1. The logo, from the point of view of language / representation, belongs
to the world of typography, without any doubt experimental. Generally,
in type design, the designer usually starts with a cue, or a reference, that
comes from a context or a language, from architecture to calligraphy.
What were the references from which the logo was born and where did
those shapes come from?
To understand how the logo was created, like any piece of artwork, it
must be put it into context. It was 1991 and the rave scene was in its
infancy and with it techno music. The imagery of the time was heavily
influenced by sci-fi, UFOs, alien conspiracies, chaos theory and psyche-
delics. With this in mind, I wanted to create something alien and not of
this world. At the time Richard’s music stood out as being something
you couldn’t label, it was so totally unique and that was the feeling I was
aiming for with the logo. It should look like nothing you had seen before
and yet feel like you have known it all your life. I was already aware of
Richard’s music having heard Analogue Bubblebath on Kiss Fm. At that
time a pirate station, Kiss FM was the only radio station that played
dance music and in particular the late night ‘Outer Limits’ was a feast of
the finest electronic hardcore, noise and experimentation. Around that
time, I started dating a Cornish girl who upon hearing the music I was
into told me that she knew a guy that did that ‘kind of stuff’. She knew
Richard, who is also from Cornwall, and once she mentioned the name
Aphex Twin, I knew exactly what he did and wanted to hook-up.
We immediately got on, and at some point I showed Richard my design
work and he asked that I create a logo for him. As we spoke more about
what he was after, I knew it had to be something that was amorphic and
soft form - not angular or with sharp edges and corners. Bear in mind,
this was in the before times, pre-computers, so the logo was hand-drawn
using circle templates, French curves and rulers. Even now, the old tools
still play an important role in the way I design. A lot of the time the
forms I was trying to create were not necessarily geometric or perfect-
ly balanced. So by sketching, I’m getting more of the feeling I’m after
because the hand moves a lot more intuitively with a pencil than when
you are moving nodes around a screen with a mouse. I think that there
is a different process at play as opposed to when you go straight to a
computer. The very nature of working on a computer is it is a vectoring
device; everything is on an X and Y axes, you’re aware of the verticals,
horizontals and diagonals. It limits you. You become more clinical when
you design. Whereas with a pencil it can be a lot more organic and thin-
gs happen. It could just be an accidental sweep of the hand or as you
are raising back you suddenly see something that you didn’t see before.
So there’s that chance element. It’s that more flowing freedom that you
get with a pencil. Unfortunately, I no longer have the first drawing of
the logo. I am pretty sure that went to R&S and used for the Selected
Ambient Works cover. Maybe Renaart still has my original drawing.
2. In retrospect, we can certainly say the logo has become an icon. Was
the awareness of this potential already present in the design phase, or
is it something that cannot be predicted, that unexpectedly happens for
some circumstance and can only be defined after the event?
Over the years, I’ve come across some bizarre stories and recollections.
Online speculation about the logo’s origins and its semiotic ‘true’ mea-
ning is still rife: “If you measure the angles of it and divide it by the cir-
cumference of a 12”, you get the secret formula of unlocking the powers
of... “, wrote one forum user. More noble efforts extend to it being an
image of a SAW, in line with the ‘S’elected ‘A’mbient ‘W’orks LP titles,
or that it’s related to λ (lambda), the symbol for wavelength. Others say
“it’s a dick with balls and a boomerang”. Blah, blah, blah! Unfortuna-
tely, the truth is somewhat more prosaic and its origins more humble.
Firstly, it was and is just a letter ‘A’. What I have always found amusing
is that the Aphex Twin logotype appears on a very early release - the
Xylem Tube EP - and clearly shows the Aphex ‘A’ being the first letter
of the word ‘Aphex’. It was hardly a mystery or well-concealed truth
and should have been obvious to anyone who had seen the logotype.
Furthermore, the Aphex ‘A’ was inspired by rough designs created for a
different project. I had been working on logos for Anarchic Adjustment,
a skatewear label based in San Francisco. As it was the early Nineties
and Anarchic was based in California they were keen that I explore a di-
stinctly ‘alien’ vibe. Before Anarchic had had a chance to view the work,
Richard had seen my initial sketches and liked where I was taking the
letterforms. Being abstract with a ‘not of this earth’ feel, it appealed to
Richard. So, I went away and drew up a logo taking elements from those
Anarchic roughs on to an A4 sheet of paper. Richard instantly liked it.
It didn’t need any revisions or changes, so what you see now was my
first and only design.
To sum up, I like what Phil Graham had to say in his article on Fontsmi-
th.com - As a letterform, the Aphex ‘A’ is the antithesis of everything
a type designer is taught a good letter should be. It’s unbalanced, it
has dark spots, it’s blobby and it’s illegible ... yet there’s something
infectious about it. It reminds me of a time when design could be ‘expe-
rimental’ and push aesthetic boundaries in unconventional ways. It feels
‘new wave’, digital, static, yet moving like a lava lamp. It’s a wonder to
behold! It’s arrival with the sinister and emotive soundscape of ‘Ambient
Sound Works’ conjures up feelings of Nineties nostalgia, yet Richard’s
music remains current and challenging, retaining a strange parallel rele-
vance to the symbol itself. The legendary type designer Adrian Frutiger
once said he had “a fascination about abstract symbols”. The Aphex
Twin ‘A’ is certainly one of the finest abstract letterforms in the music
3. What do you think is the reason why this logo has actually become
a social icon? Are these considerations to be attributed to its execution
and precision from a technical/formal point of view, or rather to the
historical-geographical and social context in which it was born?
The Aphex Twin logo was actually my first attempt and he liked it strai-
ght away. No re-workings, tweaks, changes... Bang! Job done! It has now
been used, unchanged it for 29 years. Not bad.
When you create a logo and handed it over, it’s effectively out of your
control. As good as a piece of design is, its legacy does rely upon the
continued success of the individual or product it was designed for. In the
case of Aphex Twin, the fact that he’s remained at the cutting edge has
helped make the logo become iconic. I am not naive enough to believe
that it’s purely down to the quality of the design, but the fact that Ri-
chard is still using the logo is something I am proud of. It worked for him
then, as it does now. If you think about it, there are iconic designs within
every genre of music. If it’s ‘70s rock and roll, it would be The Rolling
Stones with the lips and the tongue. Likewise, with the Joy Division
sound waves - the white lines on black. It could be said that certain logos
have become more recognisable than the music and certainly used to
represent a whole genre beyond the actual music of the band. There are
circumstances where design can transcend music - How many people
wear a Joy Division, Ramones or CBGB shirt and know nothing about
the music? It is rare in music graphics that the designer gets any recogni-
tion. Initially, after Richard’s 2015 Soundcloud file dump and then more
so after the 25th anniversary of Selected Ambient Works in 2017, several
things happened that raised general awareness of the Aphex Twin logo.
Kevin Foakes, (A.K.A. DJ Food) kicked things off when he wrote an
article which was picked up by Resident Advisor and it kind of spun out
from there. Running parallel to the interest in the Aphex Twin logo is a
resurgence of interest in the ‘90s.
I would say that there are many musicians on a similar level to Aphex
Twin and some even more successful that don’t have a logo or recogni-
sable graphic element. What that means is, that if you are an Aphex
Twin fan or into techno and electronic music generally, you have this
logo, a symbol that you can wear or have as a tattoo that you know will
communicate to people that you belong to the same niche, the same
tribe. Put simply, a logo is that thing people use to represent themselves.
You have to create something they are going to live with potentially for
the duration of that project or for that product. If it feels right, it’s going
to become integral with the thing it represents.
4. Consequently, do you think that if this logo had been born today,
would it have had the same history or “fortune”?
The explosion of creativity that surrounded techno, house, rave and as-
sociated art were phenomenal and what was more important was being
part of this revolution. Everything felt iconoclastic, that we were part of
something that had never happened before. It was like the future was
leaking into the present.
This mind-set born of a unique set of circumstances and of people living
through and aware of monumental change, artistically, socially and tech-
nologically. For me, it was the perfect soundtrack for life. Machine-made
music captured the essence of how I felt and was the electricity that
charged through my veins.
I was fully aware this was something special.
Since the early 90s, there have been massive changes, most notably the
emergence of the internet and social media. I know when I was in my
teens and twenties you kind of went out of your way not to be liked. That
was the whole point of being young. It was an attitude very much rooted
in the things I was into; not being a cog in the mainstream machine. I
would gravitate to individuals or groups, activities or bands because I
didn’t want to be part of the greater whole. One of the issues I have with
social media is the very premise to be liked. People go out of their way to
be liked. It turns a lot of the rules that were around when I was young on
its head. There are so many factors at play these days and things come
and go so quickly, that I fear that it is much more difficult now to create
something iconic because things blow up and disappear in the blink of
an eye. The sheer volume and pace at which things are created, loved and
immediately cast aside, are unfortunate aspects of the times we live in.
5. From a design point of view, how do the moods of a specific cultural
context (such as electronic music) move and represent within a typo-
At the moment, I work with a couple of small record labels who give
me a lot of creative control; when there is more experimentation in the
music it’s great because the more progressive or cutting edge a musician
or label, the more scope I have to push the envelope of design. There is
an avenue through music where I can be uncompromised and discover
new ways of working, making flesh ideas I wanted to play around with.
For example, when a label asked me to create artwork, in my mind I’m
thinking, “Oh, I’d like to try photo-bashing, creating spaceships out of
various bits of photography and images that I find.” By having this ap-
proach, I have much more enjoyment and satisfaction.
However, taking this path in many respects can be more difficult; each
step is an internal dialogue trying to make sense of a lifetime’s passion,
inspiration and half-formed concepts. With no client dictating the di-
rection or theme of the work, the numerous directions and multiplicity
of ideas can sometimes grind everything to a halt. Two projects I am
working on now are on a grand scale in so much as the aim is to be the
visualisation of contemporary modes of communication taking on board
aspects of slang, acronym, jargon, code, linguistics and the impact of
social media, interconnectivity and mass consumption of image.
These days, one cannot ignore the impact of social media. In context
with how I fit in, what I like with platforms like Instagram is that I put
stuff out there and people can like it or not. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t
care, because still within me is that attitude from my youth where you
can take it or leave it, but if you don’t get it, fuck you! You are either too
stupid or too boring to give a shit about. It’s not like I’m attitudinal or
giving people a hard time, but this is what I do and I have neither the
time nor inclination to bend to consensus or try and follow this year’s
trend. As much as I’m aware of certain shifts in design, I don’t touch it.
I would even go as far to say that when I see trends I’m more motivated
to go in the opposite direction. I am more motivated to NOT follow and
NOT join the herd.
6. The logo was definitely something new at the time; the beginning of
a visual imaginary with respect to an emerging culture. What is the
new concept for you? And how do you relate it to the world of graphic
design? In other words, what allows you to define something as “new”
compared to something else?
Experimenting and trying out ideas has always been my motivation.
This is also part of the reason that I can’t create a singular style, or
stick to a certain way of working. I soon get bored with it or it’s like as
soon as I’ve created something I want to move on and try something
different. It’s like a process of creating and destroying. As soon as I’ve
got something down, it’s like “Okay, onto the next thing.” So you take
successful things, like the Aphex Twin logo. I couldn’t simply just keep
creating stuff in that style but it wouldn’t be something I would enjoy.
My impetus and motivation are to keep finding new ways of working
and always pushing myself.
Every project starts with a blank page and it is through talking with the
person I am creating artwork for that the basis of an idea begins to form.
So for me, that’s where it gets exciting is that I never know where the
starting point is going to be and what directions and parameters I must
follow. I am not in that comfort zone of “This is what I do. This is my
style. Take it or leave it.” It’s more about trying to find a unique response
to a given set of circumstances.