(Was interviewed last December for an article on logos in fashion for Garage magazine. Wrote way too much and thought I’d throw it up here coz whatever)
How would you describe the tone and style of your work at Bloomberg Businessweek? What were you hoping to achieve with your work there?
I mean.. its a while ago..
We wanted to make an interesting magazine. I’m surprised to still be talking about it tbh.
Can you specifically remember any designers or artists that influenced you to work within such a “weird” or brash style when you were younger?
Purely from a graphic design perspective, Fuel, Scott King, Tomato, Designers Republic, David Carson were big influences. Don’t know if any of them are ‘weird’ or ‘brash’ but thats who I looked at. Biggest of all was (and still is) Tibor Kalman.
But then, Punk, situationism, dadaism, the KLF, Peter Cook, Tony Hancock, Eric Morecambe, Ed Fella, Richard Prince, Riot Grrrrl, Beastie Boys, Buffalo Tom, U2’s Zoo TV tour, MTV, Chris Morris, Sarah Lucas, Michael Landy destroying all his possessions, Kate Moss, Jefferson Hack, Shoreditch Twat, Andy fucking Goldsworthy…idk…loads… how long have you got.
Specifically speaking to some of the collage-y, cut and paste style work (The New Republic of Porn, 2011 Year In Review cover, etc) you’ve produced, was incorporating that aesthetic a deliberate choice? Or did that happen naturally?
Everything was deliberate, but it wasnt in service of a grander plan or idea of what we should be or were trying to achieve. We did cut and paste. we did 3D renders, we did high polish, photos, we had covers with just a couple of words on (hence needing to invent Druk to make that even easier). A weekly magazine is a hungry animal and we fed it with whatever scraps of ideas we had around.
I made a magazine with a reductive (and in the choice of Helvetica you could almost say generic) type system, heavily formatted, the point of that was that ideas could live and breathe through and we could forget about the graphic design. Was supposed to be about ideas.
Do you ever talk to younger designers on your team regarding where they find/pull inspiration from? How does it differ from your own process when you were just starting out?
I don’t talk to them about WHERE they’re pulling inspiration from — I don’t care where it comes from. I care far more about what that inspiration means to them and how it might impact whatever work we’re doing.
It’s certainly different from when I started out. There was so much less design back then (we’re talking mid-late 90s). And there certainly wasn’t anything like the conversation around logos and design. My recollection is that I collected music, obsessed over the cover art, bought magazines (which then were powerful tools of discovery — windows into worlds), saw ads in those magazines, ripped up the mags for both the ads and the pictures and put them on my wall, went to clubs, saved the flyers as mementos, affiliated myself with my tribe and bought the t-shirt. Interacted with my inspiration physically, at first hand and in full context.
Now I guess you are more likely to first see your new favorite aesthetic as part of a library of clipped references such as you might find on Pinterest, Instagram or Arena. I know people are critical of those sites and the mass effect of everyone taking influences from the same set of references but I don’t know if the net effect of those sites on broader cultural practice is so much different than pre-internet.
Humans like to copy. We’re sheep. We like to be part of a gang, to belong. Aesthetic themes and approaches have been circulated and replicated through the ages regardless of the presence of online mood boards.
I don’t know if what you’re aiming at with this question is to open up the debate around authorship and originality. If it is, sit back! I have an anecdote! I did a lecture at the Walker earlier this year, afterwards there were the questions and one guy in the audience — who I’m sure didn’t like like my work or approach — called me a cannibal. He meant that as a slight, but I really liked that term.
I find it far more interesting, dare I say it — original — in this day and age to be honest to the fact that anyone involved in any creative practice is knitting together other peoples ideas, influences to create their own outcomes. The idea of the artist as auteur, the virtuoso, is so rarely applicable and yet so needfully desired. I prefer the view that we’re a bunch of murderous thieves, eating our own, with whatever tools we have at our disposal. We’re products of an Internet-fed culture that pulverises every idea into a dozens of smaller pieces, the pieces mingling with others and reforming into “new” ideas which are in turn smashed and so the cycle continues, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly… An ever evolving sequence of fragmentation and consolidation.
The true cultural capitalist (✊) is more a curator of those fragments than a creator of them — someone who can distill, refine, refresh and contextualise their meaning into a commoditized form (whether a fashion line, branding system, Instagram feed..).
This is the golden age of appropriation. A bootleg culture grandfathered by Duchamp. Virgil altering “The Meaning” of a shoe, or Vetements + DHL/Tommy/Reebok - of high/low or old/new, or of a Kanye co-sign on what is ostensibly a Gap sweatshirt selling for $800, all of them bootleggers — once considered parasitic to brands and institutions - holding more cultural capital than the brands and institutions they’ve ripped off. Cannibals.
The pulverizing of one idea, absorbed, and spat out as a new outcome. The layering of meaning, the detournement effect mainstreamed, with brands paying $$$ for traction in whichever key social influencer demographic will offer the best stat for their quarterly internal innovation keynote presentation.
If it inspires you, wear it like a badge of honour rather than hiding your sources pretending you’re a fucking maverick. Real originals (I’ve found) have the confidence in their work to fess up to sharing where it came from.
Where do you think the “maximalist” design trend (logos everywhere, multiple prints on front, back, sleeves, etc.) in streetwear and fashion has come from?
I mean.. Logos as simple signifiers of status, of tribal affiliation.. has been forever thus. But in a world of endless scroll, of increased cultural visual sophistication, of personal brand awareness, of image overload.. the easily recognisable icon has cut through — recognisable and understandable on even the briefest of glimpses through a feed or a a quarter inch icon on your phone screen.
The irony now is that those simple icons are gaining in complexity as our collective journey through this deep aesthetic seam continues; currently we’re at the point of stacking and juxtaposition of logos upon logos, brands upon brands. Sometime soon we’ll be bored of logos and move on. You’re seeing it a bit in Raf Simons using imagery like everyone else is using logos.
But I don’t know if in my lifetime the logo has ever gone away as a form (or will ever go away). Maybe they’re a bit bigger now, but the logo is ever pervasive. We tattoo ourselves in symbols that project a sense of what we want others to believe we are. We’re a society that needs the protection of symbols (cars, clothes, devices, vacation destinations, job titles, the homes we live in, the objects we select to decorate those home with) and the social upscaling we hope comes as a consequence of their association. All bought on credit. Mass debt-fueled consumerism as religion blah blah Reagan, Thatcher, blah blahhhh
The logo as clothing adornment is a shortcut, a self-selected tiny billboard that positions you inside the demographic of your choosing. And as such the logo as graphic statement has crept from the breast to the back piece, down the sleeves. Every inch covered in a semiotic mess of messaging and signs.
(BTW its a mistake to think this is either new or limited to hype beasts, pseudo-skaters and the like, everyone is guilty, everyone does it. I get to travel for work quite a bit and walking down any street in any city in any part of the world, you’re confronted by people of all ages and all demographics in similar self-selected clusterfuck of prints, words and messaging, all messaging to no-one in particular. A great forest of meaningless messages.)
Even people who actively occupy the counter position are still drowning in the symbology of a lifestyle choice of “no logo” — no branding, no consumer culture. They’re still branded and categorised and tribally affiliated. The ‘No Logo’ logo is still a logo. We’re all performing like trained seals.
I mean.. it’s probably all down to sex lol. With these pointless printed displays of cultural superiority, we behave like Peacocks shaking our tail feathers to assert ourselves, attract mates; stating our superiority over potential threats from challengers. Well, thats why I’m currently rocking my orange $350 Champion c/o Off-White zip-tied overprint T-shirt anyway.
On Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 5:14 PM, Richard Turley