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It Takes Two: Peter Miles

BY Rory Satran | Tue. December 28, 2010 | Culture Club
Art director Peter Miles's work is often described as "minimalist" and "slightly off", both of which are true. But there is also something quietly, eerily perfect about everything the transplanted Brit in New York touches, from his ad campaigns for Marc Jacobs and Céline to his design for books and Brooklyn magazine The Journal. Miles is also the incredibly apt collaborator of Sofia Coppola on her past three films, and the man behind our limited-edition Somewhere poster. We had a chat with Peter about working with Sofia, Juergen Teller, the perfection of Univers 55, and the lost elegance of Key Foods.

Rory Satran: How did you meet Sofia? What is the history of your collaboration, and how do you work together?
Peter Miles: Juergen Teller introduced me to Sofia around the time of the first Marc Jacobs perfume campaign. Later she asked me to develop a logo and title sequence for Lost In Translation, and we've carried on working together since. She usually has a very specific brief but leaves enough room for ideas to change.

RS: How did you develop the Somewhere logo and poster?
PM: The crucial first step was a scrapbook that Sofia handed out to the cast and crew. I picked out a font for the front cover, which we ended up using as the logo. The poster for Opening Ceremony was designed around the poster for France.

RS: Which books or magazines do you go to time and again as references?
PM: The New Yorker, The Guardian, type specimen books. And Point & Plane Bookstore on Avenue A is great for finding books that I wasn't expecting to like.

RS: How would you define your aesthetic sensibility?
PM: Not quite direct.

RS: What is your working relationship like with Juergen Teller, for Marc Jacobs, Céline, and your other collaborations?
PM: Juergen and I have worked together for about 20 years, and the dynamics have changed over the years. I enjoy the conversations surrounding work that usually have nothing to do with work at all.

RS: What was it like working with Phoebe Philo on the biggest revamp of a house in recent memory, Céline?
PM: Phoebe's approach is to consider solutions in extreme detail, and she expects the same degree of attention from the people she works with. The overall experience has been challenging but rewarding.

RS: Top five typefaces?
PM: Two would be Univers 55 (perfect, minimal, exact) and Perpetua Bold (prickly, strict, demanding). Not sure if I have five, they keep changing.

RS: How did you go about designing the maquette for The Journal?
PM: I hung around in the background for about a year and watched the team put issues together. It was a very slow start.

RS: How do you restrain yourself to consistently have such a simple style? Is editing difficult for you?
PM: It doesn't ever feel like restraint, probably because an alternative route rarely exists. I enjoy editing other people's work and can be ruthless without much fear. Editing my own work is much harder and options have to be kept open until the last possible moment.

RS: Has there been a change in your work since you moved from London to New York?
PM:
 I'm not sure... maybe a bit less baggage.

RS: Is there any classic supermarket or drugstore packaging you love? How about signage in NY?
PM:
 Key Foods! Their windows used to be amazing, walking past those stores was always a treat. Trashy food stuffs spelt out in squashed capital letters and printed in big American colors. However, the design changed recently and they lost their impact. Most signage in New York doesn't work, especially the directions to long-term parking around Newark Airport. I tend to have too much trust in the signwriter.

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