Anorak and Dot changed the way we think about magazines for littles. Designed to last, they are things of beauty. Mama chatted to creator Cathy Olmedillas about the inspiration behind the publications
You’ve worked in publishing for your whole career. What is it about magazines that you love so much?
When I was a child I loved reading comics and pop music magazines. Before the internet came along, magazines were crucial as they were the only places you could read about fashion and music. So I guess they have been a constant throughout my whole life.
How did Anorak, and then DOT come into being?
I always wanted to launch my own magazine but the idea crystallised when I became a mum in 2002. I looked at the children’s magazine market and realised all titles were very homogenised and super commercial. I set about creating a magazine that was closer to the annuals I used to read as a child. That’s how Anorak was born. DOT came along seven years later, mostly motivated by the vast amount of parents asking me to launch a younger version of Anorak.
Were you inspired by any existing titles or books?
Yes, by vintage children’s books but nothing contemporary. What I had in mind simply didn’t exist so we had to create our own rules and our own aesthetic. When I launched Anorak, someone mentioned that it was like “The Face for kids”! It had never occurred to me before that one of the magazines I had worked at in the 90s could have been such an influence over my kids mag, but it had!
How would you describe Anorak, and DOT respectively?
They both champion creativity and imagination. Anorak is aimed at children aged 6+ and it is about all that encompasses a child’s world, from books to culture, stories, activities and jokes. DOT is for pre-schoolers and follows the same ethos of learning about things while having fun.
The magazines are very different from what you normally see in the supermarkets – what do you think are the key points of difference?
Our magazines are exactly the opposite of those you find in a supermarket. They are beautifully produced, not obsessed with current trends or cartoon characters and they don’t try to sell anything. They are items that get passed on from one member of the family to another. In a sense they are more like books than magazines.
Where do you get your inspiration from, for the themes for the magazines?
Everyday life. From reading a book, having a discussion with my son, watching a documentary or travelling somewhere. I tried not to overthink it too much!
The titles are all very visual, and you’re obviously really interested in design. Did this happen organically or was it something you were deliberate about from the start?
The most important thing to me was that they looked like boys and girls could enjoy them equally and that they couldn’t be throw-away with useless plastic stuff on the cover. When we launched we had a lot of very positive feedback but a lot of people commented on how it looked too nice to be a kids magazine. I found that a bit patronising because I believe that we should always treat children with the utmost respect and give them the absolute best.
Do you think we underestimate our children sometimes?
Absolutely! Children are sponges, they understand the world in different ways than adults do, but it doesn’t mean they are less clever. In fact I would argue while they might know less, they understand more. They are more tolerant, more imaginative and just more fun than a lot of grown ups.
Your magazines are a lovely alternative to screens for little ones; how do you feel about screen time?
Technology has been a massive enabler but it has a strange hold over us all. I think we need to be fair with children and screen time, and for that, we grown ups need to tame our use too! I don’t think screens will never replace a book or a printed magazine. In fact I read only yesterday that ebooks sales were down and that was driven by children and young adults favouring printed books over electronic version.
Do you get a lot of feedback from your readers? How does this inform what you do in future issues?
We do get lovely drawings and beautiful handwritten letters sent through the post. So old fashioned, but so good!
How do your little editors work?
We have around 250 Little Editors who contribute in many ways: they review books and take part in drawing missions. Some have even written stories. Our 5th anniversary edition for example was written entirely by children. All that is required to participate is send us an email with your postal address and child’s age and we will put them on our database, send them books and special fun missions.
What’s next for Anorak and DOT?
I would love to create books – we did a few over the years and they always sell really well. This Autumn we are branching out beyond the printed matter thanks to an exclusive collaboration with Made.com and will be launching our first homeware range.
We celebrated our 10th anniversary last year and it feels like Year Zero in a sense as we have learnt so much on the way. So unto another 10 years of fun at least I hope!