A conversation with Phillip Niemeyer

 

    We spoke with musician, designer, artist and filmmaker Phillip Niemeyer (The John-Pauls, Northern-Southern) about elegant living, Massimo Vignelli, typographical snobbery and the phases of the moon.

       

    I don’t promote myself very well – or much at all. Maybe it’s like the case of the cobbler’s children not having shoes?

    1

    Julien Fernandez

    Beyond music, you’re also a graphic designer at an agency called Northern-Southern. I see they also operate an art gallery. Can you tell us more about your work for this company? What’s your personal role?

    Phillip Niemeyer

    I work as a professional freelance designer – mostly graphics, but sometimes other things. I have also directed commercials and music videos and written editorial opinions for newspapers. I do graphic design for a bunch of different types of clients – art galleries, new restaurants, business ventures, things like that. I also design interiors. These are often graphic, punchy things. I don’t promote myself very well – or much at all. Maybe it’s like the case of the cobbler’s children not having shoes? Part of it is being a jack-of-all-trades type of creative. I am never sure how to brand myself.

    I am also the director of Northern-Southern. It’s a lot of work, and there’s lots of graphic design involved, which is definitely a perk. It’s fun to be the client. Northern-Southern is my thing, too, as in give it a lot of time and energy. But as a “thing,” it’s all about sharing. Northern-Southern has an agency side that represents artists and their work.

    It’s also a production office for making exhibitions and permanent installations. It’s a brand name for a bunch of collaborative and curatorial projects. I work with a lot of artists, a lot of friends, with N-S. We’ve shown Alec Dartley of Aagoo Records’ work, and are working on some ideas for him. Currently, we’re preparing to open N-S’s second showroom/gallery space over the summer.

    Elegance is calmness and control. But feminine control; a cool breeze in the greenhouse of temper.

    2

    Your work seems to take inspiration from Swiss-designed grid systems from the 1940s and ‘50s. Beyond that, I also see Massimo Vignelli’s style in your work. How do you weave these old inspirations into a modern context?

     

    Graphically, I work with scales and mathematical proportion. This is in piece with much of the modernist stuff that we now see in reproduction. I use grids obsessively. Vignelli is terrific, and I love his work. It really bummed me out when American Airlines got rid of his logotype. People can often throw away great treasures.

    3

    I think elegance is a result of supreme calmness and control. What’s your definition of elegance? What is elegant to you in the world?

    The way some people move. Swimming. A really smooth distance swimmer, or distance butterfly. That is elegant. Yves Saint Laurent in 1972. Giving your seat on the train to an older woman without even making a deal of it.

    A snake bracelet on a woman’s arm. So yes, I agree. Calmness and control. But feminine control; a cool breeze in the greenhouse of temper.

    4

    The cover of The John-Pauls’ new record Forget To Remember To Forget is a true work of art, showing gradual moon phases as well as the Sun as a fixed star. What was the intent behind this?

    Thank you! Many of the songs on the record are about time and memory. The cover is the graphic abstraction of the passing of months and years. Specifics blur into rhythms.

    The John-Pauls
    Forget to Remember to Forget
    LP Cover.

    The John-Pauls
    Forget to Remember to Forget
    LP Cover.

    The John-Pauls
    Forget to Remember to Forget
    LP Cover.

     

    The John-Pauls
    Forget to Remember to Forget
    LP Cover.

    Typographical snobs will go to any length to avoid saying “font.”

    5

    The German band 18th Dye comes to mind when I hear Forget…, especially their album Tribute To A Bus. Are you familiar with this band? If not, what’s the world’s finest band to you, your biggest inspiration?

    I am familiar with 18th Dye, and I saw them once. They were very cool. My biggest inspiration for writing songs is Lou Reed. I have a very limited voice, and he shows that this does not have to be a liability if your heart compels you sing.

    A mid-90s band that really does not get the love they deserve: Jonathan Fire*Eater.

     

    6

    The word “lunacy” was derived from “Luna”, at a time where most believed that the moon directly influenced our daily thoughts and actions. Do you believe the cycles of the moon can affect our psychology?

    You know, I am not sure. At least where I have lived, in the city, the moon does not seem to make much of a difference to peoples’ lives. Most days I could not tell you if it was full, new, waxing or waning. Does it influence us if we no longer notice it?

    7

    Lastly, we love lists and technical vocabulary at North of the Internet. Can you make a list of fonts as well as a list of typographical terms for us?

    Typographical snobs will go to any length to avoid saying “font.” Kerning is a classic type term. Leading is another. If you work with paper, it’s fun to say “bone folder”. Graphic designers in the USA measure with picas. 1p6 is a cool amount of space. X-height sounds cool. Anything with X is cool, though.

       

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 18
    Curated by: Julien Fernandez
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: August 2, 2017
    Total questions: 7
    Word count: 786
    Reading time: Three minutes
    Hyperlinks: 14
    Imagery: 5
    Photographs by: Alessio Federico
    Fonts: No
    Bone folder: 1
    Elegance: Snake bracelet on woman’s arm
    Biggest inspiration: Lou Reed
    Check this out: Jonathan Fire*Eater

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