These days, Catalogue is a high-flying New York studio previously handling the design direction of not one, but two revered international fashion mags—POP, and Arena Homme+. Alongside commercial design, Catalogue is also a small press publishing house, producing artist books and personal projects with a beautifully lo-fi aesthetic.
Rewind six years and Ollie Shaw and Tom Pratt were hanging out in Leeds (a northern British town that will be alien to most of our U.S. audience) just a few years out of education, learning the ropes of the design industry, and trying to get noticed. Like most young designers, they were saying yes to every offer of work, including one, Ollie tells us, that would change the way they did business for good.
“Back in 2011 we were approached by our friend Jay Cover of Nous Vous collective, with whom we were sharing a studio in Leeds at the time, to participate in his applied arts fair LOOP. Having never done anything like this before, we enthusiastically accepted. Around three days before it launched, we had yet to think of an idea—after racking our brains for a little while we came up with the optimistic solution of buying a laser printer, making 50 zines in a couple of days, and printing them live and on-demand. We wrote 50 titles on a sheet of paper and starting making zines, elaborating on the title we proposed; Tattoos = Shit Tattoos.
“We were always fans of zines, and thought that a zine should be a quick representation of a subject or idea, and that this project should embody this theory. We designed each cover specifically and found every image online.
“After the fair we stuck the zines online to sell—2,500 in total. We had no fucking idea if any would sell. A month or so later we were approached by Alexander Lis to participate in the self-publishing fair Dead Or Alive and, once again, enthusiastically accepted. We flew to Frankfurt, did the fair, made some more zines, and people got interested. Catalogue Library was born out of that, to publish work we like, with and for people we like, alongside our commercial practise.
“Since then we’ve taken part in over 30 solo and group exhibitions across the UK, Europe, and the U.S., working with and including organisations like Printed Matter Inc., Libros Mutantes and Offprint. We have published 130 different titles of ours and our friends’ and colleagues’ work, and seven magazines distributed across the UK, Europe, the U.S., South America, and Asia.
“We, by our own admission, fell into self publishing at the same time we fell in love with it and the community that surrounds it. As a project the LOOP Zines just seemed like a quick and easy way to get involved with the fair, but they quickly flourished into something that would change our business, the way we were perceived, and our reach in terms of the content we were pushing. It made us invaluable new friends and relationships, and it’s pushed us to be increasingly proactive in what we do.
“We really had no fucking idea what we were doing back then—we still don’t completely, but we’re putting things out we believe are fun and hopefully beautiful, the same way we did right at the start. All these years later, we’ve sold out of two titles of the initial LOOP Zines series. In that time we’ve moved from Leeds to New York, and achieved everything I mentioned above. People are still interested, which means we keep going. Next stop, the LA Art Book Fair. We should know what we’re doing by then.”