic bunch of publications, everything from Dazed & Confused, Lodown, Self Service, Monocle, Twin, Elephant, Grafik and ID as well as a whole lot of photography books.
Ross Teperek really helped out a lot with all the initial design concepts and went on to do a great job in branding the magazine. He created the bold logo type that you see on the cover and also created the set of Albion icons.
As far as the typography goes, I really wanted to use timeless, classic fonts. The body of the Albion is typeset in Plantin, a sefit typeface that has spanned the test of time. It’s actually what influenced the creation of Times New Roman. When it came to the titles, I wanted to get across the more grown up influences but still maintain my contemporary aesthetic. I decided to take another very well established typeface, Didot, and clean it up. I made it thinner to create a real contrast between the heavy stabs of the font and thinner elements. I also tweaked and re-designed some of the more circular letters to become more geometric.
From the first meeting with the team, it was clear we were all on the same wave length and really wanted it to be the best magazine possible. I was really adamant this meant print quality as well. Investing in good quality paper and inks has really paid off. That first issue turned heads just because of the fact it was printed on a very potent high quality recycled sustainable stock. I had so many people telling me how good it smelt, it was pretty wild. It was the little touches like this, coupled with a low print run that really set the magazine apart from the rest. I was treating it more like a book than a magazine and its funny the effect this has had. The fact that it’s a hot commodity makes it a real collectible.
As we didn’t have to fill every single cm of the page with content, I could spend the time working on really clean layouts that allowed the content to breathe. I’m a firm believer in ‘Less is more’!
In addition to the content, the design plays a big part in the Albion’s success as far as I’m concerned. How will the mag evolve visually? Do you see it staying pretty consistent, or will there be some opportunities to play with the layout?
To a certain extent I want to keep it pretty consist for the first six issues. So far we’ve made a few really small tweaks and changes to improve the experience for the reader but nothing that’s noticeable. I’m planning on having some fun over the next few issues typographically but in essence, the design will stay the same. There’s a reason it say’s ‘Volume One’ on the spine. By the end of that sixth issue we’re planning on changing things up again. Whether this is size, paper, colour, typography or format, only time will tell.
Judging by the first 2 covers, it looks like you guys aren’t limiting yourselves to just having “action/riding only” shots. I like that move. Is the final cover a group decision?
The beauty of starting an independent publication is that we don’t have to play by any rules. We have the freedom to do what ever we like. That’s why you don’t see a ‘banger’ and issue contents on the cover. The content reads more like a lifestyle publication so the covers should reflect that.
I’m sure you spend some time on the internet, what are some sites you check out daily?
I really like Partick O’Dell’s photo archive epiclylaterd.com. I recently discovered camerabag.tv which has some great video interviews with photographers such as Scott Pommier, Tim Barber and Magdalena Wosinska. I subscribe to a few shows on vbs.tv and on top of that, spend a lot of time on Flickr and Tumblr blogs.
If we were to look at your desk/workstation, what would we see?
An organized mess! It looks like total chaos but I know where everything is.
Any future projects or things keeping you busy that you’d care to mention?
I’ve been working on a project on and off for the past month or so but it’s no where near being finished. Hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you soon.
Thanks for your time Rob, anything you would like to add before we wrap this up?
Thanks for asking me to do this interview. Issue #3 of The Albion is out on August 1st.