I track down elusive Lodown editor Marok (born Thomas Marecki) in a non-descript Kreuzberg building that houses the magazine's office. His desk is in the back of the room, behind a floor-to-ceiling bookcase that houses all 52 issues of the magazine, plus a predictable collection of limited-edition vinyl toys and limited-run books. Rangy and tan, with watery blue eyes and a weathered look that bespeaks years of board sports, 34-year-old Marok very much resembles a much quieter version of Tony Hawk. He's known for answering questions with no more than one carefully measured sentence.
A similar economy can be found in his design, which mixes sharp photos and clever fonts with the odd well-timed slogan ("Fill your culture with content," "We shall overcome mediocrity"). Marok makes the street/skate lifestyle look classy; eschewing anything over-the-top, he's like a puppet master, gently pulling strings and creating magical backdrops while generally trying to keep himself as invisible as possible. "I would rather go abstract in thinking about type or patterns," he explains. "I'm not a big fan of illustrations unless they really have something to say."
Born and raised in the Wilmersdorf district of West Berlin, Marok spent his teens tagging, listening to Hieroglyphics, reading Thrasher, and skating in baggy Droors shorts–in other words, consumed by the American underground lifestyle of the '80s. Having a graphic designer for a father, he honed his aesthetic early on, then got a graphic design degree; but the turning point was a half-year spent in San Diego, CA, where he was surrounded by his surf and skate idols and the groundbreaking layouts of former Transworld art director/RayGun founder David Carson.
Returning to Berlin, he printed up 3,000 issues of the 48-page, full-color Lodown #1, which covered street skating, BMX, fashion, and music in German and English. "In the '90s, it was all about special layouts," recalls Marok. "I was just trying to fuck up the grid system as hard as I could. In the beginning, we were so idealistic. Any company we didn't think was cool, we wouldn't accept their ads. We stuck with this, and it worked for us."
Following issue #50, Marok turned over Lodown's design to guests (Berlin's Studio Anti and Floor 5, and the tag-team of Don Pendleton and Matt Irving) to concentrate on other projects–such as the gigantic silkscreens about "the collapse of traffic" he's just done for a gallery in Copenhagen. When pressed for sage words of wisdom for the young'uns, he demurs. "I can't really give any advice, except persistence–follow what you believe in."