Interview: Four5One Talks To Interference

June 4, 2003 · Print This Article


By Liza Guerra, Carrie Alison and Devlin Smith

On June 14th, a small group of U2 fans will be sitting in on a special Q&A session with Steve Averill and his associates at Four5One, the graphic design powerhouse behind much of U2′s album covers and iconography. Averill and company will be present to mark the opening of their portion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s "In The Name of Love – Two Decades of U2" exhibit.

U2 provides the music; Four5One provides the art by which the music is visually identified. Would we all know what a Joshua Tree is, let alone where it can be found, had we not seen it on the album cover of a band we know and love? The album cover serves as a small 12×12 canvas for the artist/designers to convey the emotion and feelings of the music held inside. Some of these pieces of art will be unveiled, along with other supporting pieces of print materials, such as posters, tour program books, interactive items, sketches, concepts on June 14th at the Rock Hall’s Fan Celebration.

Four5One is not only noted for their highest profile client U2, but cover a wide scope of work ranging from identity, branding, packaging, entertainment, motion, interactive and publishing.

Steve Averill, (formerly known as Steve Rapid), burst onto the Dublin scene as the flamboyant lead singer of 70′s punk band The Radiators from Space. Feeling limited by his singing abilities, Steve left that persona behind and pursued his day job as an advertising associate at Arrow Publishing. According to U2 lore, Steve was introduced to U2 when [U2 were] still known as The Hype. Adam Clayton, bassist for the young Irish group, approached Averill about a new name for the fledgling band. Averill suggested the multi-meaning moniker "U2," and the rest is music industry history!

Averill went on to become creative director and owner of Four5One Creative, a firm responsible for some of U2′s best-loved graphic design campaigns and iconography, and designers of U2′s now-defunct World Service Magazine, Propaganda. Additionally the company is responsible for the album covers for Boy, October, War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, Zooropa, Pop and the recent All That You Can’t Leave Behind, including its ubiquitous icons: heart-in-a-suitcase, and various "Elevation" and travel-related logos.

Recently, Four5One created a limited edition book showcasing their work with the band, entitled Stealing Hearts At A Travelling Show. The book features new interview with Averill, Bono, Adam, and frequent design collaborator Shaughn McGrath (also with Four5One), as well as graphic design out-takes, album covers, tour programs and t-shirts. Four5One took extra-special care to reproduce the graphic imagery as best they could by, as Averill says, "recreating the original artwork rather than just scanning the old covers." Only 6000 copies of Stealing Hearts At A Traveling Show have been printed, 2000 of which are in hardback form. The book will be able to purchase the at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the next six months, and also from the Four5One’s website: http://www.four5one.ie/. For information on the upcoming Four5One book, visit: http://www.four5one.ie/U2/details.htm

The U2 exhibit at the Rock Hall is due to close in September 2003.

Below is an e-mail interview Interference’s Producer Liza Guerra conducted recently with Averill discussing Four5One’s work, design philosophy and the current exhibit at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

Four5One’s graphic style and work is very modern, where do you find your inspiration?
The inspiration for our work comes from the interaction between the designers in the studio and their collective interests, which are wide ranging. It

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