rob lowe AKA supermundane
photograph by rob wilson



rob lowe, also known as supermundane, is an artist and designer based in london. rob’s distinctive use of colour, line and simplicity can be seen through all his work from typeface design, illustration and murals. designboom spoke to him about his process and influences…



designboom: what originally made you want to become an designer / artist?


rob lowe: I was only really good at art at school. I was ok at other things but they didn’t interest me much, apart from english but I had a rubbish teacher. 20 years ago during work experience at a printers I found out about graphic design and it all started from there.


my career seems to have been broken down into 10 year periods. the first 10 where spent working as a graphic designer for people like mathmos (the inventors of the lava-lamp) and the ministry of sound. then I had 10 years of working in independent magazines, art directing sleazenation, good for nothing, anorak and fire & knives. all the time I worked on personal work and had exhibitions of my work. for the past two years I have just been concentrating on my personal work, commercial illustration and design projects. 






DB: how would you describe your approach to design?


RL: I put simplicity at the heart of everything. even though some of my work can be complex it is still simple. I try to approach all my work in a instinctive manner. I like leaving a bit of ambiguity so people can bring some of themselves to anything I do. my practice covers all kinds of work from logo design to pure art. I want to have some sort of physical, or mental, effect of the viewer of my work. I use colour and line for this purpose. there is often an element of humour in there as well.




DB: who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?


RL: different people have influenced me in different ways, they all add up to create the way I think. robert wyatt and ivor cutler are two people that have had a big influence on me, as have herb lubalin, richard brautigan, alan watts… the list could go on and on. my basic views on graphic design haven’t really changed since my college days, I love strong compositions and the simple use of line and colour, I haven’t seen anything lately to change that view.


moo mural
photo by rob wilson



DB: what would you say is your strongest skill and how have you honed it over the years?


RL: I’m good at composition. I love having a few elements on a page and getting them to balance in a way that excites me. I think this comes from having trained in graphic design before the domination of computers. even in my first job, artwork was done by hand and pasted-up on boards. when you are physically moving things around it gives you a much better idea of how they balance. I also get complemented on my colour choices a lot. I don’t tend to use representational colours so it gives me a lot more freedom when it comes to colour choice. I do use orange and cyan a lot though.


head outlines



DB: what type of brief or project do you enjoy working on the most?


RL: I enjoy projects where I get to try out something new and there is a certain amount of freedom so that I don’t have to lock everything down beforehand. I did a mural at the moo headquarters in london last year and it involved working out a technique that I hadn’t used before. I told them that I had no idea how it would come out but they had faith in me. I enjoy that element of unknowing and I’m usually happy with the outcome.


clarice cliff



DB: what are your thoughts on specialisation vs generalisation?


RL: I’m a bit of a generalist as I do lots of different things. it is important to understand how you approach projects so at least the is a cohesion in the thinking. everything I do fits together and makes sense. I can understand why some people want to become amazing at just one thing but that’s not for me. I’m not really a fan of virtuosic work. there is something interesting when people are experimenting rather than just pushing technique for the sake of it. it’s why I usually like the first album by a band and get less interested as they progress as they tend to become more and more overtly produced.


round 5



DB: how do you think online design resources have influenced the graphic design being produced today?


RL: one of the things that I think is quite negative about blogs is the constant need for content. before the internet I would relish any design or illustration work that I saw but now there is a total overload and it’s quite overwhelming. I do love instagram though, it seems to be the perfect social media tool for the visually minded.


round untitled



DB: what are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?


RL: I’m still fascinated by line. I’m playing around with how lines can work in a 3D environment, so I have laser cut line drawings or photographed folded paper with line drawings on. I’m really enjoying taking the line past something flat on a page. I’m also screen printing my line compositions onto various things from the past such as vintage postcards. there is a very interesting dialogue created when you bring two unlinked things together, it completely changes how you look at both elements. 

paper dog for the gerald project, 101 different designs



DB: what are you passionate about besides your work?


RL: music is my other passion, I have loved music all my life and have quite a few instruments that I make a racket on. I occasionally perform live but it’s very much a hobby.


anorak magazine



DB: do you have any superstitious beliefs or rules that you live by?


RL: I’m not superstitious at all. I don’t have an specific rules I live by either – I’m not a fan of dogmatic rule making. saying that I do have sister corita kent’s rules on my studio wall, but one of my favourite of those rules is number 10: ‘we’re breaking all the rules. even our own rules. and how do we do that? by leaving plenty of room for x quantities.’ which is a john cage quote.


anorak magazine



DB: what’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?


RL: stefan sagmeister talks about staying small in terms of business. I try and do that in all aspects of my life. the less you need the more free you are.



DB: what’s your personal motto?


RL: it could be such a simple world.