Anyone who has spent any time at all looking at a news stand in the past few years will have been unable to miss the sight of magazines published by The Church of London.
Little White Lies (hereafter abbreviated to LWL), a film magazine which is in a league of its own and Huck, a magazine about many different things but with an origin rooted in surf and skate culture are the two publications that have been created, nurtured and grown within the Church of London fold.
However, as both magazines are moving into their eighth year of publication, creative directors Rob Longworth and Paul Willoughby are moving away from the publishing arm of the company that they started with Danny Miller and are beginning to explore new territories under the name Hüman After All.
“I met Danny Miller, who is the CEO here now, at university. We shared a passion for magazines and he also had a passion for film. His final year project was LWL. We produced issue zero of LWL as his final year project,” Longworth says over a very jittery Skype connection. “We both liked a magazine called Adrenalin which was a skate and snowboard magazine. We were both fortunate to get internships there which was a dream come true for us and then after that we were both fortunate to get jobs there. That was an amazing starting path for our careers. We learnt a great deal about magazines and how to design magazines there.”
Adrenalin was sold to a new publisher in 2005 and shortly afterwards (three issues in), the publisher decided to retire the brand and Miller and Longworth were without a magazine again.
“As we were putting together the last issue of Adrenalin, we began to put together the first issue proper of LWL. Along the way of Adrenalin, we met Paul Willoughby and one of Danny’s good friends Matt who is a writer and edited LWL from the get go,” he explains. “We just all got together and wanted to make things happen. We didn’t have a great deal of money but we did have ideas and youth and we just made issue one happen. We were petrified and didn’t know what we were doing but we just wanted to make it happen.”
That spirit continued for quite some time and with a significantly augmented reputation for good work than they did when they started the publishing company soon after graduating, the core group of friends behind LWL and Huck keeps a certain amount of the ‘make it happen’ attitude.
“They just grew and grew and they reached a lot of people and introduced us to a lot of people. And from that, a whole host of other contract publishing work came our way and design work came our way. It just grew and grew and grew. The Church of London, just before we separated at the start of this year, had 30 of us and we had grown from a few people sitting around the kitchen table making something for nothing,” Longworth continues. “Soon it became all these people in a room with big turnovers and a company and these magazines in the middle of it all. That was really exciting but we kind of decided that the publishing company needed its own space and the design company needed its own space. That’s why at the start of the year we became Hüman After All and decided to focus our attention on some of the ideas we’ve had floating around our heads while we’ve been focussed on Huck and Little White Lies for the last five years.”
The Church of London continues to exist as a brand keeping the majority of the publishing work which it built over the years but is a separate company from Hüman After All which is more of a creative agency in development.
Of course, Longworth and his colleagues at Hüman After All are not diving into the project blindly. He says that it took a good amount of deliberation and turning over in their heads before they decided that the separate arms of the company needed to have their own space.
“The idea of stepping away form them is something we thought about long and hard but I guess in everything there’s a right time to move on and pass the baton. There’s no doubt that whoever does those things next will make them just as beautiful if not more beautiful and will give them as much care and attention as we did,” he says clearing up the questions about the nature of the new companies. “We did 85 issues of the two magazines put together over the past 8 years. That’s a lot of work. The beauty of magazines is that you’ve got all these white pages and you have to fill them with content each month and that’s a great thing. We wanted to give ourselves the option of exploring things outside of Huck and LWL.“
Despite leaving the publishing project which they started as a group to blossom under the care of new hands, Willoughby and Longworth still plan to allow themselves to love magazines. That’s naturally going to produce projects like Think Quarterly – the publication that The Church of London produced for Google.
Asked what it is that he loves about the idea of creating magazines, Longworth delivers a response very much in line with the story of how they originally began working as a group:
“I think it’s the way that when you create magazines – and magazines are almost exceptional in this way – you’re putting yourself in the position where you’re bringing together a great number of people. So if you’re design agency and you’re making a piece of branding it’s more often than not the case that a group of designers in that building will sit around a table, go through references and make it happen,” he says. “But with magazines you’re bringing together from all walks of life and from all around the world: writers, illustrators, photographers, typographers and it just gives you the ability to work with such a broad range of people. The beauty of your own mag is that you can do exactly with it what you please. You don’t have to go to anyone and tell them what you’d like to do. We were always just in a position where we could make it happen. We decided that we wanted to make Huck and LWL more than just magazines – they became brands. The magazine gives you the option to communicate and work with so many people. It’s almost alone in that way.”
Hüman After All plans to create projects of its own in tandem with doing client work in the same way that it has in previous configurations of the company.
However, as the question of ‘is print dead?’ matures (and becomes more annoying and ignorant by the moment), Longworth interjects with an interesting observation.
“We still think this company has a place for a magazine: whether it’s a bi-monthly, or a regular or whatever it is. Print is always something that’s been special to us and close to our heart. I have no doubt that it will remain special to us but it will have to make sense in a digital world,” he says. “We went to SxSW earlier this year and when we arrived we were given a 200 page catalogue and on the front page it said to download an app and get all the information. That was just a waste of time and resources. The app was doing the same thing but ten times better. Print absolutely has a place but it has to be carefully considered. That’s what we want to do with our next print product: we want to carefully consider what it’s going to do and why it’s needed and more importantly, why it’s needed in print.”
Before doing anything else though, Longford and Willoughby knew that they wanted to put down in print all of the things they had learnt making magazines over the past decade.
Earlier this month, they launched a Kickstarter project entitled Curious Iconic Craft – a book about magazine design.
“We floated the idea internally of doing a monograph book. One thing we didn’t want to do was just showcase the best bits from the last five, six or seven years. We felt that in the magazines that we made, we wanted to make things special. You could see all the best bits if you collected your magazines and just looked at them. We wanted to do something more about the bits people hadn’t seen before, the bits that had been remained or the design work that’s gone into both,” he says of the project which reached its funding goal of £13k. “We’ll talk about grids and techniques that we’ve adopted into our design. It could be anything from print colour profiles to anything that we’ve learnt along the way. It’s a coming together from the last eight years of issues of both those mags.”
Unlike other Kickstarter projects, Curious Iconic Craft is already in production and the team behind it are applying their signature quality of trade to the project.
And so, on June 30 2013, Rob Longworth and Paul Willoughby will send their book to the printers and be done with their time at The Church of London.
Of course, there will be a certain sadness in not seeing their names in the mastheads of LWL and Huck but we still have many, many years of their creativity being shared with the world in new ways and on new projects to look forward to as they set out on their Hüman After All journey.