At the Global Design Forum on Monday night, graphic designer Peter Saville revealed that he’s working on a logo for musician Kanye West. In this transcript of the conversation Saville had with journalist Paul Morley, he discusses the project and what it’s like to work with the rap star.
Earlier last year Kanye West announced via his Twitter feed that he is to launch a design company named DONDA and claimed to be assembling a team that will include architects, designers and directors. We've previously published Kanye West's Claudio Silvestrin-designed apartment and a seven-screen pyramidal cinema designed by OMA to show his first short film at Cannes Film Festival last year.
Here's the transcript of the interview:
Paul Morley: I must just ask a question I think puts us in two degree of separation with Kanye West because Peter's last engagement [before coming here tonight] was with Kanye West. I love that idea that you've gone on to do the Manchester thing [Saville has been working as creative director for his home city], gone off to do grown up things but that there are still loads quite high up in the pop culture world that are still chasing you for your imprint. What exactly are they chasing you for?
Peter Saville: He's charming, he nearly came [here tonight]. I said I've got to go, I've got a gig at 5. He said where and I said somewhere called the Victoria and Albert museum. He said he's doing [TV show] Jools [Holland] tonight. He would have come.
Paul Morley: So he's your new mate.
Peter Saville: He's not my mate. One thing that you learn, in music I learnt this, just because you've been to see somebody, doesn't mean that they're your mate. So when you get called to meet Paul McCartney or I got to do Roxy [Music] covers, I got to meet Brian [Ferry] who I'd spent my teens trying to be like or look like, but you're not friends and don't call us, we'll call you. Some of the younger ones, the dynamic changes when you're older than them, Kanye is kind of weird, he…
Paul Morley: I guess he's interested in you doing design for him, he wants you to be a graphic designer.
Peter Saville: He wants me to be Cassandre. Today I told him all about Cassandre and Cassandre did the Yves Saint Laurent logo. Cassandre, France's greatest graphic artist in a way of the early 20th century. Cassandre was friends with Christian Dior, I guess they were contemporaries and pals and young Yves worked for Dior as an assistant and when Yves was leaving to set up his own label, it’s quite sweet isn’t it? He asked Cassandre to do the logo for him and Cassandre just rattled off YSL, which was pretty good.
And Kanye said to me, you're Cassandre, thats what I want. Kanye wants me to do a YSL. And he's collecting people. He said today he likes great people and wants to put them together and get them to do some great things and get some great people to check the things by these great people and really end up with some great things.
Paul Morley: The other side of the membrane, does this still have value in the world that we're going into? That is now being shattered into so many surfaces, does a logo or image like that have a value? Does it join the glut? Join the status quo itself no matter how stylish it might be?
Peter Saville: I think I can sometimes say I don't know. I get asked things and I feel obliged to know something or have an opinion and actually some things I don't know. It’s sort of significant. Depends how you work. Some people just do stuff and it’s cool. A lot of people just do cool stuff. Then there's other people that are doing something but that’s how they do it. That’s how they work. They're trying to achieve something. That’s the pathway by which they make something happen.
I tend to - this old-fashioned slightly analogue idea, there is a way a problem to solve and the problem to solve is as much the context of the now as the thing itself. What is a logo now, what might a logo be for Kanye in a particular context?
I mean I like him, I didn't expect to like him. I didn't meet him to do work. Someone said to me that he would like to meet you so I thought it would be rude to say I'm not available. So we met six months ago and had a cup of coffee and that was it. I didn't know his music and I still don't know his music. I met him as a person, who wanted to meet me and he was nice and intelligent and an astonishing energy and astonishing intelligence.
I mean he is alive, he's super live and he has talents. Sometimes you meet people who are talented and they don't have energy and you meet people with energy but no talent. Every so often you meet a talent who has energy. And Kanye without a doubt is a talent with energy. At the moment he said can I help him with something, and I said ‘I don't know, I'll try’.