EDMTunes Sits Down with James Zwadlo, Creative Director for The Chainsmokers
What do you do?Hey, I’m James and I’m the Creative Director for The Chainsmokers. With my partner Lev and our company ‘Impossible Brief’ we have been helping the guys with the creative direction since the ‘Roses’ single, almost 2 years now!
How did you get involved with The Chainsmokers?Funnily enough I did an artwork for the artist ‘Snails’ while I was at work a couple years ago (See here). Snails posted it and the guys saw it on twitter, I believe. A week later I got an email from their management asking if I’d like to work with them going forward. I jumped at the chance! The funniest thing about it was, I did it whilst I was at work, in my down-time between two jobs. It goes to show that you never know what is going to happen when you put your work out there. We live in an exciting age with social media where we have a direct line to the artists we want to work with!
What changes did you make to their branding and creative?I think before we started working with them, Alex had been doing the photoshopping himself! We studied their history, their past artwork and creative direction, and tried to figure out a way to move it forward whilst still feeling like an evolution of their brand. With this in mind the guys had been pretty consistent with using a square box in the middle of the artwork with the song name followed by their name. We kept this in all subsequent designs, to ground them in a familiar design aesthetic with the same principle core rules to keep it feeling consistent. There are other more subtle design rules we set ourselves as well, we broke them a couple times, but by enlarge they were followed. This helped things feel cohesive overall, even if the subjects and themes of the songs and artworks were changing a lot.
How would you describe their current aesthetic direction?This year we are moving things on to mark a new chapter as the music and direction continues to evolve. As you can see from the ‘Paris’ artwork, the box and familiar font has now gone, and it is all change. I can’t speak too much about the content or direction at this time, all I can say is everything will fall into place as the story develops (hopefully!) I feel as though the artwork this year will be a lot more personal, relatable, and real. That’s the feeling I get from the music they have coming up (again, just my take on things!)
Did the music create the aesthetic or did the aesthetic create the music?The first single we did the artwork for (Roses) had to set the tone for the level of work and design direction. For the’ Roses’ artwork we wanted something beautiful, feminine, but still cool! In this case we were very literal as the song had such a beautiful message and vivid imagery with the name ‘Roses’. For subsequent songs we always started by listening to the song first, over and over. The process has remained consistent and always will, we listen to the songs first and try and visualize the perfect visual accompaniment to the audio. Both Alex and Drew are very visual people and working closely with especially with Alex with his background in the art world has been very liberating. They are always looking to do something visually beautiful and different above all else. That’s why I love working with them!
Can you respond to this theory that all of their music follows a continuous story?I don’t have any say in the music so your guess is as good as mine! It’s certainly interesting though!
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