"An Extraordinary Collision Between P.G. Wodehouse and Spinal Tap"

NEWCOWLESSIGNER.jpgBy Andy Cowles
andycowles.com

This is my last post of the week; it's been great fun and I hope you've enjoyed it, so if you'll indulge me, here's a story about some of my own Back Pages.

In the late 80's and early 90's Q Magazine was the biggest music magazine in the UK. It's success led directly to the launch of Mojo, still going strong, but Q is now sadly a shadow of its' former self. It fell victim to changing habits as well a lack of focus on the reader and their aspirations.

But at launch, if tone is everything, then Q Magazine had it all. Created to give the regular Englishman an alternative to the tribal rock press of the day, it became a publishing phenomenon within its first year. Bitingly funny, beautifully written and with a presentation to match, the brand gave English readers in particular a sense of identity that few contemporary music magazines have equaled. It won innumerable awards, sold by the bucketload and made the careers of many of its contributors.

I drew the Q, designed the first 29 issues, and over the next 10 years designed 30-odd more covers along with several major redesigns.


Q-launch-ad.pngThis is the launch marketing campaign. Well, less of a campaign and more of a bunch of logos plastered over U2′s The Edge.

Q-live-issue.pngQ usually shot their subjects, so this was not a typical issue, relying as it does on found imagery and a big fat homage to Russian constructivism.

Q-paul-weller.pngThis was more usual, lots of access, lots of eye contact and lots of tone. "Suck on this, son."

Q-new-q-gothic.pngNew Q Gothic, drawn by me for the exclusive use of the brand. This font replaced Grotesque No.9 sometime around Q80.

Q-who-the-hell.pngThe irreplaceable writer Tom Hibbert was the extraordinary talent behind Who The Hell, Q's first and best franchise.

Q-spines.pngThe spine was a vital part of the design. Exploiting a certain stamp collector mentality to make readers fret about missing an issue.

Q-early-names.pngThese are early ideas for the name and front cover. The final choice, devised by editorial director David Hepworth and launch editor Mark Ellen, is a derivative of "Cue," as in "Cue the music." But they wisely avoided any Smashie & Nicey comparisons by just going for the single letter. Which doesn't exist in the typographic form of the logo anywhere else that I know of, given that serif letters never allow the tail of the Q inside the counter.

Q-editorial-team.pngThe original editorial team. From left to right: Andy Gill, Paul Du Noyer, Adrian Deevoy, Robyn Doreian, Mark Ellen, me, the late, great John Bauldie, Nikki Whenham and Clare Kendal. Many of whom are wearing wigs.

Mark Ellen's brilliant new book detailing the story of Q, along with Mojo, NME and the rest of the UK rock press is out now. Get your copy of Rock Stars Stole My Life here!

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