If you pay attention to magazine mastheads at all you will have seen Johan Svensson's name on some of the most respected titles in the industry. From Big to Harper’s Bazaar, Jane, Vogue Paris and currently W Magazine, his talent and career have made him one of the most influential Art Directors in the business. He has collaborated with the best of the best. From photographers and stylists to models and hair & make- up artists, he is constantly raising the bar in design and visual experience.
Hoping to always surprise and interest the reader in a new and exciting way, he makes us all want to create something beautiful and original. Based in New York, I caught up with him with a few questions about nature and inspiration...
Lisa: Where were you born?
Johan: Stockholm, Sweden
How were you influenced by nature when you were growing up?
I think I might have rebelled against anything to do with nature when I was growing up, mainly due to my ornithologist father. So I set out to know nothing about anything to do with nature, and I am suffering the consequences of that policy today. But that probably counts as some form of getting influenced, too, in a reverse kind of way.
Where did the interest in design, fashion, typography come from?
First of all, growing up in Sweden makes design a fairly natural interest. It is a very design conscious place. Not everything is well designed, but pretty much everything is designed. In addition to that, I come from a family that is pretty creative and grew up around lots of art and artists, and beautiful books. It just seemed like the natural thing to do, to follow that path (if in a more commercial way, but still...)
How does your background influence your work today?
More recently, if still a long time ago, I worked a summer for Alan Fletcher at Pentagram Design in London where I was taught the importance of design being functional and making sense. Later, I worked with Fabien Baron at Harper’s Bazaar, where it was all about beauty at any cost. I would think that my philosophy has ended up somewhere right in between those two, and I try to make things as beautiful as I can while always keeping the end user in mind and making things as functional as possible.
Do you have examples in the process of your work that happen naturally? Are there any accidents that you end up moving forward within either photography or design?
I have been doing this for so long now that I think most of it happens naturally. Or at least that is how it feels. And a big part of my process is to allow for accidents to happen and seeing which ones lead somewhere good and then going in that direction.
How do you find nature living in New York City?
I think New York is its own special kind of nature by now. A man-made and strange kind of nature. So in a way, I think you find nature everywhere. But in a more conventional way of thinking, New York makes me happy for nature as it is in many ways a much more environmentally friendly society than one where the people are spread out over huge areas all in their own houses where enormous resources are wasted on transportation and heating etc. So living in New York makes me constantly conscious of nature preserved elsewhere.
What are some natural instincts?
I hope loyalty and integrity are natural instincts.They could possibly be learned, but I believe you have to have some of it in you naturally, to begin with.
What inspires you?
A lot of things inspire me, but if I had to choose one, it would be my kids (well, if I had to choose two, then).