If you walk into a newsagent looking for a magazine for kids, you’ll be confronted by a score of plastic-wrappers and covers decorated with slick, bubblegum-colored illustrations. Things got better in 2006, when Anorak began challenging both the editorial and aesthetic approach of magazines for 6-12 year olds, filling its publication with more complex and, we think, more beautifully drawn illustrations to fire up young imaginations. Now this year, editor Cathy Olmedillas has decided to tackle the under-five’s market with a new publication called DOT. Instead of glittery, pink spreads for girls and blue for boys, she’s produced a magazine that isn’t visually proscriptive at all. “I do not believe culture should be polarized,” says Olmedillas, and so DOT encourages thinking outside of the box and challenging instead of abiding to the kid mag status quo.
Unlike its older sibling Anorak, which brings together a range of illustration styles, Olmedillas chose a single illustrator, Anna Dunn, to draw DOT in its entirety. “As it’s aimed at a younger audience and is focused on learning and thinking, I thought it would require more of a central character and aesthetic that would guide the reader through,” says Olmedillas. Guest illustrators do make occasional appearances though, as The Anorak Press believes that having a range of styles encourages children to experiment with their own creative output.
Each issue of DOT follows a genderless, round-faced character of the same name throughout its pages, as he/she pulls pens, rainbow paint, and ice-cream from beneath an ample bowl-cut. The central character and singular illustrative style gives DOT a storybook quality, but there are itty-bitty sections that retain a certain magazine-iness. This is important. Unlike a storybook, the layout encourages interaction and thought, and as with established magazines for adults, the pace combines smaller interactive bursts with longer, more immersive stories.
Dunn was the obvious choice of illustrator because of her use of bold, bright, and simple shapes, which Olmedillas found particularly “child-friendly.” And since color and shape are also the core components of drawing, a young toddler can use similar forms to create their own figures and depictions. Dunn has now illustrated all two issues of DOT, and the extensive task of drawing an entire magazine takes her roughly a month at a time.
When designing, Dunn is inspired by vintage children’s books and the effects of bygone printing processes. “I add the little imperfections that you don’t get with the amazing technology printers use today,” she tells me as she discusses the overlaid print effect of the spreads. “It was important to me that DOT felt warm and tactile rather than glossy and slick.” The rough-and-ready result also has a hand-made quality–it feels personal, and suggests that kids at home could make something similar themselves. Everything in DOT’s design and content encourages creation and invention—as Olmedillas says, “Following rules has never been our forte, we just do what we feel will inspire.”