So from time to time, people have asked “What got you interested in doing design work, printing and manufacturing, animating, screen printing, etc etc etc.?” It’s a question that I’ve rarely had the time to answer. I am an aging b-boy. Quite literally. My childhood was inundated with Hip-Hop. In all it’s forms. I am not going to get in to the elements because everyone knows that. Suffice to say over the course of my life, I have participated in every aspect of Hip-Hop with varying degrees of success. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ll always be. Some of my earliest memories are of various cassette tape recordings of late night radio shows with dj’s and songs that I will never be able to pull out of my brain, indescribable break dancing and graffiti images that I can’t translate in to words. From the beginning, images and symbols have always had an allure for me. When used properly a symbol doesn’t need words. Lines and colors are able to convey so much information…a brand, an emotion, a memory…communication. In the most literal sense.
The perfect synergy of sight and sound, creates a mental chemical cocktail in the mind of all who behold it. For me, it was this:
The Sugar Hill Records Logo. Sugar Hill Records, founded in 1979, in Englewood, NJ by Sylvia Robinson, Joe Robinson, and Morris Levy. The record label that launched what became the hip-hop industry. I tried to find the identity of the original Sugar Hill logo designer but was unsuccessful. I found someone who claimed to have created it, but when I reached out for confirmation, I got crickets. But that artwork man, so simple, but sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo indelible. It was forever cemented in my head. Between the Rapper’s Delight single that was on fire by The Sugar Hill gang, constantly getting rotation everywhere, this cover art was not only beautiful but mesmerizing. As I mentioned, that perfect synergy. This image coupled with that sound was the perfect vehicle to communicate what you could expect if you bought this, if you saw this, if you heard this. I remember staring at the cover for hours trying to decipher it. That sky blue background and that candy cane…almost syrupy sweet looking lettering…the colors…just everything about it was captivating. The 12″ even had the hole in the center so you could see the label enclosed for the artist and the song information. That’s where that solid product design comes in. Imagine in a record store, amidst a sea of releases, that cover will stand out. In the late 70’s, early 80’s most major labels wanted nothing to do with Hip-Hop. Yet, here was a product that was undeniably popular and designed in such a bold way. The statement that it was making was unmistakable. It spoke directly to the nascent hip-hop crowd. The lettering was as emotive and vibrant as graffiti, yet it was still handled in a professional/business/product manner. It stood next to the R&B and Disco records of the day and sold millions of copies, speaking directly to the audience that had no voice, in their own language. It was the perfect incendiary device, all the while hiding in plain sight.
That’s what got me started. That connection with a idea on a level that is lasting and almost palpable. It renders words useless, if done properly. I hope to have a modicum of that impact on someone’s life with what I do.