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Mikel

16 Jul 2020

Text by Mikel

ØLÅF Citizens: Tal Midyan

16 Jul 2020

You probably have seen his work, but maybe you just don’t know it yet. Tal Midyan has made artworks for some of your favorite artists such as Travis Scott, Gunna, Bon Iver, 21 Savage, and Justin Timberlake, while also being the Associate Creative Director of the global brand and design team at Spotify. That recognizable design of Spotify’s Rap Caviar playlists? Yeah, that too.


Hi Tal, how does it feel to make visuals that are pretty much seen everywhere in the world?

“Feels great, haha. I work full time at Spotify and for a year or two, I’ve been doing more projects independently. At Spotify, I work on all the different brands that fall under the umbrella. From artist initiatives to brand work and everything in between."

 

How is that balance of working independently next to your full-time job?

“I enjoy the combination. Spotify is a huge brand with big budgets and a big influence, so the work I do there is very global and can be seen by millions. But because it’s such a huge company, it can also be more of a challenge. It’s a Swedish company, and there is a lot of corporate stuff you have to go through before you can get things done sometimes. In that sense, I prefer to work on my own, or with a small team. Nothing against Spotify, but at the end of the day it’s just more rewarding when you do it on your own. But I like the balance in my work life right now.”

 

How do you translate music into visuals?

“To be honest, most of the time I don’t even hear the music that I’m making the artwork for. Sometimes it’s a couple of tracks or snippets as a preview, but I never hear the full project. It’s less about music and more about bringing a concept to life. With Bon Iver for example, it wasn’t really the story in the music itself, but more about talking to the artists and hearing what this project is about for them. They have the music, then they have the artwork, and then the website—those are three separate things. The whole Bon Iver project was all about collaboration. i,i stands for a collaborative spirit. So I tried to recreate that idea of togetherness and connectivity on the website."

 

A website for Bon Iver’s fourth album, “i,i”.

 

Spotify is also very data-driven, does that influence your work as well?

“The Bon Iver product was made with data, so that was cool. But music is something human. It’s so visceral and emotional. I try to look at those qualities rather than numbers when I make something. In the end, I hope my work just enhances the experience a little.”

 

Recently, you worked together with Gunna, making his album artwork, promo, and merchandise. What was that like for you?

“I worked together with Spike Jordan, and we talked about Gunna’s alter-ego WUNNA (which is the name of the album). Gunna is a Gemini, so the idea was to create a doll version of his alter-ego and have it float into space in front of his actual astrological chart that we had an astrologist made for him.”

 

The artwork received some mixed reactions. Does that influence you?

“I didn’t know that haha. I think that’s a good sign though. A lot of brand campaigns are just skipped past because they feel impersonal or because people just don’t care. People are more invested in artists than in brands, and when you make artwork as we made for WUNNA, those reactions come with the work. It doesn’t really bother me. It’s actually a great reaction for me. It might be weird to them, but that’s kind of the point. You always want to make something that catches people off guard a little bit.”

 

Official album cover for Gunna’s 2nd studio album, “WUNNA”.

 

Is your style applicable to any artist?

“Absolutely. I’m very aware of not being boxed in. I don’t want to be just the Atlanta hip-hop guy. If I was just doing cover artworks or photography there would be more pressure to have a certain look. But for me, in terms of style, it’s more about ideas and the creative process of combining multiple things you haven’t seen before. I love trying different things.”

 

A lot of your work involves Black artists and Black culture. In light of recent developments, that must feel ambivalent sometimes.

“As a white man, there is definitely an added responsibility that I’ve always felt, but now even more so. I’ve always tried to be on the right side of things. People of our generation grew up inspired by Black culture: music, fashion, art. The least I can do from my position, with my skill and energy, is to give back to a community that inspired me so much. One way that I hope to do so is through mentorship and investing in talent. Creating opportunities for young designers that may not have benefited from the chances and privilege that I’ve had. Having gone to one of the best art schools in the US and studying design from some of the greats was definitely a privilege. But we need to break that system and think about who’s getting the opportunities both in education and in the industry. You also don’t need to go to the best art school to do what I do.”

 

A personal website for Pharrell that houses over 20 years of his work.

 

How have you personally taken responsibility?

“It’s very important for me to engage. I’m not an activist, but I try to influence the people and brands around me to hopefully change something. I have so many white people around me who don’t have black friends and they still don’t understand. And all these brands that are “for the culture” should do better as well. Nike can make a nice commercial about this, but their whole board is white. It’s not just a police thing, it’s everywhere.”

 

On Instagram, you posted about not going back to normal. How do you hope that we get out of this?

“I think that COVID-19 will forever change how we live. But this, more importantly, will change how we as a society treat each other.”

 

Rapcaviar, PANTHEON.

 

We always finish with a question about what has inspired you. Despite the turmoil going on in New York and the world at large, have you seen, read, met, or listened to anything interesting lately?

“I read this book called Sensemaking, by Christian Madsbjerg. I finished it right when COVID-19 started, so it might not be super relevant now, but I still think it’s interesting. He divides data into thick data and thin data. Thin data is: “young people brush their teeth for 10 mins.” With thick data, you attach historical, socio-economic, or cultural connotations to that. Companies now are using big data without understanding histories or cultures. That’s how you get products or services that forget a little about humanity.”

Tiffany Chung

29 Nov 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS: Emmanuel Lawal

29 Nov 2021

Emmanuel Lawal is a man of many talents: model, DJ, music producer, brand consultant, but first and foremost, creative entrepreneur. In this edition of Citizens, the born and raised Londoner tells us about his city, career, and latest project – The ACS Show.

 

Hey Emmanuel, how’d you get your start in music?

“In terms of knowing what I wanted to pursue in my career, it was from being at fashion events and afterparties. I wanted to do more than just be a guest. I knew I’d love to be part of it, do nights, program nights, DJ, and everything else. But my actual start in music was just from being around musicians in general and having a community of musicians that gave us the opportunity to DJ for them, produce for them, and get immersed in their own careers."

 

How did you and your business partner, Ashton, meet?

“We were signed to the same agency when we first started modeling. I was 19 and Ashton was 16. Going to Milan, Paris, all these shows in Europe and America, we just created this bromance from traveling, living, eating, and working out together. Being like-minded individuals, we decided to join forces to create something."

Photography by Travis Gumbs.

With Ashton.

 

How would you describe your partnership?

“Whether it’s business, creative, or financial, we both do the same stuff. In terms of role and character, I’d say Ashton is the good cop and I’m the bad cop."

 

Tell us about The ACS Show.

“We were doing a lot of radio shows in London, both commercial and underground, NTS, Rinse FM, Capital XTRA and BBC Radio 1Xtra. We had these small residency series off the back of DJs that were already on those shows and what we wanted to do is to create a show within those spaces but realized very quickly that we had no creative freedom. So, we decided to just make it ourselves and do something that feels a bit more us. Be in a position to pick the guests and tailor it to our own interests. We just wanted to give people inspiring, insightful conversations from people that kind of look like us and speak like us."

 

 

Is there anything that you want to try next?

“Not really. I just want to keep carrying on with the broadcast and keep creating spaces for me to breathe in when it comes to fashion, music, and lifestyle. Everything else is just up to destiny. I'm just happy with where I'm at now."

 

Music, fashion, travel, sport. If you had to give up one for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“Easily sport. Music is something I listen to every single day. Fashion is something that I have to think about in order to get ready. Sport is something that I do when I have the off time, it's a bit of a hobby, and I'm definitely not making any money from sport haha."

Fashion is something that I have to think about in order to get ready.

Self care.

 

 

What is the best and worst advice you've ever been given?

“Worst advice is probably somebody telling me somewhere along the line of ‘this is impossible, and you can't do this’. The best advice was ‘move towards it’. It wasn't even advice; I was speaking to one of my mentors at the beginning of the year and saying how much juice and energy I have at the moment and how much I wanted to create. His response was actually just ‘move towards it’ and it made me realize that even a step forward is better than a step back, even if it's a tiny step forward. "

 

What has been your favorite brand to work with?

“Prada. I loved Prada since I was a child. From the age of 12 to 15, I wore Prada to school. I didn’t go to an affluent school where people had unlimited pools of money, I saved up so much money to buy it. So, it was one of those full circle moments working with them. It wasn't something I did for the paycheck, I'm proud to wear the stuff because of the child in me that just loved to wear them in school."

 

Working with Prada.

 

 

 

What's your staple fashion item?

“My staple item would probably be jewelry because we change clothes. So, I would say somewhere between my Cartier bracelet and my Rolex."

 

Three songs that best represent you.

“At the moment:"

 

Name your favorite part of London.

“Greenwich, probably. I grew up there and it’s so different anywhere else in London. It’s not super fancy and it's not super hood, it's just normal. It’s so diverse, it’s got both historic and new monuments, and the O2 arena. It’s a good balance."

 

If you were to live in another city, what would it be?

“Berlin. We love Germany. We haven't been able to go back for a while, but we’ve been fortunate to play a few things in Berlin. It's not like there is a massive hip hop presence but the kind of people there just love the music and are there to have a good time."

 

Emmanuel with the ØLÅF Puffer Jacket.

 

Best music venue ever?

“The Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. I’ve never been there but I’m dying to go. It's incredible, from the layout of it, to the chairs, the light, acoustics, the whole thing. The design and architecture make it the best venue in my opinion."

 

 

Name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

“Person. That’s a hard one. Can I say God? I’ll say God."

 

“A place that inspires me is London. Naturally. London has so many success stories whether it's football, music, fashion, community lifestyle, culture, business. So many people have made it here."

 

“In terms of a thing that inspires me, I would probably say, it’s an idea. The idea of achieving everything. Knowing that you could possibly achieve what you put your mind to. Even if you haven’t achieved everything that you want to achieve or know how to exactly, it keeps you going, getting to one hurdle, conquering it, then another. Then you realize everything can be done. I think that is so inspiring."