h1

Oh-So Magazine: From The Dreams Of A Daughter To The Pages Of A Magazine, One Father Creates The “Oh-So” Perfect Skateboarding Magazine Dedicated To The Females Of The Sport – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Rob Hewitt, Founder, Oh-So Magazine…

March 12, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

“I feel like on Instagram and on the web, and I’m sure a lot of people will shake their heads and that’s fine, you kind of move so quickly and you forget so quickly about what it is exactly you’re documenting in the back of your brain, where a true visual and visceral experience, especially with skateboarding where there is so much movement that you hardly get to reflect on the person’s face and personality because it’s all about the trick and what’s being done on the board, I really wanted to slow that down and pull back a little bit. And it’s intentional that you don’t see so many tricks in this magazine; it’s more about the females who are in the sport and their experiences and their journeys. And hopefully, whoever sees it; it gets them to slow down and reflect on the fact that they may have seen so much stuff on Instagram, but barely remember any of it.” Rob Hewitt (On why he chose print instead of digital-only for Oh-So magazine)…

When Rob Hewitt discovered that his daughter Amelia had an affinity for skateboarding, he and the animated seven-year-old went on the hunt for a publication that was made for her and her age group. Her tastes ran toward the sparkly, emoji-filled dreams of a little girl who loved to have fun, but who also wanted to learn more about other girls who loved her newfound sport. Disappointed with what they found on the newsstands about females and the sport of skateboarding, Rob decided to create a magazine just for Amelia. And Oh-So was born.

From the fun and energetic design to the fantastic illustrations and stories that fill its pages, Oh-So definitely lives up to its name: it’s oh-so engaging and informative. And with the tagline “Celebrating The Female Skateboarding Community,” the magazine shows the renegade spirit and talents of the female skateboarder, but also tells the story of their individual journeys. And it shows the passion of a true graphic artist, Rob Hewitt.

Aside from being an entrepreneurial magazine maker, Rob is also creative director for Dwell magazine, among other creative endeavors, and his passion for design is only overshadowed by his love for his daughter, which he has poured into this publishing project. And if Mr. Magazine™ may be so bold as to say – it is “Oh-So” delightful. So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Rob Hewitt, founder, Oh-So magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On creating a magazine about skateboarding for his daughter when he could find nothing already in the marketplace that spoke to her: Through the years, as a designer I’ve always had my eye on typography and graphic design in general. And a few years ago, I actually purchased a skateboard deck without the wheels or the trucks that was in celebration of a typeface and they just put the typeface on the skateboard deck. I have that still. And my wife and I got a couple of boards because we’re in Manhattan and we would sort of cruise up the West Side Highway, and this was again maybe five or six years ago. There were literally a couple of skateboards sitting around and my daughter found one and brought it into the house and was cruising up and down the hallway. And I found it really interesting, because this was not on my radar; I hadn’t thought about skateboarding at all.

On how typography and Instagram brought him to skateboarding and how that turned into Oh-So magazine: The visual part of it came a little bit later. This was purely an intuitive process, because it was just me reflecting on needs and figuring out I how I could use what I do and what I know, which is visual thinking and visual problem-solving, how could I use that in a way that would be interesting to, first and foremost, females. And my daughter may be secondary a little, because she can read, but she’s not as fluent at seven as most of the girls out there skateboarding. And from that, what sort of ingredients do I need to do that?

On why he chose print in this digital age: My background was a huge part of it. I am so passionate about graphic design in general. And I absolutely love print. It’s probably the wrong thing to say, but I refuse to give up on the power of print. One thing that I really found in this journey of creating this publication, it occurred to me that everything is documented on Instagram or in video and there is a publication for men called Thrasher, which has been around for a long time, but they don’t really call too much attention to the female skate world. I think they’re trying to now, but in recent years they haven’t.

On bringing in Robert Priest and Grace Lee (8×8 magazine) to help with the magazine: I’m grateful to Robert, he actually gave me my first job in New York and I’m thankful that we’ve remained friends after all this time. When I had the idea for this magazine and I had maybe 15 pages of bad layouts and three or four covers, I went and visited their studio to really just get raw feedback from them because I really respect Robert and Grace for what they’ve done in the industry and what they’re currently doing with their magazine. And I straight-up said to them, you guys have inspired this because you’ve created a product that has turned soccer/football magazines on their heads.

On having the first issue done and what’s next: What’s next is working on the second issue. I’m very excited, there is some really good stuff. I don’t want to jinx it but Issue One has been received really well, and I honestly don’t know what to think because I entered into this thinking that I had nothing to lose, it could just disappear and that’s fine, I need to stay true to my journey and my focus. And I’ve done that. And people have reached out and said great things.

On his daughter’s reaction when she first saw the magazine: Actually, the printouts were on the floor and on the table and I would invite her over to look at them, because she’s seven and her world consists literally of emoji’s and bright colors and fun things. And I asked her what she thought about the magazine and she would just point at things and say that’s fun or I like that or I don’t know what that is. And I thought they were some good reactions from her.

On anything he’d like to add: If people pick it up, there are a few articles in there, especially one about Atita Verghese, who is the first pro female out of India, and she is an incredible spokesperson for equality in India, especially for girls. I think it’s a really important thing. And she’s kind of doing it by herself. I try to get people to that article more than some of the others because it really is so raw and her message is so powerful. If I had to highlight only one person it would be her; she is a force. I have so much respect for her.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Probably watching something on Netflix. I tend to binge watch and I tend to get stuck on certain theories. And believe it or not, I will watch them multiple times.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: I’m a very shy person and I consider myself an introvert. And knowing that I’m not very outspoken in public or in groups, I think sometimes that comes off as aloof. But I think I’m actually the complete opposite of that. Unfortunately, the nature of being quiet and being more of an observer sometimes comes across as aloof.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Hopefully that I tried my best and tried to do the right thing. In my career in general, I’ve always loved the idea of the design problem and what is the right solution for that problem. And when I say that I tried my best, I like to think that in my work, and Oh-So in general, I really try to solve the problem in a way that is an emotional reaction visually. And I try to get it right.

On what keeps him up at night: Right now, Oh-So keeps me up at night, my kids keep me up at night; I think I’m a worrier, I worry about a lot of things. I worry about things in the world that I have no control over. I worry about messaging that I have no control over. And I worry about a lot of stuff for my kids. There are things that you see and hear, a lot of disturbing stuff, and unfortunately because I’m a dad, I worry about that stuff.


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Rob Hewitt, Founder, Oh-So magazine.

Samir Husni: In the introduction of Oh-So magazine, you write that you saw your daughter’s interest in skateboarding escalating, but could find nothing in the marketplace that spoke to her, so you created a magazine for her.

Rob Hewitt: It literally started with me being a graphic designer. I skateboarded a little bit when I was a kid, using the Bones Brigade boards and the Tony Hawk boards, but by no means did I pursue it professionally or anything like that. It was more like there’s a board, I’m going to jump on it and skate.

So, through the years, as a designer I’ve always had my eye on typography and graphic design in general. And a few years ago, I actually purchased a skateboard deck without the wheels or the trucks that was in celebration of a typeface and they just put the typeface on the skateboard deck. I have that still. And my wife and I got a couple of boards because we’re in Manhattan and we would sort of cruise up the West Side Highway, and this was again maybe five or six years ago.

There were literally a couple of skateboards sitting around and my daughter found one and brought it into the house and was cruising up and down the hallway. And I found it really interesting, because this was not on my radar; I hadn’t thought about skateboarding at all. (Laughs) I just kind of looked at her and asked was she having fun? And she said yes, that she could go fast and get from here to there really quickly. We decided to go and see if there was something that appealed to her, because my board was clearly more masculine and frankly quite blind to what her needs were.

We went to a skate shop and looked around. I didn’t initiate or push anything and she just said there was no pink, no emoji’s, no unicorns; there was nothing sparkly there for her. And this was this past summer, mid to late summer. And it really sparked the question: my daughter has taken an interest in something and there wasn’t anything out there that she felt comfortable with.

So, it was as though the muse appeared and we grabbed on and went on this journey. It was crazy because in a matter of a few weeks, that movie by the Skate Kitchen crew was literally just coming out and I hadn’t heard anything about them, they’re this crew in New York, they’re amateur skateboarders and they skate for fun. And I was like wait a minute, there are other people out there doing this, let’s look further.

I was searching online and on Instagram and just reached out to some people and this conversation started. And it went from there. And there were some stops and starts because I didn’t know if I should really try and make a publication out of this. I have a good friend who is an illustrator and he had done an illustration and that was one thing. And then on Instagram I found a photographer in New York who had taken these beautiful photos, which were in the issue of Chelsea Piers Skatepark and it was like okay, there is something. And then the Skate Kitchen segment, there was something else.

And on Instagram, the doors just began to open up quickly and I certainly began to see that there were a lot of females doing this professionally, as well as amateurs and just for fun. So, it just started to happen. I just followed it. And while it was happening I really just wanted to stay true to, and maybe this sounds cliché or a bit of a stereotype, but stay true to what my daughter would experience if she did this. And how could I provide her with a little bit of knowledge and education so that she felt like she knew what she was getting into, because there didn’t really feel like there was a lot of it.

Samir Husni: How old is your daughter?

Rob Hewitt: She’s seven.

Samir Husni: Typography brought you to skateboarding and Instagram brought you to global skateboarding. How did those two combinations create Oh-So magazine?

Rob Hewitt: The visual part of it came a little bit later. This was purely an intuitive process, because it was just me reflecting on needs and figuring out I how I could use what I do and what I know, which is visual thinking and visual problem-solving, how could I use that in a way that would be interesting to, first and foremost, females. And my daughter may be secondary a little, because she can read, but she’s not as fluent at seven as most of the girls out there skateboarding. And from that, what sort of ingredients do I need to do that?

Again, through Instagram, the cover appeared really quickly. I found it and thought, this is a great image. And I took stock of that. Around the same time, I hadn’t found the primary typeface that’s in the magazine, I was actually using a completely different typeface, but then by late summer I stumbled upon work by Corita Kent, and I knew her work, she was an activist in the ‘60s who did those very powerful feminine-driven posters, and I had always loved her work. And she had done a lot of this work typography in the ‘60s. So, I thought here was another ingredient that felt like what this vernacular was, because it’s all about movement. They do not stop, it’s continuous motion. Corita Kent’s posters had that energy.

I was reading an interview with Corita Kent, and I kid you not, in the interview she said she was doing some work and it felt “oh-so” cool. I was like, wait a minute, oh-so and the way that she used it with an action word behind it, made this seem like – I don’t really know, but it just felt right. I literally looked at my wife and said what about “Oh-So” and she said it was interesting, but what does it mean? I said it’s just a nice way to segue into it, being that skateboarding is “oh-so” cool or “oh-so” equal or “oh-so” raw. All of these things just started to churn.

But we sat on it for a little while, asked a couple of people what they would think of that for a name for a female skateboarding magazine. And the reception was pretty good. And that was one thing that was banked.

Then starting to do layouts, I stumbled across the primary typeface that you see, and again, it just seemed to fit because it’s like three typefaces in one, as though each character can go three different ways. And it was interesting because I could use this typeface in a way that wasn’t just set. Yes, there is the true Sans Serif that’s used, which is the one used for the actual articles, but then the display stuff and some of the big letters and numbers has an energy that just felt right, because there was a lot of curves and free form, in a way. It reminded me of Corita Kent and her work. So, the bubble was being created and all of these things were in there.

There were so many times when I just second-guessed if it was right. (Laughs) And asked myself should I even keep going with this? It was just me and I kept wondering was I doing the right thing for a publication. And I just really had to trust that I was going to do it right. For me it felt good and at the end of the day it was a great feeling to see my daughter involved and excited. And I believe there is a philosophy to what I did here and what I tried to accomplish. It was education and filling a need that females didn’t have when it came to knowledge in the sport. Or even just knowing what other girls are going through at the skate parks. And the editorial felt as though it was serving a true purpose.

Samir Husni: Why did you feel in this digital age that Oh-So magazine would be better-served as a print publication?

Rob Hewitt: My background was a huge part of it. I am so passionate about graphic design in general. And I absolutely love print. It’s probably the wrong thing to say, but I refuse to give up on the power of print. One thing that I really found in this journey of creating this publication, it occurred to me that everything is documented on Instagram or in video and there is a publication for men called Thrasher, which has been around for a long time, but they don’t really call too much attention to the female skate world. I think they’re trying to now, but in recent years they haven’t.

So, why couldn’t there be a magazine for girls, and there are a couple of others out there, but they have a different sort of message, why couldn’t there be a magazine for girls where everyone can join in and learn about this sport and what the girls go through? And in a weird way, why couldn’t it be a documentation of what is happening now, a lot like Corita Kent was documenting and making poetry on movement in the sixties for feminists, and she was reacting to those movements. So, why couldn’t it exist?

I feel like on Instagram and on the web, and I’m sure a lot of people will shake their heads and that’s fine, you kind of move so quickly and you forget so quickly about what it is exactly you’re documenting in the back of your brain, where a true visual and visceral experience, especially with skateboarding where there is so much movement that you hardly get to reflect on the person’s face and personality because it’s all about the trick and what’s being done on the board, I really wanted to slow that down and pull back a little bit. And it’s intentional that you don’t see so many tricks in this magazine; it’s more about the females who are in the sport and their experiences and their journeys. And hopefully, whoever sees it; it gets them to slow down and reflect on the fact that they may have seen so much stuff on Instagram, but barely remember any of it.

Samir Husni: I interviewed the editor of Mindful magazine recently and she referred to the print magazine as slow-food in an age of fast-food, there’s a big difference in sitting at a restaurant and having a three-course meal versus grabbing a burger through a drive-thru.

Rob Hewitt: I agree. There are so many amazing independent print magazines out there and there is such a great attention to detail, and I just wanted to try and do that too. And I wanted to try and do it for the small market that doesn’t have that. And be loud for them as well and get them excited about what they’re doing in skateboarding.

Samir Husni: I see you brought in some big guns to help with this magazine, Robert Priest and Grace Lee, who have their own magazine, 8×8, among other things that they have done.

Rob Hewitt: I’m grateful to Robert, he actually gave me my first job in New York and I’m thankful that we’ve remained friends after all this time. When I had the idea for this magazine and I had maybe 15 pages of bad layouts and three or four covers, I went and visited their studio to really just get raw feedback from them because I really respect Robert and Grace for what they’ve done in the industry and what they’re currently doing with their magazine. And I straight-up said to them, you guys have inspired this because you’ve created a product that has turned soccer/football magazines on their heads.

Getting their response and feedback was great, because they didn’t hold back and they were honest and that’s what it needed. It’s just great to be able to talk to people like them and to have them as a sounding board. I’ve talked to Grace so many times about mailings and the size of the magazine and where there might be some speed bumps. And they’ve been immensely helpful, so much gratitude to them as well, for sure.

Samir Husni: The first issue is now in the history books, what next?

Rob Hewitt: What’s next is working on the second issue. I’m very excited, there is some really good stuff. I don’t want to jinx it but Issue One has been received really well, and I honestly don’t know what to think because I entered into this thinking that I had nothing to lose, it could just disappear and that’s fine, I need to stay true to my journey and my focus. And I’ve done that. And people have reached out and said great things.

You mentioned Jeremy Leslie when we were speaking right before the interview, he has been incredibly supportive and he was the first person to carry it in a store. Since then, there have been small victories almost every week that make me feel like I need to keep going. So, we’re going to do a second issue. And it’s just trying to keep it true to its focus and keep it light. I actually feel more stress with the second issue, (Laughs) because I’m really trying so hard to keep it focused. The reception has been incredibly positive and it’s overwhelming to know that you can touch people in this way. And with print, you send it to people and people pick it up and there is a true reaction. It’s really amazing. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: What was your daughter’s reaction when you showed her the first copy of the magazine? Did she say it was “oh-so” cool?

Rob Hewitt: (Laughs) She did. Actually, the printouts were on the floor and on the table and I would invite her over to look at them, because she’s seven and her world consists literally of emoji’s and bright colors and fun things. And I asked her what she thought about the magazine and she would just point at things and say that’s fun or I like that or I don’t know what that is. And I thought they were some good reactions from her.

And back to the cover, I don’t mean to stress this point but there were three covers, and for me intuitively this felt like the right thing, because it kind of put skateboarding on a different level, not necessarily about what the trick was and how great it was, which that in and of itself deserves its own respect and appreciation, but one cover has this girl Lizzie, who is incredibly talented and has exposed herself in a way that is pure emotion.

And my daughter, Amelia, went to this particular cover without hesitation, she pointed to it and said that one. I asked her why that one and she said, “Because that girl looks pretty and she looks fun.” And that was a huge thing. This cover makes me really uncomfortable because it is a girl who has her eyes crossed and her tongue out and holding a skateboard. (Laughs) Was that the right thing? I don’t know. (Laughs again) But going with the message of equality in skateboarding, which is another underlying philosophy and theme to the issue, it just sort of helped.

And believe it or not, if you read the articles, out of everyone who has spoken, nine times out of ten they’re in skateboarding to have fun. And I thought that was really important. It’s still the underlying thing, especially with the girls in general. Yes, they’re competitive, but they’re not as competitive as the guys. They want to bring groups of girls together to the skate park, they want the energy to be in the moment, and they want to have fun with it.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Rob Hewitt: If people pick it up, there are a few articles in there, especially one about Atita Verghese, who is the first pro female out of India, and she is an incredible spokesperson for equality in India, especially for girls. I think it’s a really important thing. And she’s kind of doing it by herself. I try to get people to that article more than some of the others because it really is so raw and her message is so powerful. If I had to highlight only one person it would be her; she is a force. I have so much respect for her.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Rob Hewitt: (Laughs) Probably watching something on Netflix. I tend to binge watch and I tend to get stuck on certain theories. And believe it or not, I will watch them multiple times.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Rob Hewitt: I’m a very shy person and I consider myself an introvert. And knowing that I’m not very outspoken in public or in groups, I think sometimes that comes off as aloof. But I think I’m actually the complete opposite of that. Unfortunately, the nature of being quiet and being more of an observer sometimes comes across as aloof.

And one of the things with Oh-So is that it has taken me so far out of my comfort zone and it’s actually allowed, even with my being an introvert and sort of a deep diver, it’s allowed that wanting to get to know people, to come to the forefront. Like most people who are quiet, I think if you can talk to people one on one, you feel like you’re really engaged and getting a lot out of the conversation. And I’ve actually found with some of these girls that has happened. It’s almost like I’ve tapped into something and allowed some freedom and some escape from it. At events and things, I’m more of the fly on the wall, I have a hard time going up to people and talking to them in groups and things like that.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Rob Hewitt: Hopefully that I tried my best and tried to do the right thing. In my career in general, I’ve always loved the idea of the design problem and what is the right solution for that problem. And when I say that I tried my best, I like to think that in my work, and Oh-So in general, I really try to solve the problem in a way that is an emotional reaction visually. And I try to get it right.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Rob Hewitt: Right now, Oh-So keeps me up at night, my kids keep me up at night; I think I’m a worrier, I worry about a lot of things. I worry about things in the world that I have no control over. I worry about messaging that I have no control over. And I worry about a lot of stuff for my kids. There are things that you see and hear, a lot of disturbing stuff, and unfortunately because I’m a dad, I worry about that stuff.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: