• 51_01

    A Stack of Books

  • 51_04
  • 51_07

    A Stack of Books

  • 49_img0203

    La Tour Noire

  • 49_img0220

    La Tour Noire

  • 49_img0234

    La Tour Noire

  • 36_ultra-1

    Ultra Mera Commonplace

  • 36_ultra-4

    Ultra Mera Commonplace

  • 36_ultra-6

    Ultra Mera Commonplace

Publication

Urs Lehni of Rollo Press

Posted by Alex Moshakis,

Four years ago, to negate the unavoidable constraints of commercial work, Urs Lehni bought a Risograph GR 3770. The Zurich-based designer began to use the almost-forgotten printer as an outlet for personal projects, and has since published – with the help of many talented friends – a whole catalogue of books that collectively rubbish claims Risography is “over” as a design-industry fad. We asked Urs to confirm how and why Rollo Press came about, and what he has planned next…

Hi Urs, why did you set Rollo Press up?

It started in December 2007, after I had more or less accidentally purchased a Risograph printer. Lex Trueb and I had worked on some lengthy and very exhausting commissions, and in reaction we began to look for our own means of production in order to be able to produce printed matter in a more spontaneous way. Initially I just had a photocopier in mind, but when I saw Dot Dot Dot No. 15 and read that the issue was produced on a stencil printer — a technique I had never heard of — I decided to research a little more. Astonishingly I found a very old but cheap machine from a Swiss printing house that was to be closed down, and I decided to give it a try.

As the machine is rather easy to handle, it didn’t take me too long to figure out what could be done with it, and I contacted a few friends whose work I liked and proposed the idea of publishing some of it. In that manner we produced the first Rollo publication — the Lousy Animals and Friends Coloring Book by Hamburg-based Stefan Marx — almost immediately after I purchased the machine.

Do you only publish the work of friends?

I always used the term “friends and accomplices” to make clear that Rollo Press is neither a commercial project nor a cheap copy shop, but a rather private publishing project where everything is done in a way that we — the makers — consider to be healthy. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m only publishing work by friends. In several cases the story reversed – friendships have been established through publishing the work of someone I didn’t know. I hadn’t known Erik van der Weijde before he approached me with the proposal for This is Not my Son, for example. But I immediately agreed, and later Erik came to Zürich for a couple of days, stayed at my place and together we produced the book.

What are your thoughts on Riso printing as a fad?

On the one hand I think it’s great to see so many (graphic) designers share the same kind of enthusiasm, energy and will to produce projects under similar circumstances: self-initiated, self-organised, self-financed, etc. It seems to me that this field has a lot of extra energy — or maybe also a lot of frustration — and to run a small press seems to serve as the perfect offset to channel that energy.

However, what I’m quite critical about is the fact that Riso printing has became a rather fixed model tied to a certain aesthetic in a very short amount of time. In my view, the outcomes of a lot of these types of presses look very much alike, and in many cases the Riso printer is used more like a Photoshop filter, in order to add a certain chic. Also, every now and then I’m wondering what would happen if we would manage to find a way of combining all these scattered small initiatives instead of everybody working in his own niche?

What’s next for Rollo?

There are a few publications to be released soon, which have been on my desk for a very long time. One of them is a book that we produced in collaboration with my brother, Jürg, about his infamous robot Hektor. Another one is a series of photocopy prints made by Sigmar Polke (Revolutionsdrucke), that Stefan Marx and I turned into a book on site of the Hamburger Kunstverein in conjunction with an exhibition Stefan had there. And, maybe most importantly, Erik van der Weijde and I are trying to raise funds for a sequel of This is Not my Son, this time called This is Not my Wife. We would like to produce bigger numbers, and are therefore working with an offset printer. Erik came up with the idea to test crowd funding and has created a site here. So if any of you readers feel like contributing some dollars to our new project we would be more than happy!

Portrait8

Posted by Alex Moshakis

Alex originally joined It’s Nice That as a designer but moved into editorial and oversaw the It’s Nice That magazine from Issue Six (July 2011) to Issue Eight (March 2012) before moving on that summer.

Most Recent: Publication View Archive

  1. List

    When photographer Maija Astikainen met writer Aischa Berg in Madrid back in 2010, the two bonded over their passion for community gardens. In fact so interested were the pair in this phenomenon that they decided to produce a book on the theme and four years later Horticultured Cities was published. This timescale reflects the assiduity with which both Maisha and Aiscah went about their research, and the publication features insights from London, Helsinki and Berlin as well as Madrid.

  2. List

    Since 2011 Catalogue have operated a design studio between London and Leeds, creating branding, exhibition design and print products for an incredible collection of cultural clients. They’ve handled Yorkshire’s excellent Beacons Festival, popped up at Beach London, branded a tape-only record label and made British brand The National Skateboard Co. look seriously respectable. All great pieces of work.

  3. List_08.43.44

    Kennedy magazine describes itself as “a biannual journal of curiosities” and the Athens-based publication’s second issue has recently been released. The look and feel has been overseen by Commission Studio, who are London-based designers and longtime friends of the site David McFarline and Christopher Moorby.

  4. Main

    Anyone who’s into niche magazines of yore will perhaps have heard of Scamp – the racy 1950s gentlemen’s magazine that has since become something of a collectors’ item. Fast forward 64 years and a very different Scamp has been born, and this one is “a brand new magazine full of chit-chat and arty-farty editorial projects.” We were intrigued by this odd-sided, floppy publication, so we decided to speak to the editor Oskar Oprey to find out a little more about it.

  5. List

    The changing role of album artwork in a digitally-defined music culture has been much discussed; meanwhile the art of the gig poster seems to be in fairly rude health. But there’s another story to be told; a lesser-examined but tremendously significant area of visual music-related collateral – the flyer.

  6. Main

    Londoners! This weekend sees the launch of arty book fair k-i-o-s-k and to celebrate this, creative south London wunderkinder/collective King Zog have made a quintessentially King Zog publication entitled Tracing Emin. This textbook-style pamphlet that sees photographs of Tracey Emin overlaid with tracing paper for, you guessed it, you to draw on. They recruited another south London artist, much lauded skater boy artist Kyle Platts to go to town on Tracey and surround her gritty photographs with his trademark creatures, animals, shapes and graffiti-like doodles. The combination of Kyle’s comic book style and Tracey’s emotional fine art photography is a little bit like eating peanut butter and marmite simultaneously – oddly fantastic, and a bit naughty.

  7. Wllistwilam_uk_cover_5_zoom

    What does Little White Lies do best? It talks to the shiniest shimmering stars of the film world about, well, films. And it asks them one question more than any other: what exactly do they love about movies?

  8. 1listphoto-bonjour

    Reading Bonjour is like seeing a beautiful symphony translated onto the page, all bright swirls of colour and twinkles of detail which transport you to a dreamy land. It begins as the birds start to sing and traces the start of an ordinary day but somehow makes it seem oh so very magical. The day arrives as a big beamy sun, glowing in tie-dye neon orange glory, and the plants burst into life looking like fantastical plasticine creations. I could happily gaze at French designer Anne Brugni’s cosmic illustrations for a whole day and float away on her marbled clouds into the speckled sky. Its lyrical charm also owes something to musician and writer McCloud Zicmuse’s storytelling. Kids nourished with books like this are surely guaranteed to become creative geniuses.

  9. Main

    Once upon a time, in a farmyard not so far away, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin created some of the most iconic characters of early children’s TV. In the Smallfilms studio – a barn and some outbuildings – Bagpuss was born, the Clangers sprung to life and Ivor the Engine first tooted his horn.

  10. List_2

    The closest many of us Brits ever come to a machine gun is when we’re hiding behind a bucket of popcorn the size of a small child in the front row at the cinema, so you can imagine our fascination at seeing this new series by Brian Finke. Brian spent four years photographing US marshals, the longest standing law enforcement agency in America who work under the federal courts. They are “tasked with protecting judges, prosecutors and witnesses, and are also responsible for transporting prisoners and tracking down the country’s most dangerous fugitives,” the book explains.

  11. Wzlist

    White Zinfandel is created from a very simple recipe but, like all of the most delectable things, it’s the added touches – the hint of this and dash of that – which make it a chef’s special at the publishing dinner table. Essentially, it’s a magazine about food and culture. It looks at “what happens when creative people, across disciplines and media, get asked to make art about food.” But the sheer complexity of each issue sets it apart.

  12. List

    This weekend galleries, zines, publishing houses and rare book dealers are getting together at London’s Whitechapel Gallery for the UK’s biggest annual celebration of international art publishing, taking place concurrently with the New York Art Book Fair. Three solid days of events ensue, including book signings by Bridget Riley, Nadav Kander and Douglas Coupland (who is launching new publication everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything at the fair, too) and events such as Unbinding the Book challenge the tradition concept of publishing altogether.

  13. List

    Women wear clothes. Men do too, actually, but they weren’t the subject of this investigation into our relationships with the things we wear, started by Canadian writer Sheila Heti and brought to fruition with the help of artist Leanne Shapton and co-editor of The Believer Heidi Julavits. Between them, and with the help of 639 other women, they authored Women in Clothes, the satisfyingly chunky new tome which considers every aspect of the way women think about what they choose to put on their bodies, from tote bags and digital wristwatches to the wardrobes of their mothers and questions such as “do you ever wish you were a man?”