Artist Interview: Here & Now talks to Prince Hat

Swedish designer Prince Hat, aka Patrik Svensson, has very kindly taken time out from his busy schedule to talk to us at Here & Now (a brand new feature on the blog).  The designer and illustrator is well known for his simple yet clever approach to graphic design and illustration, working with clients such as The Telegraph Magazine, Wired UK, ICON Magazine, New Scientist and GQ Australia.  Fresh from his signage project for Jashanmal Books in Dubai, here’s what he had to say..

Where do you live and work?
I live and work in Stockholm, Sweden.

Tell us a bit about your background, how did you become interested in illustration and design?

I never drew or anything as a kid, but I’ve been what you may call a voyeur or observer for as long as I can remember, which means I always had a fascination for how things and people and every little thing around me appear and look like. I did some pretentious design on my family’s first PC when I was 14 or so. I downloaded rare Nirvana b-sides and designed my own record sleeves, made home printed t-shirts etc. Internet was just a slow baby back then, and I remember taking hour-long naps in the middle of the night on the couch while a song was downloading next to me. Occassionally, my dad woke up from the computer buzzing and asked me what the hell was going on.

How would you describe your creative process?
The ideal situation is to get the brief before the weekend. I read the brief through on Friday, then spend the weekend with my girlfriend or friends over a dinner or at the movies. On Sunday night, something from the brief has hopefully sparkled in the back of my head, and I am ready to make it happen on Monday morning. I’d say 75 % of the work happen while I’m not actually by the computer, I generally know what I’m about to do when I sit down and complete an illustration. That said, it sometimes ends up completely different than what I had in mind.

Who or what are some of your influences?

Ordinary things around me, movies, a pop song that just won’t leave my
head, talking to a stranger, Image Google, other designers… I tend to prefer expressions that are based on a vibe or a concept rather than technical perfection. I want to “feel” the person behind it if you know what I mean. For instance, I love the atmosphere in the songs of Pet Shop Boys. I wouldn’t say I like everything they do, but their work have a feeling of nostalgia, loneliness and playfulness that I can relate to. The greatest feeling I know is when something hits my heart and brain simultaneously, so that would be my ultimate goal.

Can you tell us about just some of the clients you have worked with over the recent years?
Today, I finished a couple of pieces for The Telegraph Magazine that you Londoners might be familiar with ;) It was a pretty interesting and scary story about the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. I also make illustrations in each issue of a Swedish magazine called ICON, and a couple of weeks ago my first book cover was released by Bonnier.

You’re now represented by Agent Molly & Co, has this changed the way you find work and clients?
Since I’ve been quite busy with the Jashanmal Books project for most part of the spring, we haven’t done that many jobs together so far. But yes, it’s comforting to have someone taking care of the business parts, and they’re a great team to work with.

Do you find that the amount of creative freedom you have varies from client to client?
Yes, it may vary. Returning clients kind of know what to expect from me, which usually mean I don’t have to show lots of sketches and ideas before starting the real work. For some time, I’ve had the utmost pleasure of being approached by clients instead of the other way around, which also means creative freedom in that sense I probably have something they’re looking for.

For your latest project you’ve created a series of category signs for Jashanmal Books, how did this come about?
Narain at Jashanmal Books (which is a chain of bookstores in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait etc) contacted me in the spring of 2011. He had came across a couple of series of movie/tv show posters that I had made based on typography, and asked me if I could do something similar with book titles. So we had a campaign going last fall, and we’ve done some smaller things as well. Then for their refurbished Mall of the Emirates store, I was commissioned to make a set of category signs for customers to find their way around the shop. It’s 2 x 1 meter large signs that are mounted on lightboxes along the walls. I found great joy in the project, and I really hope I’ll get the opportunity to keep working with Jashanmal in the future.

What advice would you give to anyone struggling to find their own way in a similar field?
I sometimes receive emails from design students asking me for tips, and my main advice is to never lose faith in yourself, never let anyone stand in your way to reach whatever you want to reach. I had a conversation with a German student last week who had a hard time at school. No one believed in her ideas, and I could really feel her pain. When I was studying design myself, my teacher and I had
completely different approaches to design. He never believed in me or my ideas. Initially it made me sad, but after some time I learned to take advantage of his feedback in my own way; the more he disliked something, the more I was convinced I had something going on. So, feedback and listening to other people is important, but the feeling deep down in your own belly is what really matters.

Do you have any new and exciting projects coming up?
I might actually have something exciting coming up with Jashanmal! :) I don’t know much about it yet, but working with them is always a big treat for me. I also have some magazine illustrations in August, but first of all I am going to take an awaited holiday. My sister just had a baby, and I haven’t seen her yet, so I’m more thrilled about that right now…

And finally, what would be your dream collaboration or project?

I mentioned Pet Shop Boys before, and even though people don’t buy records these days… A (pretentious) record sleeve for them, perhaps?

Check out Prince Hat’s latest designs for Jashanmal Books below.

A big thank you to Prince Hat for talking to us.  You can see more of his work on his website, and read his about his latest projects and news via Twitter.  You can also buy some of his fantastic prints at his online shop.

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