ITW – Blaq, typography from the past.
His name is a reference to the colour black. Originally from Le Havre and now living in Nantes, Blaq, real name Nassim Lahreche, has never been very studious. Thrown about from training to training, even when he was at graphic design school, his head was always elsewhere. Nevertheless, his portfolio ended up being the best out of his whole year. It’s thanks to his cousins’ events organisation that he truly began working, designing flyers, posters and logos for the music world. A fan of 1930s Chicago, he is inspired by the typography on old haberdasher and grocery stores’ signs.
In 2014, he made an ephemeral “Olow” typography for us using turmeric. Now self-employed, Blaq has got a head full of ideas. He is currently preparing an exhibition in Angers and would like to put together his own collective of rappers, DJs, producers, graphic designers, photographers and video makers in order to be able to make albums from A to Z independently. Down the road, he sees himself working in a tattoo parlour.
Hi Blaq! We know you had quite an atypical education. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Initially, I was set on doing an STI baccalaureate (Sustainable Development and Industry Sciences and Technology). Seeing as I really didn’t want to do that, I was constantly performing badly at school. I eventually chose to do an STG baccalaureate (Management Sciences and Technologies) with a marketing option, but I didn’t enjoy that either. So I failed my baccalaureate. I ended up training as a bilingual import-export assistant because I had a very good level of English. I spent my days on Facebook and MySpace so I messed that up, too. At that time, my cousins set up an events organisation where they arranged breakdance battles, so I took advantage of that and managed to wheedle my way in. As we needed a logo, we went to see a graphic designer in Le Havre. I noticed he worked with Illustrator, so I downloaded the software that night, and I ended up designing the logo. I then got into designing the posters, flyers, etc. It all began like that.
I guess orders started coming in quite quickly after that.
Yes, I continued, and more and more people were asking me to do things for them. I began working for The Chemistry Magazine where I had a graphic design column about what and who needed to be kept an eye on in that field. I wrote a few articles for Open Minded after that, and then did a graphic design and layout course. I was quite bored there, again; I would spend my days playing Star Wars LEGO whilst the others worked. At the end of the day, I had the best portfolio. I’ve been self-employed for a year and half now. Things are beginning to work out.
We know that you’re inspired by first-half 20th century ambiance. What do those years represent for you ?
I think a lot more work was put into typography at that time, because everything was done by hand. There was a true savoir-faire and dexterity. And I especially love the whole ambiance surrounding the haberdashery and grocery stores’ small signs. Being a huge Al Capone fan, 1930s Chicago is kind of my thing.
I see you have some tattoos. Did you design them yourself?
I only drew one of them, a little tooth. Otherwise, they’ve all been my ideas but not my drawings. Tattooing is my end of career plan. I’m giving myself time to gain experience and style.
You work a lot on typography. What do letter forms mean to you?
I’m not so good at drawing, and I always found that there was a much simpler approach with typography. It’s also that idea of perfection; you can’t do any old thing with letters.
You made a typo’ with turmeric for OLOW last year. It really is quite unusual. Where did you find such an idea?
OLOW organised a competition whereby you had to write “OLOW” with whatever you wanted in order to win a t-shirt. I created mine with salt and Valentin contacted me saying he really liked my idea. When I went to get my t-shirt, we liked the idea of doing another one with flour, but it looked a little bit too much like cocaine, so we looked for something a little more colourful. Turmeric worked out best.
This flavoured project inspired the TURTLE t-shirt’s logo from our Fall/Winter “Baie des Fumées” collection. The little turtle guided the project from A to Z; it’s on our photos and it was even the main actor for our friend Julien Léger’s video. Can you tell us what it represents?
It’s quite random actually. When we went to shoot the video, the person who lent us his house warned us that there was a small turtle there. We thought we should put it in the video and it became the star of the whole thing. We spent hours looking for it. I really liked the idea of it destroying the logo at the end to show that everything is just ephemeral.
Which spice would describe your personality best?
Cumin. I use it in everything: pasta, rice, beans. It’s mild, but you can tell it’s there. It asserts itself.
You’ve done quite a few projects relating to music, whether it be for parties, festivals, radios or even musicians. What do you like most about that world?
Seeing as I used to organise parties for my cousins’ organisation, I had to manage everything to do with communications and contacts. I became friends with most people and that’s how it happened. Most of my clients are DJs or organise parties. My style sticks mostly to everything to do with techno or house music because that style gives you a free hand. But I listen to everything: French rap, Japanese metal, reggae… Except zouk, and anything that plays on the radio.
Can you tell us about a collaboration in that field that particularly left its mark on you?
I did one of my mates, Daze’s logo, and we thought it would be awesome if we made it in 3D. I had the balls to contact a guy for whom I had written an article when I worked at The Chemistry Magazines, and I suggested we collaborate for Daze’s cover. I also did a thing for a guy from around here who was organising a party with another collective. They wanted their own t-shirt because the other collective was bringing their visuals. It was kind of a graphic battle.
If you had to collaborate with the artist of your dreams, who would it be?
Salvador Dali, even if I don’t know how to paint. Or Tupac. As for the living, it would have to be Lapti.
The more we see your visuals, the more we realise the importance of colour harmony. How do you go about associating them?
I was taught to never associate more than three colours together for a logo. I don’t really like mixing 50 colours together. I like black. That’s why I’m called Blaq, for that matter. I initially wanted to be called “Black Flag” with “v”s replacing the “a”s, but it was too complicated. “Black” on its own was too neutral so I chose “Blaq”. Stafardine was also an idea.
Have you ever thought of exhibiting your creations?
As a matter of fact, yes. I’ve been offered to do an exhibition in Angers next year, I’m not too sure about the dates yet, but it’ll be really big. I also want to put together a collective of rappers, producers, DJs, photographers, graphic designers… It would be a big structure where we would all help each other out; if one of us put out an EP, we would all help him with shoots, videos, production, etc… I’ve already begun contacting people in Nantes. I’ve only just started writing rap lyrics, then I’m going to learn how to mix, like that we’ll be able to organise parties in Nantes. I’d then be a full-time artist and know how to do everything. All we have left to do is begin construction now! We just have to build everything now!