We have worked with print designer Simon Loxley to produce Ultrabold magazine for the St Bride Library for many years. Here he explains what drew him to start the publication for ‘The world’s foremost printing and graphic arts library.’ Over to you Simon….
I first started visiting St Bride Library about ten years ago, when I was researching what was to become Type: the Secret History of Letters. I went to an AGM of the Friends of St Bride Library in 2005 when a big change in financial circumstances was afoot, with the Corporation of London withdrawing its funding for the Library. The Friends had been started in the 90s in response to an earlier crisis, really as a petition of support with a once-only subscription payment. With the switch to a yearly subscription, take-up from the existing database had been disappointing. ‘The problem is,’ Friends chairman Rob Banham told me, ‘that we have nothing really to offer as an incentive to join or stay.’ When I asked if they had ever thought of having a journal, his response was: ‘Sure, many times. But the problem is a) finance and b) time – we’re all sitting on about five committees each as it is. But if you’d like to find some sponsorship for the journal, and get it designed and edited, we’d be interested to see what you come up with.’
Having worked on loads of magazines in a design capacity in the past, maybe there was a part of me which fancied the idea of putting one together myself. I thought that with the Friends of St Bride Library's various conferences and lectures there could be a steady fund of material, if I could persuade speakers to donate their words and pictures. And a distribution system was already in place. But sponsorship to produce it?
Here I got lucky; I approached printers I’d used over the previous few years, offering advertising space and a front cover plug in exchange for printing what I hoped would be an attractive item that would reach a key audience. Principal Colour said yes. So the journal, soon to be christened Ultrabold, leaped dramatically from a dream to a live project.
I’m always amazed by the number of people working in the design business who have never been to St Bride Library, sometimes never even heard of it. It’s one of London’s hidden treasures that should be much less hidden. Ultrabold is part of that objective, a friendly face for the St Bride Library, wherever in the world you might be, echoing the tone of the excellent events programmes – there is room for both the scholarly and the frivolous, as long as it falls within the St Bride Library’s broad areas of interest: visual communication and the graphic arts.
It seems to be working. Membership is up – although new members are always very welcome – as is awareness of the journal. People even buy complete sets of back issues from the St Bride Library’s online shop. And Principal Colour are still supporting us and making Ultrabold a reality. We’ve recently produced issue 10, possibly my favourite so far. As well as the excellence of their printing, all the personnel at Principal Colour are unfailing enthusiastic in what they do, and good-humoured with it. And we still give them, as part of the original deal outlined by Richard McCombie, a ‘crate of Guinness’ – or something less full-bodied in summer.