Varoom: 2006 – 2021

After 15 years and 42 issues, the AOI announces it will cease publishing Varoom magazine. This decision has been taken following feedback from our latest members’ survey and increased challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We want to take this opportunity to reflect on Varoom‘s incredible evolution and to celebrate its history. This may be the end of the magazine, but it’s not the end of our reporting on Illustration – keep an eye on this space for exciting news, coming up next week!

Varoom illustration magazine was launched by the AOI in 2006 to comment on and celebrate the illustrated image. Featuring in-depth articles and interviews with leading established and emerging illustrators, it was stylishly designed to appeal to a broad readership, and won many design awards over the following years including the Type Directors’ Club, Communication Arts Awards for Excellence and AIGA’s Excellence in Design Award.

Free for AOI members, Varoom was also stocked in bookstores nationwide in the UK and across much of the world. Its readership included art directors, designers, commissioners, publishers, but it was also designed to challenge and explore the idea of ‘the illustrator’. So, readers were ‘illustrators’, but what is that? Varoom defined it as including everyone from children’s books illustrators to fashion designers to animators, cartoonists, app developers – inclusive to every kind of image-maker.

Varoom 6, cover by Brad Holland, 2008

Adrian Shaughnessy was the original editor from launch to 2009, coming up with the name which was based on text from a Roy Lichtenstein painting – something dynamic and catchy.

John O’Reilly took over in 2009, further exploring the process of creating an image and bringing in different industry experts to comment on their work in the new Innovators section, emphasising how it was vitally important for the health of the illustration profession that there is also evaluation and judgment. 

Olivia Ahmad brought her expertise as curator at the House of Illustration in 2018 to the editor role up to the final issue in June 2021.

Varoom 17, cover by Edel Rodriguez, 2012
Varoom 30, cover by Gary Card, 2015

Varoom went through a number of different formats, from it’s original magazine inception to a larger newsprint version (2011-2016) which allowed for showing images at an increased size; then back to a glossy magazine shape and finally in a contemporary uncoated-paper chunkier ‘book’ format from 2019.

Non-Format designed the original version of Varoom, and continued to issue 9 when Studio Fernando Gutierrez took over up to issue 34. Joe Hales & James Lunn did the redesign of issue 35 in 2017, and James completed the next three by himself. From issue 39 in 2019, Fraser Muggeridge Studio redesigned the magazine, creating the weightier book format.

You can explore all of Varoom’s back issues here.

Varoom issues 38 and 37. Covers by Braulio and Olimpia Zagnoli, 2018

As a long running magazine, Varoom refreshed its masthead a number of times to reflect the changes in the design of the magazine.

The Varoom masthead incarnations
Varoom 39, cover by Mashen Lo, 2019

VaroomLab research network

In 2010 VaroomLab was established to provide a platform for exchange and discussion of ideas around the broad subject of illustration, and in 2012 a peer-review process was set up to evaluate articles submitted by the academic community for potential inclusion in Varoom and to create an equivalent of an academic journal within VaroomLab on line. Issue One was published in January 2013.

A programme of illustration symposia with colleges who were VaroomLab partners was started in 2012 following the first call for papers. These were presented in Plymouth, Swansea, Bournemouth and Birmingham and the online VaroomLab Journal published the peer-reviewed papers presented at each event.

We want to end this article by thanking our Editorial board Darryl Clifton, Jon Cockley, Martin Colyer, Tom Robinson and Anna Steinberg for their contribution over the years. We also thank the many writers and illustrators featured over the years, without whom Varoom wouldn’t have been possible.

As mentioned in the beginning, this is not the end. More news to come next week.

11th March 2022

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