Smiley & André
50th anniversary product rush
The Smiley® is a universal counter culture icon with a message of positivity that has influenced generations. In the history of graphic design, no other symbol has ever had such a duality - used simultaneously as both a positive mainstream driver and a counter-culture subverter of that very mainstream. Appropriations have been seen through various creative mediums, including Hollywood cinema and even fine art. It has woven & winked itself into the zeitgeist and cultural fabric of our physical and digital universe, reinvented and redefined by generations of activists, artists and creators, Smiley continues to thrive and influence coming a long way and now celebrating his 50th anniversary.
To pay homage graffiti artist André Saraiva was chosen to reimagine the iconic Smiley logo. Born in Uppsala, Sweden, he was growing up in Paris where his lifelong passion for graffiti began. Active in the early Parisian graffiti movement, Andre became widely recognised for his cartoonish characters and alter ego Mr. A, which quickly became his signature design and an iconic character in the fashion and art world. Besides being a graffiti artist, André has served as the creative director and owner of clubs, hotels and restaurants in Paris, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Shanghai and St Tropez. From 2011 to 2015 he was the creative director for L’ Officiel, a French fashion magazine. André ha s created a set of signature works of art in his Paris studio with his artistic take on Smiley, creating a truly limited-edition set of design assets for the collector’s edition project.
We had a short chitchat with André, to get some of his thoughts on the project and his personal relation to the happy icon.
André, you worked on the 50th anniversary campaign of Smiley, how did that happen?
My good friend Sarah called me, and said she had suggested me for a project; the collaboration with Smiley. Smiley has always been a very iconic logo that I discovered on my very first Ecstasy pill. Since then I have a love affair, and a deep connection with Smiley.
Besides creating the tagline and fonts for the anniversary you also conducted a colab - product range with Sarah Andelmann, how did you approach to that? It must not have been easy to make a selection, could you point us some of you favorites?
I worked on the drawings like I was painting, I had a very artistic approach on how to combine the two universes of Smiley and Mr. A. Sarah and the Smiley team did an amazing job to apply it on all the collaborations. I like the skateboards, I like the Eastpak - I can’t say, I love them all, they come as a project a bit like when a kid collects the Hello Kitty products.
What is left of SMILEY as a social icon these days?
Smiley has been part of all the subcultures I liked, for me it was the rave scene in the early 90s that it became a strong counter culture icon. It‘s a really iconic symbol that almost everybody appropriates to themselves and makes their own story with it. Everyone can relate to it. My character, Mr A, is also another happy guy so when we decided to work together it was almost Mr A meeting his big brother Smiley. For me, it was the perfect collaboration and I was waiting for it to happen. Smiley today became a symbol - it lives by itself. It became a piece of pop art and its history, a bit like when you see a Campbell Soup can you will think of Andy Warhol.
In retrospective what were the greatest leaps or moments in your career so far?
I think one of the greatest leaps, and greatest pain I had was working on my book “A Graffiti Life“. I didn’t think it will cost me that much sweat and tears, and five years of work. I thought it was much easier, I thought wrong; but finally I managed to finish it end of last year. It will be published by Rizzoli around September,
I can’t wait.
I imagine it is not easy to stay creative and ontop all the time, can you tell us about the downsides of enduring through time?
It’s funny, I don‘t feel like that - everyday I wake up with new ideas, new projects. I always have been very curious, I love to
explore and do stuff.