The recent Israeli club scene boom has produced many trends and icons; DJs, drugs, alcohol, drag queens. Take the design: the scene is flooded with visuals, from logos to album cover art to flyers, to posters and other paraphernalia. When a big star hits town, the streets are wrapped with posters hailing his or her name, but most, to say the least, are just plain ugly. In the streets of Tel Aviv, where the consideration of aesthetics is not exactly of utmost importance, the situation tends to be even worse. For Israeli designer Guy Saggee, however, this is clearly not the case. Saggee’s art graces the city’s walls, and also TLV’s (Israel’s largest dance club) image and brand with a completely fresh and intriguing new look. Lion-headed men; bunnies and bears; nurses and patients; frogs, street flashers and vegetables are all part of Saggee’s new exhibition.
Befiting his growing star-like status, Guy arrived fashionably late for our meeting at Abraxas, a local bar showcasing his works with TLV. This extra time allowed me the chance to take another look at Sagee’s eye-catching, unusual pieces. A red dog-cum-monkey’s floating face, tied to some more of his kind with bodies and records attached, was staring at me from one of the posters, welcoming me to one of the parties. As I was gazing, Guy arrived and we settled down for our chat…
PIXELSURGEON: Give us your short professional history.
Well, I first studied graphic design at Bezalel art school in Jerusalem, where there was more focus on design and less on Illustration and drawing, which are my main things. To master those more thoroughly, I went to New York, where I did a year at the School of Visual Arts. After three years and some technical issues, I came back to Israel, and became a partner in an internet design company. When the big dot com bubble exploded back in 2001, our office space was taken by TLV, and the initial contact was made.
We started off with a more conventional, laminated format, which at the time I thought was kind of unique, until I realized everybody was doing it. The last year we switched to a less bright, recycled paper, which absorbs the colors better and gives the work a whole different feel. We also went for the concept of folding the paper, so the person who takes it gets a bonus upon unfolding it. I think this line was very successful and stood out from most of the other designs around.
Do you see your work as art, or simply useful design?
I think that it stands on the “stitch” between art and commercial design. It serves both worlds. It has the message of date, venue and performer, but also has an artistic message to it.
Why this way of thinking, and how involved are your clients?
The TLV guys are giving me quite a free hand, and except for some technical details such as font sizes etc, they don’t really interfere and are quite enthusiastic about the results. When I did some works that also involved Escape, one of Israel’s cellular service providers for the youth market, I had some more demanding requests and involvements from the client side, but since I am a stubborn fellow, I pretty much went with my feel, and everybody was still very happy.
Do you relate to the musical direction and scene of TLV?
Personally, I prefer more experimental music, that speeks to fewer people and is played at smaller places, but I understand and respect TLV’s concept and need to run a big operation professionally, and at the same time with a great amount of quality that still applies to the masses. I go there from time to time.
Any response from the clubbers?
I am aware of the fact that these images are frequently, and literally, passing over people’s heads, and that in their hurry and party craze, they rarely really stop to look and process the feed they’re given. Still, I get lots of great responses. People come to me and say, “Hey, how did you know this party was gonna look like that?” and I see lots of people staring/hallucinating at the images, probably seeing completely different stuff than is really there. I get really terrific responses from colleagues and club staff. I’m very happy to be doing this.
What comes to your mind when you start designing the posters? Where do you draw inspiration from?
I like to focus on eras and techniques mostly. You can see a lot of ancient hints and references to Greek mythology, Japanese style and other times and places. I tend to combine them with the technique used to give the right feel, but still, it is all made of completely new images and things that weren’t actually drawn before.
If you would have to narrow your influences to specific names?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I’d say, firstly it’s the music. I own thousands of CDs and listen to tons of different styles. I listen to CD after CD, and the music is like an engine that runs me, more than affecting the images I produce. I also switch from one musical style to another like from one image to another. I like 20s-30s Pop; Avant Garde; experimental music; 60’s psychedelia and Garage – and I really like early Beach Boys; Pink Floyd with Sid Barrett; John Zorn; The Velvet Underground; The soft Machine; Robert Wyatt; Cabaret Voltaire; N.Y Downtown Scene. The list is endless.
And artists or designers?
There are also lots of them. I like Goya, David Hockney. Names… let me think… I can’t recall any right now.
Do you dream of tiger-headed men?
I daydream about ‘em.
If you weren’t a graphic designer you’d be…
What do you see happening after TLV?
I want to write a book. Not a comic book, but a book where the illustrations play a major part along with the story. But this is more for myself. I enjoy having a place where I can have steady work and cash flow, and from time to time I’d like to be doing some more personal stuff… like this book.