Take the bait

Simon Brown caught the attention of influential designers when he cast mini lad bible Jack out into the world. He’s now been given the freedom to develop his own quirky ideas, says Richard Clayton

It turned out Koolhaas and his publisher, Benedict Taschen, were Jack fans – ‘they loved the pace and the weight and the tone’ – and invited &&& to design Content, Koolhaas’ latest polemic.

‘[Most] architecture books are £50 to £60, this is 210 (£7),’ says Brown. ‘It’s a cross between a book and a magazine. In the US, it would be called a mook.’ The aim is to suggest Koolhaas is not only au fait with Martha Stewart and Chinese politics, but also, it appears, Full Spectrum Warrior and The Sims – as well as ‘Manga cartoons and hardcore gay porno’, which were also design influences, apparently. Why?

‘His understanding of the world is [his] architecture,’ Brown replies. ‘Obviously, there are limitations on what you can build, but it’s also down to money and political things like the way Europe is escalating and China is growing – they’re building a train track across the Himalayas, they’re taking the gas route from the east to the west coast. It’s just phenomenal.’

Content’s intelligent, in-your-face irreverence appealed to Tomorrow London managing director Stephen Flanagan. He made Brown an ‘associate’ creative director of the cross-media consultancy earlier this month.

Beneath that Hoxton geezer exterior (Brown sports a flipped-up basketball cap and two bling rings during the interview), there’s a genuine firebrand. It’s like meeting Sigmar Polke, the political German pop artist, in the guise of graffiti artist Banksy.

Fascist Tattoos, a visceral needling of racist politics and thug culture, is Brown’s latest solo project. He has also created dummy versions of two fledgling titles, Being and Detail. His client work at Tomorrow London includes Counter Point, a youth think tank set up by the British Council, and screen graphics for The Constant Gardener, the new film by City of God director Fernando Meirelles.

From print to moving image and interactive work – isn’t that a big jump? ‘You can have your own ideas [at Tomorrow] and they mean something,’ Brown explains. ‘If you work on magazines as an art director, there are limitations to what you can do. With Content, there was a breakthrough; Tomorrow London is almost an extension of that. It’s about the thought process, not [necessarily] the end product.’

Brown lived in South Africa until the age of nine. ‘I lived under apartheid, so I have a very different take on life.’ He’s a championship-level angler – hence his nickname, Fish – and he flies stunt kites, ‘with ten foot foils that do more than 30mph, that’ll lift you off your feet’.

Brown is still humble, despite his success. ‘You can’t be precious about work,’ he says. ‘If people criticise, it’s for the best.’

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