- Hakan Öztunalı
The Lord of the Logos w/ Christophe Szpajdel
Greetings. Please welcome Belgian Senior Artist Christophe Szpajdel as known as the Lord of the Logos. Christophe has immersive portfolio of logo-making for key figures, various music bands, festivals, events and movies.
Szpajdel's eternal logo journey began with the affection of Heavy Metal, with his mobility and curiosity for calligraphy, typography and diverse cultures, became one of the most soughted artist on the globe.
The dedication behind this experienced career success ultimately falls into the commitment of his expanded insight and clairvoyance. Christophe loves people on a condition that he believes their inner veracity and gracefulness.
Greetings dear Christophe. Honour to have you on my eerie realm! Introduce yourself please.
Christophe: Thank you so much for having me on board. It is a real honour to be on another great Turkish webzine.
Türkiye has always been a country I wanted to visit but there has been always something that came in between. The only place I physically was there was on my way to and back from Japan. Atatürk Airport in Istanbul. Been there just to transit, 2 hours each time.
Wish I could have stayed longer. I hope to travel to Türkiye once the situation stabilizes. Hopefully soon.
Logos are structured and have functions to demonstrate identity and attached to the wearer. You are entitled as ‘’Lord of the Logos’’ by your clients and audience. You have off-cantered skills to create exponential identities for people. By creating logos, you’re expanding the volume of logos by stylizing an idea. Because, each logo has an idea beyond it’s symbol, motif and allegory. How do you manage and beget a story for a logo?
Christophe: First, I am having a consultation with the client or with myself in case I do a logo for my own pleasure or I try to re-imagine something by transposing my own aesthetics, so that is where I need to be just surrounded by my own thoughts.
The first phase is working on preliminary pencil sketches in order to gauge what the client is looking for. This is the hardest part as often the client expects something like “I imagine the logo in white on black background with finely detailed letters as per the examples I showed you in my previous e-mail, your initial sketches don’t seem to capture what I have tried to convey”. Most of the clients are put off by my quick pencil sketches, but they have to be regarded as failures which are paving the way to success.
Each logo is individual and to each logo there is an individual approach. Behind each logo there is a story- the client’s identity or what the client is trying to identify oneself with. The story of the logo is begot through the exchange of emails and if possible, online meetings/calls. Independently, I do also my own works, like name of a city that inspires me. For that, I do some research on the internet in order to gather useful elements to incorporate in a logo.
I am truly curious about the phase of your disappearance to prepare a logo for clients. As I experienced and lots of your clients experienced, you vanish and come back after a while. Could you please elaborately explain the process of designing, your inner journey and sentimental alteration?
Christophe: The disappearance process is a useful time I need to gather my thoughts, immerse into the universe of the client’s aspiration, like the spirit of a band, what they are trying to portray.
When I read a brief, I take the time to print out the email with the brief, so I can read it again through different moods and temper. I need a few days to digest the notes and, when it clicks in my head, I often look at other designers, calligraphy artists and tattooists on Instagram, watching how they get some ideas and trying to incorporate them in my thought patterns. I am not at all copying, I am seeing how I can mingle in these ideas and helping myself to catch a clearer vision. Once I am ready, I send across the sketches and ask the client to “brew in” for a while, that means discuss the sketches with the team and most importantly, to have a clear awareness that it’s only quick preliminary sketches and only the backbone of the logo has to be considered at this stage.
I am experiencing a lot of micro-managing clients who are coming across belittling and patronizing, hence I am taking an initial deposit of more than 50% of what the agreed price on the logo is. The price is usually agreed on the amount of options the client is curious about, the amount of iterations. On that point, every logo is individual and to every client there is an individual approach, so the price reflects that.
What do you feel when a client let you down during a logo process due to impatience?
Christophe: As per previously evoked, this is happening all the time and there is nothing I can do about it. My only defence is taking at least 50%, usually aiming at 80% deposit upfront. With this sting measure, I am protecting myself, preventing the client walking off with an unfinished product that will be presented to another designer to modify it using quick Photoshop/Adobe Illustrator tools.
You’re glorious among music bands especially for the black metal community. You’re the soul of the party! Could you describe your popularity among them in terms of relationship?
Christophe: I wouldn’t say I am seen as a king in its court. Far from that! Even if I have been doing what I do with the same unaltered passion, I am striving for greatness in every logo I work on.
My popularity is no bigger than any other designers like Angel Carvallo (Avenged Creations), Raoul Mazzero (View from the Coffin), Chris Horst (Horst Type Foundry), Luis Pinto (Logotomy design), Qan (Qantassaurus), Tyran’Type, Eckorandy, Vojtech Moonroot Doubek, Mark Riddick, Emerson Maia, David Glomba, Petr St Ulik (St Ulik Art), Memduh Ciftci, Hellbeard Rejoyceth, Art Of Darkness, Rept.il, Eugenyi Krivtsov who are some of the logo designers who are inspiring me the most at the moment.
I feel I am one of the most often mentioned artist in the Milieu, but that doesn’t mean that every band will contact me for a logo. There is so much choice of artists and logo designers to work with, which was not the case about 10 years ago. Most of the bands who want a logo these days are not going to contact me on a personal nature but will advertise on the social media instead, calling on submissions. Several clients even call for a little submission fee in order to have the designer’s sketches taken in account. This “milieu” has become a source of competition”. I am not part of this rat race.
Do you know the anecdote about the Cheetah in a greyhound speed race? What the cheetah was nowhere seen on the finish line but remained unflinched in his starting box? Sometimes trying to prove yourself everywhere is an insult. And it is. If someone is seriously interested in getting a logo done by me, she/he will find me through internet research or through recommendations/word of mouth. My popularity is described best by clients who contacted me and got exactly what they wanted without giving me hassle. That is where I can separate genuine admirers of my work from ass-lickers. Let's look at the world in reality and lets make things clear. A real admirer knows how to stay quiet and make an appearance when there is a reason to do so, not someone putting a “like” at every post without critical approach.
As someone who idolized Moonspell, their debut logo had been created by you in 1992 which was the year I born. I would like to hear out the story of the initial logo and the memories you still remember.
Christophe: Moonspell was actually created in 1991, when I was in 1990, working on a spontaneous collaboration with Tetragrammaton on the Morbid God logo when I was still writing for Septicore fanzine with Thierry Price, while living in Belgium. In 1992, Moonspell published my logo on their demo “Anno Satanae”, which started to spread my name. I was very passionate about digging ion the underground extreme metal in the late 80’s and when I joined Septicore zione in 1989, as a writer, I figured out how many bands were in need of a good logo. That is also, in the late 80’s I started offering my services as a logo artist and approached a few bands who were in fact not really looking for but still, were in dire need of a good one.
Throughout your career you have seen and met with many artists. Did you learn anything from them remarkable?
Christophe: First off, constantly looking at other artists, see what they do, how they do and how I can take a leaf out of their books and apply it in my creative process. Many of these disciples get original as they grow older, it’s the case of the super talented Vojtech Moonroot Doubek or Petr St. Ulik of Memdug Ciftci (Swarthy One) who actually are incredibly inspiring me.
On top of that, I am looking at calligraffiti artists like Ruth Sutherland, Sam Goodwin, Noeko Art, Troon Ri who is going to be part of mt Devon Artist Network group in September this year at the Flavel in Dartmouth. The Devon Open Studios is an event that happens in September and gives the opportunity to various artists across Devon to showcase their art in their own studio or, in my case, in a public events venue and attract visitors from across the world, both local and international foot trade. Most important lesson I learn the soft way: always stay humble- Don’t try to prove yourself everywhere. Sometimes it’s an insult to try to excel everywhere.
In your latest publication, ‘’Archaic Modernism’’, you stated: ‘’Art Nouveau and Art Deco are the real sources of inspiration, exploring the abyss of imagination in crafting a logo.’’ The expression is beautiful yet intriguing, I define you as a monolithic wanderer. You embark on a journey, observe ambience and then recast yourself to your surroundings to become part of it. Tell me the relation between you and your imagination please.
Christophe: Thank you so much for this description. I am absorbing what inspire me and my creative process. Art Nouveau and Art Deco can be even seen in the Archaic Modernism logo I have crafted.
The rectilinear, geometrical aspects of Art Deco are nicely blended with the curves and vegetal motifs of Art Nouveau and they even merge nicely, as the intermediate Art Nouveau-Art Deco can be noticed when you look at the Palais Stoclet in Brussels, which has been designed by the Austrian architect Josef Hoffmann for the Belgian financier Adolphe Stoclet. Built between 1905 and 1911 in the Vienna Secession style, it is located at 279–281, Avenue de Tervueren/Tervurenlaan, in the Woluwe-Saint- Pierre municipality of Brussels. Considered Hoffman's masterpiece, the residence is one of the 20th century's most refined and luxurious private houses. And it is a striking example of the fine line between Art Deco and Art Nouveau. The Archaic Modernism logo incorporates elements of these traits. Being a monolithic wanderer is a way to absorb and digest what is around me and then to transpose on paper with having prealably ruminated in terms of thoughts. It is about observing and absorbing what is around you and then using the elements necessary to build something new and refreshing.
Tell me about the collaboration between you and the Wing’s Co-founder Audrey Gelman. You
designed a logo for her with a tagline says ‘’Annihilate the Patriarchy’’ . The collaboration mentioned and published on Vogue Magazine as well. I would like to hear out your general thoughts about fashion and it’s temporary trends.
Christophe: I have been contacted by The Wing collective and it was a real breakthrough in my career. Not only because It was adventurous but because it was a feminist friendly approach and a great addition in my career.
The idea was first a logo but then it expanded and I ended up doing all the tour dates and finally I have been given the opportunity to host an interview in Vogue magazine, which created shockwaves around the world. Misogynic black metal integrists of course were very angry with me but did you not hear that in the middle of difficulties are found opportunities. You lose a grasp of fans to open the door to plenty of new people, who never heard about your work and fell in love at first sight. That opened the doors to have my work being seen by mainstream people who otherwise would never have been acquainted with the visual aesthetics of this particular lifestyle- Black Metal.
During these times, there was an increasing interest for mainstream to explore the visual aesthetics of black metal and it even inspired a fair share of manufacturers to start producing clothes with occult/black metal and death metal motifs. Never let a serious crisis go to waste because it offers you the opportunity to start doing things you thought you never could do before.
Could you suggest 3 books to read that affected you and thrived your perspective?
Christophe: There is Leon Tolstoi – Hadj Murad, about a Caucasian hero, who like Iman Shamil, showed bravery against the Russian Empire, defending the values of Freedom in the Caucasus and the Circassian land Adyghea.
A book that is truly encompassing the essence of resistance Betty Mahmoody- Not Without My Daughter which is about woman’s freedom and family ties in dictatorial supremacist countries like Iran where patriarchy is the iron rule. That clicks exactly with the previous question where I mentioned about the respect of the woman.
Roger Frison-Roche –First on the Rope. A French classic I enjoyed reading when I was in my early teens. It was about the mountains, being ready for everything to find out the truth and retrieve someone that has been lightning struck in the mountain.
Ernest Hemingway - the old man and the sea, as addition. That book moved me too.
Your last words please. Your momentary emotion.
Christophe: A heartfelt thank you for this opportunity to give an interview. I really hope many people will read it with passion. As the age is gaining… I am going to turn 53 this year, I became much more mindful who I undertake commission with. Please don't put in your head that I am someone easy to get a logo from. You need to earn it. Through the initial emails I can tell if this is a go-go or a no-no….or someone I am going to ask a few more questions.
Most importantly, don't try to prove yourself everywhere. Sometimes trying to prove you are an expert on all fronts is an insult. Choose a goal, assess its feasibility and with your passion, work around it until you succeed. And you can only succeed if you are passionate about what you are doing. I have a few art shows lined up in a few weeks I will be at the Crab Museum in Margate, Kent, UK, then in June at the Art Week Exeter and I am indeed open for many exhibition opportunities.
Please don't forget this year I will be taking part in the Devon Open Studios in Dartmouth throughout September with 6 other very talented artists. Exhibitions are the best way to show in reality what your art is. It is also the occasion to make lifetime connections with people in the most genuine way. Who knows, one day I would be delighted to exhibit in Türkiye. It would be my dream...
Christophe Szpajdel's official website: tap lordofthelogos
Christophe Szpajdel's Instagram Page: tap @christophe.szpajdel