Hopefully I’m going to disappoint some people. I usually do. Icons? #wtf? Define icons. Full stop. Whatever they are or might be, or whatever we think they are or want them to be, icons are good ideas stripped of their lust for life and turned to (head) stones. Be careful: what you see is what you wished for, drained of the potential to become something else. I’m not in the mood for ranking full stops. I like the lands at the top of my Faraway Tree to shift, to evolve and to move on.
I’m more interested in the space ‘icons’ occupy
– physically, abstractly, ambiently. I’m more inclined to feast on how we can read the negative space they interrupt
– seen or unseen – and the questions they ask like, ‘Why do we feel we even need icons to swing from anyway?’
Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love making logos and all that shit, me. Give me an hour or a flight reading between the lines of a book of flags, or a train journey with only kitclassics.co.uk for company and I’m tasting the feeling. I’m loving it. I’m loving working, right now, on Re-UseIsm, a book on ‘iconic’ post-Yugoslavian socialist architectural structure. Mmm… concrete! But, iconically, my interest wains when any form, intellectual or physical, is granted icon(ic) status. I’m more interested in questions than answers… aren’t the best answers questions anyway?
Is it too nebulous to suggest a blank sheet of paper as being ironically iconic?
The absence of something can be the presence of everything – the sweet spot for me is the potential of everything multiplied by everything else, even if I can’t feel it. I cherish options. Can accidents be considered iconic?
Icons? There’s no hierarchy of influence... I don’t even have favourites. Forgive me for being forward, but neither should you.
The disinformation of words as narrative in design, or, if you can afford it, art, beyond typography, has always tickled my balls. Words. Lists. Marks made. Spaces defined... I fucking love stories, me. Iconoclastic stories and the desperate battle for the pyrrhic victories of truth.
Even the deliberate absence of words, or the presence of nothing, or a design happened upon in the absence of design, can speak a thousand pictures read in the reflected glow of the right smartphone –a black something in a sea of nothing, or a black hole in a desert of everything... that is, if you feel the need to call a spade anything at all.
If we’re going to build boxes, let’s build boxes to think outside. If we’re talking about putting ideas into the ‘icon’ box, I’m always going to be more interested in the semantics of the box than what we’re putting inside it. Most people reading this shit will be drowning in a sea of everything-is-awesome icons fighting for head space to broadcast their propa-branda stories, but I like stuff that isn’t what it initially seems or what we expect it to be. I like to be challenged to make sense of any of the worlds we wear – figure hugging or overly baggy, smart but never smart casual.
I have an ongoing project that I explore with people inside, outside, up, over, and around The Designers Republic™ – my design studio based in Sheffield. It’s called Atoms Vectors Pixels Ghosts™. It can mean a lot of different things to different people from different perspectives but, if it’s easier for you, it’s about the creative process. Briefly – because we’re all running out of time and I’m running out of column inches – it refers to the corralling of ‘the random’ into the vectors of organised thinking, the embellishment of narrative and the ultimate fading fate of tomorrow’s chip paper. This is where ‘icons’ belong, if anywhere. Burning bright, living fast and dying young. Being something, meaning something then fucking off. They are ‘The empty shells of fucking hell’ – no more heroes, no legends, no deities made to be twisted and broken and remade and recycled. Unhinge your icons and set your inspirations free – put your heart in your work, not on your sleeve.
Above: Atoms Vectors Pixels Ghosts™ produced by The Designers Republic and Detroit Underground