July 8, 2015

Whether it’s photography, illustration or graphic design, there’s no denying SHEET is rammed full of artistic talent. So let’s hail the arrival of issue seven of our very own zine, printed by the lovely Studio Hato, with hearty enthusiasm. The launch party is a bare week away, so we felt it would be a good time to dig a little deeper and find out how all this brilliance comes together. We chat to Dan Speer for the creative 411.

Can you tell us a bit about the story of SHEET? Where did the idea come from?

The idea first came about as a means of engaging with the people that spend time in our stores. Urban Outfitters has always had a strong creative community and so we thought it would be nice to share some of our ideas with those people, as well as celebrate the creative talents of the people that work in our stores. We wanted to produce something that people would keep but also wouldn’t be too precious with, so a zine seemed like the perfect format. Challenged with a way of presenting many works of wildly varying styles we decided a zine made up of individual folded posters would be most democratic as it allows each artist’s piece to stand alone, free from the constraints of any kind of narrative. And what name could communicate this idea simpler than ‘SHEET’?

We’re now celebrating the release of issue 7 – how do you think the magazine has evolved and developed over this time?

With every issue of SHEET we produce I think we learn a little bit more about what it is and how we can better engage with the our community, as well as bring new people into it. The popularity of SHEET has meant it has grown quite dramatically – we started printing just 2,000 copies and now we’re up to 45,000! Visually SHEET has changed quite a lot since the first issue; our influences are constantly evolving and I think it’s important to keep it fresh and exciting. Principally SHEET has always been about sharing and promoting the talents of our creativity community and it still is today.

The theme for this issue is ‘Process’ – can you tell us a bit more about it?

SHEET has never previously had a theme so this was a first for us. Working with the guys at Hato on the latest issue, the idea of a ‘process’ themed issue came from them. Ken at Hato showed us a beautiful book they had previously published about the process of making a book and we were instantly sold on the idea. A piece from this book can actually be found in the latest issue of SHEET. The idea was to celebrate the process and method of making things as apposed to, traditionally, celebrating the end product; and hopefully for us all to learn something along the way too… like how to make squid ink and black pepper bread.

How does an issue of SHEET come together – from the initial ideas to the end product?

Generally when we start discussing a new issue of sheet we try to align it with something significant in the UO calendar or amongst the wider creative community. We share our recent influences and talk about the studios or individuals whose work excites us. Since issue 5 we have been inviting our favourite studios to ‘curate’ an issue of SHEET for us. We’re really open and easy about what this process of ‘curation’ could involve. It could mean writing an introduction, selecting the artists, hosting an event; or all three. Everyone we’ve worked with has brought their own individual ideas to the table. Once a rough edit has been established we print out all the artworks and lay them out on the floor of the graphics studio to decide on a final edit, running order and cover. We’ll print a few dummy issues in the studio to make sure the artworks sit well together and nothing is upside down, triple check everything, send to the printers, and wait impatiently until a pallet turns up downstairs.

What have been the biggest challenges so far?

The biggest challenge is always time. We usually task ourselves with sending an issue to print within 2-3 days of receiving all the artwork. It’s fine if everything runs smoothly but we’ve quickly learnt to have a backup plan. Also we print with a cheap newspaper printer where test prints aren’t an option – so if you screw up the colours or make a typo they’ll be 45,000 reminders!

Where do you see SHEET headed in the future?

We’re going global! Since issue 6 we’ve started distributing SHEET to a list of all our favourite shops, galleries and cafes around the UK. There’s been a really positive reaction to it and we’ve even had other stores emailing us asking how they can get their hands on it. Our list is constantly expanding and we’ve just started stocking it in a few select places in Paris. We’d love to get to a stage where you could find SHEET in all major cities across Europe… then Asia!

Celebrate with us! Head down to the issue seven launch party at Studio Hato on 16th July from 6pm – 9pm and pick up your copy in stores now!