Great interview with Experimental Jetset at Unit Editions:
Q: To outsiders there is a strong sense of Experimental Jetset being a trio of equals. Is this the case?
A: Yes, absolutely. We function best as a group. It’s only when the three of us are together that we feel completely safe, that we can deal with the stress, tension and daily deadlines that come with graphic design. We are not only colleagues, but also happen to be neighbours and best friends. At times, it feels as if we are a cult or a gang (to reference The Clash; ‘the last gang in town.’)
We were recently watching West Side Story, a musical we’ve seen a million times before, but only now realized that the gang in the movie was called The Jets. ‘When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way/From your first cigarette to your last dying day’. Childish maybe, but it gave us a boost of energy.
Most graphic designers become graphic designers because they have an urge to make work that they can call their own. Is it possible to satisfy this need within a studio of three equals?
We can call all our work our own, because the three of us have an important input into it. In our view, that’s one of the advantages of being a two-, three- or four-person studio: it’s small enough for everybody to feel involved, but it’s large enough to have the benefit of the collective; that magical feeling when the whole turns out to be more than the sum of parts.
We really like that idea of hundreds of small studios circling the orbit, almost like bands. Because we really think all these small design groups together form a universe that is very comparable to that whole galaxy of pop and rock groups. …
Talking about bands, when it really comes down to it, we think that it is ultimately the band model, and not so much the studio model, that really inspires us. A band is such a perfect socio-economical unit. Large enough to have the benefit of shared responsibilities, and small enough for every member not to be alienated from the end product. We sometimes think every human activity should be organized according to this model. Society should be divided in small units, each unit a platform of human creativity, be it baking bread, making music, writing books or curing people.
And the archetypical band is, obviously, The Beatles, as it was one of the first modern four-piece bands writing their own material. Earlier bands were still divided between a frontman and a backing band (for example, Buddy Holly and the Crickets), but The Beatles broke this whole model open, and pointed to a completely different division of labour, a revolutionary change in thinking. The ‘John & Paul & Ringo & George’ shirt we designed in 2001 should certainly be seen as a homage to the archetypical model of the band.