Edited by Anna Gerber and Anja Lutz. Published by Die Gestalten Verlag.
Excerpt featuring the influences of Rob O'Connor, Stylorouge.
Vaughan is a friend of mine, and although it may embarrass him to know it, I am unashamedly a member of his huge fanbase. When the record label 4AD was born as an offshoot of the successful independent Beggars Banquet, it became known as much for its incredible eclectic visual identity as for it's fascinating musical output. The look of its packaging and marketing was always backed up by music of a guaranteed quality, and this marriage created a record label that could be absolutely trusted to deliver. When we ever compared notes about techniques, I was always astounded that he had nothing more in his creative armoury than we had; although at the top of his toolbox was his trusty Agfa copy camera and his willingness to collaborate, first with photographer Nigel Grierson and later with Chris Bigg, whose spell at Stylorouge was simply a stepping-stone to working with Vaughan. Huge respect due.
s a teenager, I knew most of my album collection intimately by their covers, and being susceptible to the pretentious, my favourites were often the ones that I didn't immediately understand. Storm Thorgersen, Aubrey Powell and Peter Christopherson were officially the founders of Hipgnosis, and their propensity for creating visual images for mere pop music that were obtuse, mind-expanding and outrageous, and at the same time being produced at advertising-quality, was amazing. Storm's book's, especially "Walk Away Renee" recaptures in hilarious detail the playful adventures perpetrated in the making of some of pop history's most expensive and lavish visual productions.
The Creative Staff at Stylorouge
An amorphous organism… I have had the privelege of hiring and working alongside some of the most creative minds and nicest human beings you could wish to meet, often straight from artschool. So many have gone on to achieve great things under their names, and at times I've wondered if Stylorouge had become more of an academy than a design studio. The truth is that at any one time, whoever is on board, the company is always worth more than the sum of its parts.
've chosen Grapus in lieu of some gratuitous punk band. Their philosophy as a design collective was closer to the alleged spirit of the so-called New Wave than anything thrown up, or rather spat out, by the music scene in the "70's.
Fiercely left-wing and with a strong anti-establishment attitude borne of the late '60's student uprising in France, their work combined playful, often childish aesthetics with powerful messages. For fifteen years, they created some of the most meaningful cultural icons of the time.
Founded in France in 1970 by Pierre Bernard, Gerard Paris-Clavel, and Francois Miche, their designs, notably their posters, recklessly clashed paint, photography and graffiti in a technique of visual disruption known as detournement, the rerouting of a message through acts of visual vandalism. Grapus dissolved when it's confrontational ideology was compromised by its own success, and its acceptance by the cultural establishment. Whilst some of it's members resented the move away from their essentially political roots, Bernard has always maintained that graphic communication can be an instrument of social change when applied to cultural institutions. He now runs the Atelier de Creation Graphique – his lecture "Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible" was apparently one of the highlights of the 2000-2001 season at New York's Design Association, AIGA.
For sanity's sake... Sonny Rollins, David Sylvian, Paul Weller, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, Steve Marriott, Howling Wolf, Ian Dury, John Surman, Jimmy Reed, Gorecki, Joe Strummer, Kelly Joe Phelps, David Bowie, Tom Waits, Ryan Adams, Libertines, U Roy, Scott Walker, Associates, Black Keys, Dusty Springfield, Dead Can Dance, Johnny Griffin, Future Sound Of London, David Holmes, Levi Stubbs, Emmylou Harris, Marvin Gaye, Gene Vincent, John Coltrane, The Contours, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Prophet, Radiohead, Craig Armstrong, John Martyn, Lowell George, Iggy pop, Sandy Denny, Handel, John Lee Hooker, Squeeze, Nirvana,
The Damned, Ella Fitzgerald, Angelo Badalementi, Underworld, Vivaldi, Art Blakey, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Benny Goodman, Captain Beefheart, Bob Marley, Andrews Sisters, PJ Harvey…etc,etc,etc…
I have literally grown up in the Habitat generation, and it is thanks to Sir Terence Conran, a latter-day William Morris, and the store he set up in the 60's that the UK became design conscious. The advent of Habitat heralded the beginning of accessible designs for the home. I believe that for him, providing well designed and constructed products that were also affordable has been more of a crusade than mere entrepreneurism.
The Big Sleep moment
(Not just because it represents my interest in the writing of Raymond Chandler, which in turn got me into reading hard-boiled detective thriller fiction).
This was a point in the '80's, early on in my new found status as VCR owner, when watching the very poor re-make movie of The Big Sleep (starring a fading Robert Mitchum) I noticed something that would have a lasting impact on me. At a pivotal moment in the story one of the main characters drives a car into a river at night. Suspecting special-effects foul-play, I re-wound until I discovered what wasn't right... at the point of impact with the water some pyrotechnician had jumped the gun with an explosive device and sure enough the water exploded from the river's calm surface a split second before the car made impact. For some reason this compounded my already increasing joint interests of film-making and creative embellishment (or as some would have it telling lies).
As I now indulge my interest in film-making more professionally, it has become something of an obsession - the scourge of the observant viewer - constantly looking for signs of artifice, inaccuracy or failed continuity - the half full glass that fills itself on the reverse shot, and so on. A curse for others in the room, it at least keeps the eyesight sharp...
As a grand master of design irreverence and visual mischief, it comes as something of a surprise to know that the sadly missed Barney Bubbles was in reality something of a tragic character. His design work was ground-breaking in many ways, and particularly influential to my own work in his ability to deliberately misappropriate visual references to great effect. He was a sponge for the full gamut of visual vernacular, and having digested the same, usually with a significant amount of mind-altering substances commonplace in his 1970's Portobello Road manor, he produced work that was inspiring, funny, and above all unpredictable.
He was born in 1942 (real name Colin Fulcher) and made his name in his late 20's working with various local musical artists, notably the space/hippy/metal inventors Hawkwind, with whom he enjoyed a close relationship until his suicide in 1983. He was employed by Stiff Records, where he brought his love of Futurist art and Russian Constructivism to the world of three chords and dodgy haircuts.
His designs for Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Nick Lowe and Billy Bragg were famous at a time when the 7 inch picture sleeve had it's heyday. Designing to print out of register, off-centre or inside-out were specialities of his mischievously inventive mind.
He refused to sign his work, perhaps through modesty, or alternatively to be in keeping with the anonymity that Thatcherite Britain had inspired within the punk culture of the time. His credit on the album sleeve for Elvis Costello's Get Happy was his newly acquired VAT registration number. Sadly it was partly his obligation to her majesties customs and excise that tipped him even closer to the edge of his ultimate depression.
No one photographer in mind here, nor even one particular style - just all of it - the whole thing. I love photography unconditionally. In a world where anyone with a decent computer and a cheap video camera can make movies, it seems perverse to still consider a frozen moment in time as being relevant, and yet it is just that function of photography that appeals, irrelevant of quality.
Photography works on many levels: art, information, propaganda, souvenir, evidence, memory, icon, notebook, sketchpad. Along with the far-too-few discs on my desert island, my luxury item would definitely be a camera of some sort (probably solar-powered!)
Charlton Athletic Football Club
Not just a football fan's sad inability to think of anything else, there is more to this choice than meets the eye.
I have indeed been a fan of this esteemed club since a child, and apart from having indulged my passion for football I have had the opportunity to see how this still relatively small company has evolved in my lifetime. In recent years I have noticed parallels between our paths.
The football world reacts immediately to success and failure, and that is similarly true of commercial creativity; if you are not visibly achieving a certain level then you can easily slip out of favour. It is essentially a culture based on relationships; between team-mates, staff and management, client and supplier. There are moments of individual brilliance, competition, endurance, hard work, elation, disappointment.
I often refer to football analogies in the day-to-day running of Stylorouge. I am pleased to say that Charlton Athletic have kept a strong respect for their players, staff and supporters. They've re-built a stadium, created a solid company, kept themselves solvent, brought on new young talent, gained respect from their peers by being entertaining and keeping to good principles and elevated themselves to the top-flight of the game. They are modest and a little unglamorous but have succeeded without any drama or bluster and are ready for an even more exciting future to come. If that were my business plan for Stylorouge 25 years ago I would have been happy.