Pref – Artist, Collaborator
Hi Alex, how’re things? I hope all is well.
Hi. All is as well as can be, thanks. I think.
We’ve just launched a capsule collection with you. We’re really stoked with your designs; they look brilliant. Can you tell us a little bit about how it came about?
I’ve known the YMC team for a long time. In my previous life, I used to do bits of art direction for them when I was still running my design studio – before I stopped doing that and focusing on the Pref side of my work full-time.
You’ve really played around with graphics, and it looks like you’ve had a lot of fun creating new logos for the brand. What was your approach?
One of the things I enjoy most about collaborating with brands is being able to take their existing wording, be it a brand name or slogans, and do something completely new with it; something unique to my way of working and that the client wouldn’t have previously imagined or thought possible – a bit like breathing new life into elements that have become repetitive or tired.
YMC’s graphic identity has evolved over the years. But the label makes “unbranded” clothing, so a “logo”, as such, has never really been needed. YMC asked me to play around with the lettering in the name. It was really interesting to reimagine something from scratch. And without needing to worry about it fitting in with anything that they have done before.
It’s really interesting when two creatives partner up to develop something new. What do you like about this way of working?
There are more ideas in two brains than in one. So, I’ve always enjoyed collaborations for that reason. I’m continually pushing the boundaries of my own work. But when a partnership is successful, it enables both parties to produce work beyond what would have been possible on their own. I always say to make a unique piece of work you have to capitalise on what’s unique about the situation. So, when two completely different brands come together, it gives you the best possible grounds for these new untapped opportunities.
Your work is very distinct. How would you describe your style?
I am interested in exploring the “art” in words, letters and language beyond their everyday function as formal, legible communications.
I believe there is huge, untapped potential in how we can use and read lettering; one that disregards any sense of tradition, and is not bound by rules, or “correct” ways of drawing and using them.
My main goal is to do new things with visual language; things that have never been done or seen before. In some ways, I feel that my work is about hope. If I can show you something completely new with my typography, then I hope I can show you that anything else is possible.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Mostly I’m inspired by great concepts and ideas, and I love seeing them realised in whatever form. I’m also inspired by language and the things people say. My sense of humour is very much based around wordplay and puns, etc. I love a dad joke.
You’ve been working as a “street artist” for over 20 years. How has it changed in that time?
I’m 39 now but when I started getting into graffiti when I was 12, the idea of street art – or even doing graffiti – as a full-time job was completely unheard of. Graffiti was a mysterious and magical thing that was like a secret book. Not knowing the who, what, why and when made it seem like something unattainable, almost mystical. The only way to find out about it was through the odd, rare magazine from Europe or America. Or meeting people who could tell you in person. And swapping photographs in the mail.
Now, of course, it’s easy to learn about online. You have all the info you need, and you can even get hold of specially designed tools and products that make it much easier to create.
This ease of access has been great in some ways as it has helped to create a marketplace, and I’m able to do it full time. But, in other ways, the aesthetic has been watered down, in my opinion. There is some really great, innovative graffiti and street art. However, there is also a lot that I find really boring, that lacks any sense of depth, idea or concept. And it ends up being either a pastiche or a “nice” picture of a face or an animal; not really saying anything, or pushing the boundaries in any way.
Can you tell us a bit about any of your other projects over the years?
For Element Skateboards, I created a set of graphics. I designed a deck for American pro skater Nyjah Huston. He went on to win the X Games in Australia riding it. As a kid who grew up on skating, that moment I saw photos of him mid-air with it spinning under his feet, and then holding it up above his head at the end, all bashed up along with the winning trophy, actually brought a tear to my eye.
Where can people see some of your work?
How have you been finding lockdown?
I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t been directly affected by the actual virus, so lockdown in London has been pretty good for me. I definitely discovered that my normal lifestyle is called lockdown, haha. Luckily, where I buy my art materials online has been up and running, so I’ve spent all the time either in the studio creating work or cycling in the sun – my two favourite things.
What advice would you give to any aspiring artists out there?
Aim to create work that is unique to you and your personality – things you love and enjoy. Think about using ideas and concepts to give your work more meaning and depth, and go on a genuine journey with your development. Try not to look at what anyone else is doing and focus on evolving your work bit by bit through experimentation, and trial and error. This will give your work more integrity, value and longevity. And it will stand out in an oversaturated market.
The Pref for YMC capsule is stocked exclusively at End Clothing and youmustcreate.com; available now.