Creative Conversations: Dark Igloo + Bela Borsodi
Bela Borsodi: First of all, congratulations on your Young Guns success and on your work!
Dark Igloo: Thanks, and thanks for taking the time to chat with us! I feel like I’ve been looking at your stuff for years. I’ve always admired how precise and how detailed you were. And then we just found out recently that you did all this work with Sagmeister, stuff that every design student grows up loving. So like, you’re amazing!
Bela: Thanks! It’s funny with Stefan. We actually studied together. I studied graphic design before I turned towards photography and art. I’ve known Stefan for a long time and then we do projects together.
DI: You know it’s interesting to hear you say that because it’s always been like you’re almost photographing the design. I think your work has always stood out just from how meticulously you treat it. The things you’re shooting could just be in a room and have people walking around them and they would still be just as “kick ass.” But the photo at the end the image it captures is always so funny.
“I like to have a good time with my work, and I can see that you also do that.”
Bela: Thank you. [laughs] I like to have a good time with my work, and I can see that you also do that.
DI: Yeah, I think that’s key. That’s something that Mark and I have always believed. We’ve kept our studio small, just been the two of us. I think one of the reasons we’ve done that is to keep the fun in the work. I think if people could see how much fun Mark and I are having working together and making these things, the work will feel just as fun to the person who’s looking at it.
Bela: So how long have the two of you been doing what you’re doing?
DI: Well, we just finished our fourth year as Dark Igloo, but we’ve actually been working together for about six years. The first two years were at place called The Happy Corp in SoHo. Mark and I were roommates, and Dark Igloo started out as the name of our house. It just made sense to name the company Dark Igloo. It’s still just two of us in the same building.
Bela: Did you guys start independently as artists, communicators and designers before you met or did you study together or something?
DI: Well, I grew up in Indiana and studied film production and telecommunications. And Dave studied in California, as an English major. I read and wrote a lot. I drew for the school newspaper. Then after coming to New York I got an internship and worked with Mark. That’s where I started to pick up the design bug.
Bela: I can see in your work that you’re a little bit all over the place, in terms of media and in projects. You do illustration, you do photography, you make film, you make sculptures, you make collages. Is this something that you separate between the two of you, or do you share everything?
DI: In terms of the work, we’ve done a lot of different things because people have come to us with a lot of different problems. You know, sometimes you want to put a cartoon cat next to a naked lady, or sometimes you want to arrange everything in a room to take the shape of a letter. But we always work close together, and I think it shows, as our sense of humor runs through all of it. We communicate well. We’ve been in the same headspace for a while so we are able to finish each other’s sentences off. [laughs] But more about you. Do you normally work by yourself, or do you use assistants and tech people?
“I’m sort of a one-man show. Like you guys, I’d rather keep it small and keep it sort of free.”
Bela: I do work with stylists and art directors and a million different people, and there’s always communication and bouncing ideas off of each other, but when it comes down to it, I’m sort of a one-man show. Like you guys, I’d rather keep it small and keep it sort of free. I sometimes thought it would be a good thing to commercialize a bit more, having a big studio, hiring people, having in-house retouching and all that kind of stuff. But then again, you become such a slave to the advertising world. I don’t know if I would enjoy that. I guess being small gives you a certain freedom.
DI: We both really admire your cartoons and still lifes. We enjoy the intelligent and respectful way you show that a funny cartoon can be a beautiful thing, even just the most basic aspects, like a speed line or a star.
Bela: How could you not love cartoons? [laughs], It’s just a great way to deal with something abstract to express a billion, million things, and you still feel so emotionally connected to it. A cartoon is such a smart way for reflecting anything that is of interest. Cartoons can do everything that you don’t dare to do or that would be really dangerous in real life. I think that when I work with cartoons, I’m very picky and very knowledgeable of what kind of cartoons, or what kind of drawing I want to bring in, because you easily get lost with just funny stuff. Your work features a lot of cartooning as well. Where do you find your frame of reference, your inspiration?
DI: I think for every project we do there’s something we saw years ago or recently walked past that sticks with us as a future reference point. For example, our Bonnaroo festival posters where it’s like all the people at the rock concert along the border? That was really inspired by like the old Mad Magazine stuff where there would be cartoons around the cartoon.
I have some questions to ask you about promotion. We’ve been working now for four years and have never really had a website. We’ve always had vague “contact us” info. I’d just love to hear your thoughts about self-promotion.
Bela: There is a very simple tip that I strongly believe in: it’s always the artwork that gets you attention. As long as you can make sure that whatever it is that you do gets seen, that is the thing. I think the most beautiful website doesn’t make any sense if the content doesn’t make sense. There are also websites and then there are blogs. I think a website is basically something that should promote your ideas, making them accessible, and showing what you do. You hope that people visit it, but I do not believe that anything really fun should happen on a website. On a blog, I think it’s a more immediate conversation that you can engage with people. You know update this constantly, they can react on that. So I think it’s more like a diary. A blog is a diary and a website is just like an archive in my opinion.
So how do you get your jobs?
DI: That’s a very interesting question. They mostly come through people we know, like the friend of a friend, or like someone we met a while ago. I think we’ve gotten a lot of recommendations just from the people we’ve met naturally in the city. I think that is a testament to New York City, but it’s also a part of the way our company has grown which I really like.
Bela: Where do you guys really want to go, career-wise? What kind of projects, clients, would you like to engage with? For example, in a way I am affiliated a lot with fashion. It’s an industry in itself and it’s broad and it can go all over the place. I deal a lot with the fashion world somehow, but it was not my choice to do this in the beginning, it’s just something naturally came and evoked my interest.
Do you see yourself working in the advertising world or having a show at some museums or, I don’t know, working for sneaker companies. I can see your work happening in a lot of different places. I was just curious to where you see it.
“Working with agencies…is sort of like a proving ground for creating original concepts and building our own universes”
DI: I feel like working with agencies and creating advertising work is sort of like a proving ground for creating original concepts and building our own universes, whether it’s character design, motion content or art work. When you meet people, you can sort feel them out so I guess it is a testament to what you bring to the table. Where the opportunity comes from isn’t as nearly important to me as what the opportunity is. In the end it’s like, can you make work that you’re proud to put your name on, work that will attract of the same work? No matter where that comes from, I think those are the opportunities that we will continue to pursue. I think that will just continue to shape us in the way that it has.
Bela: It’s also a thought process that I often go through. What you just said, or also a lot of what I’m doing is you deal with an opportunity. Somebody wants something. They want, like Google says, “We need something happening there.” Or like a magazine asks me, “We have all these shoes. Can you take a picture of it?” And then I look at the shoes or you look at what Google is and then you come up with something that does interest. Then you do the project basically and you bring a lot of like the artistic vision and quality in it and let’s say it’s all a good experience for everybody involved. I mean that’s one way to basically be creative or be an artist. The other thing is if there is not the opportunity. If it is like, I’m by myself and I considered myself, I’m an artist, and need to do my daily job being an artist and have to come up with the opportunity myself. Not the opportunity of making money or having a platform, but just to ... what do I want to share with the world? Either I see a shoe and I have to react on it. Or I just sit on my couch and say, “What would I like to do?” And I come up with something. If that something would happen, it would definitely not include a shoe I’m sure, but something else. So what is it as a creative person? I mean, is it the opportunity to react on the big things, or is it that you just come with ideas and find places and opportunities for them?
DI: I think ideally it could be really two ways. I guess maybe the ideal situation is the thing that you’ve thought on on the couch can be applied to, you know, well we’ll keep calling it the shoe that someone has brought to you. Like if someone is like, “We need you to do this thing with a shoe” and you’re like, “Oh my god. Just the other day we were talking about how we wanted to do this photo” orthis animation. If you can line them up so that work and play are the same thing, I think that’s the ideal situation.