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Illustrating a Stutter with Umber Magazine

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Mike Nicholls at work in his design lab (Michole Forks)

Mike Nicholls is the founder of Umber magazine, a publication dedicated to telling the stories of Black and Brown artists from the Bay Area. It’s so invested in those narratives, the pages are brown and the ink is black.

Mike Nicholls
Mike Nicholls (Michole Forks)

The magazine, which looks more like a graphic journal, publishes twice a year and is only available in print. The artsy publication is a product of Mike Nicholls’ love for typography, visual arts and music.

For the magazine’s third issue, which was released last summer, the theme was Sound. Nicholls, who grew up with an intense stutter, says he’s always found it easier to express himself through the written word—hence his passion for the visual arts. But he’s interested in digging into sound as a method for overcoming stuttering.

Nicholls opens himself up in the magazine’s pages to write about overcoming his speech impediment. As Mike told me, “It’s like there’s a million words in my head, and I just want one!” He laughed, and continued by saying, “You know, I don’t stutter when I’m by myself.”

Now that we’re all at home, spending time alone, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to revisit this interview and explore Mike’s take on storytelling.


While production on the fourth edition of the full magazine has  been set back due to the COVID-19 related shut down, Mike Nicholls and the team at Umber have recently produced their third zine, called The Black and Brown Perspective. You can find more information here.

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