What’s It All About, Alfie?

Martin Colyer, magazine designer.

I’ve worked in magazines since the days of hot metal for the likes of Radio Times, The Listener, The Observer, Reader’s Digest and The Sunday Times Magazine. I was taught about work and graphics by Dennis Bailey, Edward Wright, David Driver, John Tennant, Michael Rand, Shem Law, Nico Macdonald and Simon Esterson, among others. Great, great teachers, and hugely entertaining colleagues. But, as Tony Chambers – excellent editor of Wallpaper* and alumni of The Sunday Times Magazine art department – said to me one night recently, “We were just epigones…” and, really, it’s hard to disagree… I once wrote a book called Commissioning Illustration, and until last week, didn’t have a copy of it. I ordered one as I barely remembered the experience of writing it and thought I may have made it up. I hadn’t (although re-reading some of it, I wished I had) and, slightly mortifyingly, it cost one penny from Amazon (plus £2.60 p+p)…

This blog features some of the most arresting examples of working with illustrators and photographers from my career in magazine design (if I can find them in the loft). It will also feature related things that I’ve written about illustration for various magazines and annuals, including EyeImages and Varoom!

Listening to ex-jazz drummer Terry O’Neill, Charlotte Rampling photoshoot, Kings Road, London mid-’80s. Photograph by the charming Michael Ward, old-school smudger par excellence.

My blog about music can be found here…


And some musical adventures can be heard here…


Liner notes for the music and more projects are at…


Bon Chance! Martin.

A retrospectively imposed pay cut for our freelance designers led to the entire Observer art department downing tools. And then it led to us all walking out. And that led to us all going and getting other jobs… Shem had a great idea, to call around the illustrators that we had used and get them to do a leaving card for me. Here’s a selection that ran in Creative Review. I am obviously hugely proud to be an early version of The Gruffalo in Axel Sheffler’s frankly worrying drawing (FYI: our offices were opposite Battersea Park…)

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