Edited by Nick Long
S Book 2
Art Books Int.
Does the studio have a philosophy on how it handles its work?
Well it's got more a philosophy than a style. The two things I'd always say are: reaching a certain level of quality and not making do. Secondly, it's making sure the personality of the job fits the project. I know that's a very vague, abstract concept, but there's no right way to approach something. I think you have to get inside it and get to know something about the product or the person.
Is there any project that you would wish had been approached a different way?
Plenty, often because the core idea had been compromised by committee-style input. In the music industry there's always a bass player that did a foundation course or a girlfriend who's into art. There's an expression: a camel is a racehorse designed by committee, which is a fantastic analogy. That is exactly what happens when you design by committee. You've got to be, as much as anything, a bit of a diplomat and try and keep people at bay. And sometimes do what they want early on in the project, just to prove it doesn't work.
Damon Albarm and Graham Coxon attended art college. How closely did you work with them on the visual side of Blur's output?
Probably closer than any other band. Funnily enough, I don't think their input was always visual. In fact, in general, it wasn't. But it was very creatively supportive. They were a special case, because everyone in their career respected them so much, and they had very good people at the helm. The two people running their careers, apart from themselves, were Andy Ross and Dave Balfe at Food Records. They're both very opinionated people, but very cool people and their opinions were always constructive. They managed to keep Blur away from all idiotic influence of major record company marketing, which would normally force them into a pigeonhole, and of course they weren't.
You could prove Stylorouge doesn't have a house style by reviewing the Blur album cover. They are all different. Was this a policy?
What they wanted to do from the start was: 'Let's not make it look like a record cover.' We didn't have the band on there, no musical instruments, no pictures of the band in the studio. nothing that would make it look like a typical record cover. I think we stuck with that all the way through. It was very disappointing when they went elsewhere. I think some of the covers they've done since are really good. So, c'est la vie. We did all right with them for a few years.
How did that relationship begin?
Food records was a very new company and we had designed their logo- I don't know how we got that job. I suppose that you're lucky in the music business. You can stick youur name on the back of what you've designed. A lot of design people don't get that privilege. Someone somewhere must have seen our name and said, 'They look like an interesting company. Let's get them in.' We did two josbs for Food before Blue, a real nice band called Diesel Park West. They were from Leicester and really should have been born in America. They wrote really Byrds style music. Nothing to do with the English music scene at all. Which is probably why they failed. Food really liked what we did for them. So then we got Jesus Jones and Blur at the same time. Reputation is so important in the music industry.
With such a reputation within the industry do you ever feel the need to pitch for work?
Pitch is an interesting word. We don't pitch for free. I know that's very rare and we're hanging on by our fingernails, because you know there's some good work out there that people are scratching each other's eyes out to get. It's pointless and so negative. I thoroughly recommend against it. But unfortunately that's not the ways it works. You have to work as a body to overcome this rend. A good commissioner of design will know the right person for the job from their previous work, personality, approach and so on.