• Paul_smith
  • Ps_rabbit
  • Sc_paulsmithlight
  • Sc_thomasheatherwick
  • Sc_nevillebrody
  • Sc_nigelcoates
  • Sc_nigelcoates_detail
  • Sc_listeningstation
  • Sc_davidrosen_map
  • Sc_timeline_pf
  • Sc_timeline_4
Graphic Design

Sir Paul Smith

Posted by Alex Bec,

It’s no secret that London’s Design Museum put on brilliant shows. It also won’t come as a shock to you that 15 of London’s top creative minds answering an open brief asking what they would ‘give back to London’ has led to some interesting work. What you might find surprising however, is that is sitting on these design pedestals aren’t simply self-righteous, egotistical practitioners, but in fact a group of people with a real love for our capital. I spoke with one of the most influential among them (and a real hero of mine), Sir Paul Smith. A humble, sincere and hugely inspiring man who shed some light on why he designed a rabbit shaped litter bin…

Sir Paul, you’re famed for your belief that you can find inspiration in anything, is that why you’ve decided to produce something a little out of the ordinary for the show?

Well this exhibition to in my head was very much asking the question “What do you like and what don’t you like about London”. There are lots of things that I like – the parks, museums, cross culture, but as for what I didn’t like it was more difficult. Rubbish is something I don’t like so I thought, why not do a litter bin?

The thing is that litter bins are already out there, but noone’s done a litter bin that’s a little irreverent. So if I make a five foot green bunny with ears that light up when you put the litter in – they might notice it! I was hoping that if it was a rabbit, it might encourage children to use it. Everyone loves pressing buttons at the Science Museum or at traffic lights. I thought it might become a bit of a game and then they might prefer to put their litter in a bin rather than on the floor…

So how different is the process of designing a suit jacket to a bin?

Well the actual idea was very quick! I feel a bit embarassed in a way because so much of the work here is so intellectual, political and complicated and mine is so simple. On the other hand though I think people can indentify with it very easily – people just get it.

Do you think that’s what London lacks a little bit – that openness and spontaneity?

Well, the thing is I’ve never been intellectual and don’t always understand the convoluted way people discuss and present things – I like to fast track things because I think that’s more the way of the modern world.

Also, it’s funny what people remember! Let’s say your mum has done lots of lovely things for you over the years, but then once she stood on your toe – that’s what you remember! Those are like punctuation marks in your life that stick in your mind. For example my bright pink shop in L.A has been great, everyone loves it! People use it as a point of reference and meeting point because everyone can find it! I like to do things that have that “I get it” factor.

You could argue though that the idea of quickness of communication is a bigger idea than a long winded, intellectual concept?

Well yes, sometimes I think it is. I’m very spontaneous, my work comes from the heart and the head. When I first started as a designer you didn’t consider marketing plans or what other designers were doing or your competitors. You just looked at what was in your head and your heart and thought “OK, that’s what I’ll do”.

I know you’re not from London, how would you piece differ if it was for Nottingham where you started out?

Well I’d probably just do the same thing! It’s the right colour because it looks like Robin Hood. Maybe I’d give it a bow and arrow, green tights and a pointy hat?!

Was it quite easy to do a piece based around London, despite not growing up there?

To be honest once I got the brief I understood it and had the idea really quickly. Also I’ve got a huge rabbit collection, in the early 80s I foolishly said that rabbits bought me good luck and now I get lots sent to me. I think i have about 80 boxes in my warehouse in Nottingham.

What’s next for Paul Smith? More rabbits or more clothes?

Well they do breed don’t they?! We’ve just opened a really nice shop in San Francisco… Also a very cute shop in Paris that’s opened in a building that’s been empty for 30 years and I’ve not done anything to the shop at all. It doesn’t even have my name written on the front…

I remember a few years ago listening to an interview with Van Morrison and the interviewer asking him about the meaning behind his track ‘Astral Weeks’, and he just said, “I don’t know it just came into my head!” That’s what it’s a bit like with me – just shoot from the hip.

I think that honesty and sincerity is absolutely imperative to your work and why you’re such an inspiration not only to us, but such a huge amount of people all over the world…

Well I think you have to realise that there’s a lot of stuff going on out there, and you need to have a point. Think about your mum stepping on your toe, she probably never did but you know what I’m saying…

Super Contemporary runs until 4 October at The Design Museum and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD

Ab-300

Posted by Alex Bec

Alex is one of the directors of It’s Nice That who now oversees our sister creative agency INT Works. For several years he oversaw the Monday Morning Music Video feature until it came to an end in 2014.

Most Recent: Exhibition View Archive

  1. List

    There are equal doses of pleasure and frustration to be had in stumbling across the work of a photographer you’ve never seen before. It’s classic FOMO on a macro scale, coupled with joy at the prospect of showing off the treasure you’ve found. At least that’s what I felt when I discovered that photographer Mark Neville was to be showing two of his photo-series alongside one another in a new show entitled London/Pittsburgh at London’s Alan Cristea Gallery.

  2. List-flyers-for-the-institute-at-sexology.-photography-by-russell-dornan_-design-by-liam-relph-(3)

    London’s Wellcome Collection space always hosts explorations of the things that fascinate us most. It’s covered death, it’s exhaustively explored the human body in all its glory and grotesquery, and now it’s moved on to surely the most fascinating of all – sex, or more precisely, how people have studied it.

  3. List

    How’s this for a collaboration? Artist Quentin Jones, who counts photography, animation, painting and filmmaking among the tools of her trade, has teamed up with spatial designer Robert Storey to create the setting for her new exhibition in the The Vinyl Factory Space on London’s Brewer Street, with Robert creating a set for each of Quentin’s works.

  4. Main

    Right now, illustrator-turned artist extraordinaire Jordy van den Niewendijk is probably having a nap. For the last few weeks he’s been rushing around the world getting his work together for a very exciting solo show at New York’s trendy Moiety Gallery. It’s safe to say Jordy is one of our favourite artists, and to see his work evolve aesthetically over the years yet still cling on to that trademark style is great, a little bit like watching one of those cool videos of flowers blooming in slow-mo.

  5. Mp

    Hands up who loves boobies and butts? The pervier of us will appreciate this brand new show from Mike Perry which sees him collate all his brilliant nudie drawings in one place, and if you’re not a perv you’ll just love the colours. They say the human form is a beautiful thing, but sometimes people forget that it’s also super fun too. Good for lovely, bearded Mike for noticing this and spending ages drawing people with legs akimbo on coloured paper to entertain us straight-laced British folk. If you’re into illustration and/or nudity, head down to KK Outlet tonight for this scintillating show.

  6. List

    In 1963, the Royal College of Art held an exhibition celebrating 15 years of the school of graphic design. In the show’s catalogue, Professor Richard Guyatt remembered the days when the term was adopted by the college. “With a certain sense of relief, but not much conviction, the name ‘Graphic Design’ was chosen,” he wrote. “No one was quite sure what it meant, but it had a purposeful ring…”

  7. 4list.-charles-jourdan_-spring-1976-%c2%a9-guy-bourdin

    In the summer of 1979, several legs boarded a ferry travelling from Dieppe to Plymouth. However unlike most other legs making the journey, these didn’t have any feeling in their toes.

  8. Main1

    Just over a week ago It’s Nice That’s Jamie McIntyre and I took a train from London to Glasgow to the much-antiticipated Graphic Design Festival Scotland. We had been invited by Beth Wilson and James Gilchrist, two students who had recently graduated from Edinburgh College of Art. During their degree the two had found themselves working best when together, and decided to form Warriors Studio as a duo. They began thinking about the climate of graphic design in Scotland, the need for something new and exciting and – most importantly – what the hell they were going to do when term ends and they were turfed out to fend for themselves.

  9. List

    Designing for the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year must be in many ways a dream project, in many ways a nightmare. Creating graphics that can seamlessly place disciplines as disparate as graphic design, furniture, product and architecture comfortably next to one another takes skill and an eye for leaving said projects to speak for themselves. Ok-RM’s graphics did just that, sitting back to let the viewer to make their own decisions about each project on its own merit, regardless of how it was made or by whom. Clean, well-spaced and scant typography work with clever colour-coding to form an overall aesthetic that more than deserves its place alongside the best designs of the past 12 months.

  10. List

    Listen up digital art types! If you’ve got great idea for a project that you haven’t been able to make happen, The Space may just be able to help. The not-for-profit venue has launched an open call to help a creative make that one crazy idea a reality, with funding and mentoring on offer. They say: “Nothing’s off limits; this is about pushing the boundaries and the project can take their point of departure from any artistic discipline, from music and film to visual arts and gaming.”

  11. Main

    Victoria Siddall has worked at Frieze for just over a decade and two years ago was made Director of Frieze Masters. Excitingly, just a few weeks ago she was appointed Director of Frieze Masters, Frieze New York and Frieze London. As well as being one of the most powerful women in the art world, Victoria is also my sister, so I was curious to find out how she’s feeling on the dawn of her new career.

  12. Main

    Imagine a dream world in which the heavy task of town planning was given over to the artists and creatives whose visions could ignite the city and bring out its most defining features. Some cities in the world are known for their cultural heritage: Nantes wasn’t one of these until 15 years ago, and since then it’s been a slow burn fuelled by the imagination of a group of risk-takers coralled by French public art impressario Jean Blaise and his curator David Moinard.

  13. Avlist1._alexander_rodchenko_costume_design_for_bedbug_1929__a._a._bakhrushin_state_central_theatre_museum

    For years I ventured no further than the hallowed halls of the lower floors of the V&A. And then, one day, like Lucy and Edmund tiptoeing upstairs to discover Narnia, I crept into the Theatre and Performance Galleries and found another magical wardrobe.