Carlos Perez, Photographed by Omar Cruz
As part of the last project in my senior year, my thesis-paper and publication, in my school we were asked to interview a person in the field of design who's work or expertise had relevance to the topic of our thesis. For my project I chose to interview Carlos Perez, creative director and founder of Elastic People. I thought of Carlos Perez as the right person to interview because my thesis talks about the important role of design in pop music, and Carlos Perez is one the most prestigious names in the Latin music scene in the United States.
Perez has turned his love for music and design into a successful design firm. Today his creative agency works with a variety of renowned Latin artists. The work coming from Elastic People is multidisciplinary; this consist of film, creative direction, and branding. Among the several achievement of the agency's remarkable trajectory there are: the album cover designs for 3 of the top 5 Latin Albums of the last Decade including Daddy Yankee's Barrio Fino; the #1 Album of the Decade, and creative collaborations with 12 of the decade's Best Latin Artists; according to Billboard Magazine's "Best of Decade" Charts. Lastly to name just some of the clients he has done work for, we have Interscope Records, Machete Music, Sony Music Latin, Universal Music Latin Entertainment, El Cartel Records, Emi Music, Pepsi International, and Nike.
This interview was done over e-mail on the February 14 of 2014. After a brief exchange of emails with the office of Elastic people and Carlos himself, he agreed to answer some questions. He was really approachable, I was surprised when he politely agreed to take the time and answer my questions; so here they are:
How ‘reliable’ is an album cover in indicating what the music is like?
The art director or designer in charge of designing an album cover has a great responsibility. The cover is the visual component to the audio. Almost like a tatoo, It represents the artist and their music. The album cover is the seed of the artist' visual identity yet today, it is solely one visual component of many in the lifespan of an album.
Some people would claim album covers became less important when the CD (Compact Disc) was introduced and became the industry standard. What are your thoughts in this change of format, and do you think it changes your job as a designer? And if so how?
What changed is the actual distribution format for the album. We went from 12 x 12 inches (LP) , to 5 x 5 (CD) to 1.5 x 1.5 (itunes) Because the canvas is so small we have to consider more variables, how it looks on the itunes browser, in a mobile scenario and so forth. Yes, the actual canvas for distribution got physically smaller yet the amount of scenarios we design for in support of an album have multiplied and became more dynamic with the internet, branded content, tours and so on.
Your interdisciplinary work goes from video direction to creative direction. In some projects your job is to design and direct the imagery and visual iconography of an artist through out different platforms. What role does the artist play in your design process? How do you collaborate and how does this collaboration affect the visual product?
The process is very organic, not systematic at all. Some artist have a very clear idea of what direction they want to experiment with, others don't. Our responsibility becomes like one of a doctor. You sit with the artist, examine them, hear them out and their music and give them your recipe. At the end design should communicate, not decorate. So we must explore and contribute to the artist thru visual ideas. The brainstorm part of the project is the most fascinating.
How does the artistic and intellectual evolution of an artist’s career influence the way you depict the person in his/her album covers?
It's really all about the music and the artist point of view. I try to be selective and surround the company with artist that want to communicate and impact the culture in someway.
In recent years few album cover designs have been impressive as design solutions, but this year the work of people like Kanye West, in his album YEEZUS, have caught my attention for its rather lack of design; aesthetically speaking. Do you think this approach is successful in attempting to convey the artist’s relationship with traditional media? If so how?
I think design for entertainment today is more about making noise than it is about academic design perse. There is so much junk out there that you must be loud in order to get noticed. That loudness may be visual or conceptual. In Kanye's case he is a unique individual. He surrounds himself with great minds who come together to communicate whatever it is he is feeling at the time. It's thought out but def more impulsive. Design today is more about the experience it creates than about the aesthetic it shares. The music gives life to our design, never the other way around. If design carries the weight, then you are dealing with the wrong artist.