Interview #24

An Anorak for Children’s Magazines

Cathy Olmedillas

Written by RMM
All images courtesy of The Anorak Press

For many of us, magazines and books were the beginnings of very imaginative childhoods. How many of us found ourselves amongst dinosaurs, fantastical creatures, or in outer space as part of our afternoon adventures? The material we loved back then was loud, sometimes cheeky, but always full of inspiration.

Founder and creative director of Anorak - Cathy Olmedillas

It’s not a stretch to say that Anorak is just that. Beyond its wonderful design, Anorak really gets to a child’s mind. Founded in 2006, Anorak is a “Happy Mag for Kids” aged 6 and up. Tired of all the hyper-merchandised glossies and cartoon spin-off publications that saturated kids’ shelves, founder and creative director Cathy Olmedillas decided to launch a new magazine reminiscent of the content-filled publications of her youth. Her desire to produce something that children would treasure and not throw away easily grew stronger yet as she became a mum. Cathy kickstarted a quarterly magazine for curious kids — no surprises then that it was named ‘Anorak’, a term to describe nerds in the UK!

Ten years later, not only is Anorak now carried in kids boutiques, museum shops, and newsstands worldwide, it has further evolved into a full-fledged publishing house. Cathy’s insatiable appetite for making magazines has also led her to create DOT, a magazine just for preschoolers. “I had an idea to start a teen magazine,” Cathy revealed, “but so many young parents were asking for a younger version of Anorak… It’s been a great success so far and a lot of fun to produce, so I’m grateful to all the parents who pushed us in that direction!”

RMM speaks with Cathy to find out more about what it’s like to publish for kids.

RMM: Hello Cathy, could you describe what you do at Anorak and DOT as though you were speaking to one of your readers?

Cathy: Hello. I am Cathy, the founder of The Anorak Press, publisher of children’s magazines Anorak and DOT, and owner of Studio Anorak, a content studio. I am responsible for all creative output as well as making cups of tea, and running the business too!

DOT magazine - for ages 5 and below!

RMM: What is the style and vision of Anorak and DOT?

Cathy: The vision is the same for both — to tap into kids’ natural curiosity and encourage them to use their creativity, away from a screen. Both of them have fun in their DNA and are 100% illustrated. Visually, Anorak is all about a surprise on every page and slightly anarchic in its style. I love pushing boundaries with Anorak, we think it ultimately benefits children to be inspired by many different types of styles. DOT, being for younger children, is more cohesive and focuses primarily on one character and his universe. It is more simple in its style but that doesn’t mean it’s easier to do!

RMM: What are the challenges of working on children’s magazines?

Cathy: It’s all pretty fun, I must say! At the beginning, the major challenge was to educate people and suppliers that a quality and unisex magazine for children without any toys on the cover could not only exist but also thrive. Our challenge now is to find great overseas partners to help us grow on the ground, and be able to finance more fun projects!

A spread from Anorak Issue 43

RMM: How do you find and choose illustrators for each issue?

Cathy: It is a very subjective process which I always find hard to put into words, as it is quite instinctive and ultimately down to my tastes! I am a huge fan of illustration and tend to prefer work that is fun, slightly bonkers and full of personality. If I have some time to procrastinate (not very often!), I will go on ‘Instagram adventures’ and find illustrators that way.

RMM: What’s the best or most interesting thing about working with children?

Cathy: Childhood is such a precious time because you live in a constant world of wonderment, imagination and fun! It’s just magical and I feel lucky that I am allowed to travel to that world every time we put an issue together.

RMM: What are you most excited about working on next?

Cathy: I am massively excited to be working with Hull, which is the UK City of Culture. They have commissioned us to create four magazines celebrating the city’s history and cultural heritage, and it’s given to 64,000 schoolchildren. We’ve done two editions and we are starting Volume 3, can’t wait to see it all coming together.

RMM: What book should every child read?

Cathy: Any books by Roald Dahl for older kids and any books by Dr Seuss for the younger ones.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)

*Anorak can be read and purchased in the Pop-up Book Store at PMQ Picture Book Adventures 」(28.7.2017 -13.8.2017)

**More details about 'Picture Book Adventures' Exhibition and Programmes: http://www.pmq.org.hk/event/picture-book-adventures/