Interview: Neville Brody on why he thinks the economic crisis is good for creativity

We caught up with design legend Neville Brody at the Chevrolet Design Night at London’s iconic Battersea Power Station, where he explained why he thinks the current economic crisis is good for creativity.


The event featured talks by Neville, plus fashion designer Wayne Hemingway, an exhibition of classic and modern Chevrolet cars, and the Young Creative Chevrolet award show. This competition which challenges applied arts students across Europe in four creative disciplines: Fashion, Photography, Video and Visual Arts. First off, we wanted to know why a self-proclaimed anti-establishment designer is getting involved with a car-maker.

DA: You strike me as someone who takes a great deal of pride in the credibility of whom you’re associated with? What’s the appeal of Young Creative Chevrolet?

NB: "Chevrolet are doing something to celebrate the creative industries especially in the vacuum left by the slashing of education funds in this country, so we have to do everything we possibly can to bring other funding in while the government repairs itself."

DA: You're involved with a lot, you run your design company Research Studios, dean of the Royal College of Art, now vice president of the D&AD. That’s a lot to keep your eye on. What’s the key to keeping it altogether?

NB: "I do 36-hour days; 7-day weeks, but you’re the same. I think at the moment there’s so much to do and you have to grab everything."

Neville Brody at Chevrolet Design night

DA: The infamous Newsnight debate with David Mcandless pulled an incredible audience for graphic design on primetime television. Did you still find TV interviews nerve racking, and are you pleased with the way it turned out?

NB: "Newsnight was terrifying of course, but the point of it was I could have taken either side on [the debate]. I was asked to come along and play Devil's Advocate, and from that point of view it was just pure theatre. I’m probably going to end up working with David at some point. [TV]’s about entertainment, and I wasn’t going to go and say, ‘David, you’re so right.’"

DA: It would have been pretty dull had you done that. It instigated a lot of debate and interest.

NB: "I told him beforehand, ‘David I’m going to attack everything you’re doing’ and he said ‘great’ so we went out there and I did."

Neville Brody (far right) with fellow speakers on the night (from left to right) Liz Wetzel, Wayne Hemingway, Lucy Walker and Wayne Brannon

DA: You mentioned in your talk that we’ve lost our direction of what our core motivation is, and there is a tremendous change ahead. Can you expand on this a bit?

NB: "Finally, we’re getting back to a place where commercialism isn’t a benchmark by which you can judge someone who’s creative."

DA: Do you think there are still pockets out there of non-commercial artists practising creativity? Is there a new Throbbing Gristle (the cult and near-unlistenable industrial band which Brodie designed record sleeves for in the 80s) out there?

NB: "Yes but where are they? Where are the new ones? We need to encourage a new radicalism -- a place for experimentation, for challenge and creative ideas.

"Students are probably not going to get jobs when they get out of college, so they might think 'actually I’m not that interested in commercialism, I’m going to pursue ideas'. I think we’re heading into an extraordinary time of creative risk-taking. I’m so glad to be here at this time."

And for the car geeks among you, here are so more shots of the vintage cars on show.

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