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Celebrity = Automatic “Oooh-Ah” Factor?

Yesterday I received an email from the licensing directory Veer that noted, among other things, that they now had photographs ready to license that were taken by Mr. Talking Heads himself, David Byrne.

I admit it. I took their bait and gave their site an unnecessary 5-minute tour to see just what was so darn spiffy about David Byrne’s pix. Color me surprised when I read the teaser text below, found in their “Ideas” section:

Need to add some celebrity cred to your design project? Now you can tell your client, “We used photography by David Byrne.” Yes, that David Byrne

Are clients that shallow?

We’ve talked about designers as rockstars ideology; and, it seems that just about every other thread at some point or another brings-up the idea of non-designers pretending to know what they’re doing just because they have the software or read a book once. So, naturally, upon reading the teaser text at Veer for Byrne’s photography being the perfect way to sell a layout to a client, the idea of real rockstars as designers (or in this case, photographers) started to bubble in my head.

Does having a celebrity as your illustrator, photographer or designer mean automatic approval of your project? Furthermore, how many celebrities — that have the side-interest (or passion) to create art and work with designers — actually make something that would be engrossing even without their name attached?

I’m curious to hear which actors or musicians that you think have real talent for design, photography, or illustration.

David Bowie as a painter: yes or no? John Lennon as an illustrator: perhaps? Gwen Stefani as an art director?

I’m not quite sure. But I do admit that I have an affinity of the photography of actor Viggo Mortensen and former rocker Melissa auf der Maur (who may or may not count because she actually majored in photography while in college).

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PUBLISHED ON Jan.17.2003 BY joy olivia
Christopher May’s comment is:

Interestingly enough I read an article in a magazine a while back (cant remember which one ) that was about Pierce Brosnan (007) - "the fine artist". As pathetic as it sounds I guess it is possible that celebrities could posses other talents.

On Jan.17.2003 at 09:36 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>Are clients that shallow?

I would say sometimes yes. For example, when David Carson was in vogue, every major corporation wanted him to design something for them, even if his style wasn't the appropriate for their market. Like the Armani ads, or the pepsi ads, which are pretty good, but I think they missed the point. Even the ads for Chevy Camaro were kind of off kilter. In the end the clients could proudly say "David Carson designed our ads, so we are hip and cool."

I think there is always the mentality of wanting to be popular and stay on track with the current trends, so hiring a "celebrity" illustrator or photographer will always be a good conversation piece for any sales guy or marketing director.

As far as talented celebrities, I can't think of any. Oh! The bass player from Pearl Jam, Jeff Ament is supposedly a talented designer and, along with his brother, does most of their poster work.

On Jan.17.2003 at 10:57 AM
pnk ’s comment is:

Two things on this point:

I know one "rockstar" at least, Marcus Durant, singer for Zen Guerilla, who is also an award-winning designer. His band rocks and his designs do too, in a very Art Chantry sort of way. Many other designers (myself included) got their starts creating flyers/packaging/t-shirts for thier bands, so I'm sure there are other good ones out there...

On a more broad cultural note, celebrities are to Americans as the pantheon of gods were to ancient Greeks; tales of their behavior are used to illustrate the appropriate codes of conduct in our lives (Paul Newman gives money to charities! Wynona is a crook! OJ was setup!). Encounters with them are near-religious experiences. OF COURSE having a photo taken by David Byrne is desirable. It draws (by association) anyone involved with the project one degree of separation nearer to the state of grace called FAME...

On Jan.17.2003 at 10:57 AM
pk’s comment is:

of the demi-celebs i know (three), two of them hate getting work simply because of their names.*

it inspires them to do absolutely nothing besides show up, knowing full well whoever's paying the check doesn't really give a shit about their talent. it's discouraging to know your name's associated with a project simply because a lot of someones with influential opinions think you're hot hot hot. it also mens the client dopesn't want something new: they want what you're known for. and when the public gets tired of that: watch your ass. you'd better have another monkey to crank your hurdy gurdy or you're toast: nobody cares, the money goes away, and you're unmentionable for a while. out of fashion. it's a total trap.

*the third a drag queen, so fame, in his case, is the talent in question. situation void.

On Jan.17.2003 at 01:28 PM
Su’s comment is:

I'm rather fond of several of the fonts Jim Marcus(of Die Warzau) has done for T-26(yeah, yeah, I know).

Do we have to stick to design/photography/illo?.

On Jan.17.2003 at 02:19 PM
Su’s comment is:

Oh yeah. Marcus link

On Jan.17.2003 at 02:20 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>Do we have to stick to design/photography/illo?.

Not when a link is that good! That is the last guy I would have pictured doing pottery.

On Jan.17.2003 at 02:32 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Graphic Design, The Movies, Corporate Marketing...they are all shallow professions.

Art is art. Anyone can do it. Some do it better than others. One's profession isn't necessarily indicitive of their artistic talent.

If you are saying that sometimes celebrity is a door to other avenues not necessarily one's forte, well, sure...it's a shallow world.

On Jan.17.2003 at 03:18 PM
joy olivia’s comment is:

I second Armin's comment. Bring it on!

I've heard rumors of Brad Pitt's supposedly deft skills in the architecture department.

On Jan.17.2003 at 03:41 PM
Nick’s comment is:

Damien Kulash, singer/songwriter for Capitol Records altrockers OKGo is a pretty talented graphic designer. He does most of the artwork, etc for the group (except for their cover art, which Sagmeister handled).

On Jan.18.2003 at 02:43 AM
KInghorse’s comment is:

Jon Spencer (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) is a graphic designer; he designed the sleeve of the JSBX album "Orange" (the one with the silver sleeve). He also used to design "Details" magazine.

His wife Christina (singer in Boss Hogg) is a graphic designer too, and used to be an intern at Mike Mills' NYC studio...

On Jan.18.2003 at 11:25 AM
KIngpony’s comment is:

And of course Chuck D. (Public Enemy) is a trained graphic designer. He designed the PE logo (the hat-wearing guy standing in a target) and some PE sleeves...

On Jan.18.2003 at 11:33 AM
Kids In Satanic Service’s comment is:

...and let's not forget that Kiss-members Ace F. and Paul S. designed the original Kiss logo...

On Jan.18.2003 at 04:15 PM
Finn’s comment is:

well, some people may think it's immature junk, i'm a big fan of rob zombie's illustrations. i would pay a lot of money for an art book of his. i really dig that style. i'm pretty sure he's directed all their videos and does a lot of their stage props as well.

On Jan.20.2003 at 08:48 PM
Leon’s comment is:

...there's that guy from Kraftwerk (did 'The Mix' cover I think, v.nice) and that guy from Caberate Voltaire who did all CVs covers. Then there's John Squires from the Stone Roses / Shirehorses who does all that painty, arty stuff for his own and SRs album covers. Isn't creativity still creativity regardless of the medium?

On Jan.21.2003 at 08:03 AM
Marcus Webb’s comment is:

It seems to me that the question is not whether or not there are celebrities who make art/design BUT whether or not these people are making good design decisions. I find that it varies from person to person. Just as much as you can not believe that ALL work produced by celebrities is horrid and trite, you must recongnize the opportunity that someone who has gained fame through ANOTHER of their talents (arguable as those may be) has something to contribute to art/design/etc.

A celebrity does not make good design. But a celebrity can make a good design.

On Jan.21.2003 at 12:19 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

"And of course Chuck D. (Public Enemy) is a trained graphic designer."

Really? That's great. I never knew that.

Since this topic has now spun into graphic-designers-who-are-famous-for-other-reasons, let's not forget the beloved Phil Hartman.

On Jan.21.2003 at 03:44 PM