Blair Thomson of Exeter-based studio Believe in interviews Belgian-born “Lord of the Logos” Christophe Szpajdel (pronounced “shpydel”).
At what age did you first become interested in logos?
My interest in logos came at the age of seven when I saw the Kiss logo. That was back in 1977, and is what sparked my creativity for logo making.
I also particularly liked the logos of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. It was at the age of 17, however, when I really became fascinated by designs such as those for Venom, Kreator, King Diamond, and Possessed.
Were you interested in drawing and this developed into logos, or did you always like branding?
I’ve always found something fascinating about logos, especially the Art Nouveau and Art Deco logos from the beginning of last century. These were the most amazing gems. Have you seen such beautiful brand logos like Tropon for example? I think Art Nouveau and nature were always to be associated as one, and the first thing I started to draw were plants and animals. Art Nouveau is itself the cult of nature.
Do you admire logo and identity design from outside of the metal world that you have become infamous?
Some product brand logos can be cool, like Relentless, for example. Even today this logo still fascinates me. I’m also very keen on some of the variations of the Animal, Billabong, and Warlord clothing logos.
I actually create quite a bunch of non-metal logos like the CRAS logo, a Tulsa based society that projects old forgotten gem movies from the 20s to the 40s. I designed several personal brand logos for people such as Dawn Hemsley, Deborah Dean, Pamela Smith, Vicky Sanchez, Maxine Ridd, and Paula Whitfield, and also illustrated for Paula Whitfield’s book The Repertoire of Delusions.
So yes, I explored identity design outside the metal world and it worked even better because non-metal clients were unfamiliar to the existence of this world. At some point, since creating my account on Facebook, I realized there was a completely new public gaining interest in world yet unknown to them — the world of logos.
How do most of your clients find you?
They mostly find me by word of mouth, but there was a massive increase of interest since I joined Facebook, and since I was interviewed in such magazines as VICE, Metal Hammer, Metal Maniacs, and Terrorizer. That made my name reach even more secluded circles of interests that I would never have thought of before. The Internet had a massive impact.
What is your favourite self-created logo?
It’s hard to pick just one favorite, so I’ll mention a couple of favorites from each style. Emperor and Abigail Williams among the classics, Morgawr and Anamorph among the Art Nouveau ones, Deborah Dean and Disciples Of The Watch for the Art Deco feel, Wolves In The Throne Room and Chasma for the Deressiv’Moderne current, The Obliterate Plague for its simplicity and efficiency, Samantha Byrne for the enigmatic pose with came as a doppelganger of the Glorior Belli logo created by Valnoir Artfield de Lautrec.
What logo do you wish you had created?
I wish I could have created the logo of Dragged Into Sunlight, since this is my absolute to favorite band and my absolute favorite logo, but I designed a logo for his other project, Ninkharsag, which is in my book. Other logos I wish I had created are Demoncy (USBM heroes), Sarcofago, Mutilator Immolith, Venom, Shores Of Melancholy, Burning Of Sodom. I never had the chance to get hold of any of these bands that inspired my creativity with their amazing music.
Your work is extremely detailed. How long would a typical design take?
It takes a minimum of two weeks and can last up to six weeks or more. It depends if it’s a complicated logo, and if the client requires lots of changes, as was the case with Seize The Soul, Namter, Animus Mortis, The Wounded Kings — all very fussy clients. I would actually rate them as “Clients From Hell” because they truly are! I am also a very meticulous person, paying attention to every detail.
I understand that you recently created a logo for Really Interesting Group (aka RIG), who designer and blogger Ben Terrett operates. How did this compare to working with musicians?
Actually, that was something very simple, I never thought it would be for a group. I first thought it was for a band called RIG and thought oil rig. I asked Ben Terrett for as much detail as possible and he was fairly laconic in what he wanted. I digged a bit more and found out he loves AC/DC as lettering, so I created a very simple logo.
After that, I got a lot of interest, and this is how I met you, Blair, and even more interesting is that you just live next door to me! How cool is that?
Working with musicians generally takes me longer and requires me to come up with more changes during the run of the work. I often have to give further cracks on logos, and as I’m telling you all this, I’m working on a fourth logo for “client from hell,” The Wounded Kings.
What inspires you?
Mostly and primarily, I am inspired by nature. But over the last decade, I opened my interest to art, especially Art Nouveau for its flowing motives, and Art Deco/Modernism for its geometry. Anger is something that helps me in coming up with a great logo for an aggressive metal band.
The tranquility of shorelines gave me inspiration to create some flowing logos that needed a more relaxed state of mind.
Tell us about the book — how did that come about?
Gestalten have produced some beautiful books on logo design. In march last year, after the interview I gave to VICE (yes, they have been taking the mick out of me, but great, they turned me into a weirdo) and the feature in the Compendium “Logos from Hell” by Mark Riddick, I got approached by Hendrik Hellige whom I met in Berlin by the end of May. Then in June, the big boss of Gestalten, Julian Sorge, concluded the contract and in September I supplied all my logos.
In October, I created the logo for the cover, and finally, at the end of January, the book was released. I didn’t interfere at any time with the process of assembling the book, as I gave Gestalten my full trust. They did a wonderful job juxtaposing the photos I took in different parts of the world (mostly Whiskey Town Lake in Northern California, Mount Hood in Oregon, Dartmoor, and the Southwest Coast Path in Devon).
The result is amazing and I am more than delighted with the work of Gestalten. Finally I can regard this book as my child. It really is a part of me.
Do you have any advice for budding logo designers — metal or otherwise?
It is better to specialize in something you really feel for. Try to find as many inspirational surroundings as possible to unleash your creativity.
Win a signed copy of Szpajdel’s book Lord of the Logos
“This book is a collection of work by Christophe Szpajdel, an artist whose fans in the underground black metal community worship him as the Lord of the Logos. It includes hundreds of powerful logos, each of which captures the force of this musical genre anew. Through his surprising use of aesthetic influences such as art deco and nature, Szpajdel has brought a new dynamic into the gothic visuality of heavy metal. This publication, which is done in the style of a black prayerbook, shows not only how he has succeeded in leaving his own visual mark on this music, but how he has also expanded the canon of forms it uses.”
To enter the draw, leave a comment naming someone you’d like to see interviewed here. The winner will be randomly chosen and emailed on Friday 26th.
The winner is… Alicia Viera — congratulations!