Q&A: Eric Haze On Going From A Graffiti Background To Designing Iconic Hip-Hop Logos
Sometimes cultural icons are known for their contributions to a culture, but the individual behind the talent gets lost in the sauce. Having designed a lot of rap groups' early logos, Eric Haze is one of these individuals whose work you see daily, but whose face and name you may not be familiar with. Ironic, especially since he never "fell off" and has put out a steady body of work since the early 1980s, and he's still out here designing and collaborating and innovating after many years. Then again, when you designed timeless pieces like the EPMD and Beastie Boys logosnot to mention Tommy Boy Records and Tone Loc'syou are your own inspiration.
Eric Haze. Pleasure to meet you, OG. Where are your from originally?
Born and bred in New York City, I'm from the upper Broadway area. I started out in the streets with graffiti, so that's where the name HAZE comes from. I started to get some light [doing graffiti] and saw where it was all going in 1979 so a couple of us called The Soul Artists banded back together from childhood and started on the road to self-empowerment as artists.
Where there any turning points you remember where graffiti started becoming more mainstream or at least when people outside of the culture started showing interest in it?
Actually, it was in the Village Voice. The 1979/1980 Christmas issue had a story on Zephyr, Pink, myself and a few others. That was a big turning point. I've been flying by the seat of my pants ever since.
How did you make the transition from graffti in the streets to logos for corporations and rap groups?
Well, initially when we were coming up the gallery world was the only playing field available so we were all doing shows and painting murals for gigs and what not. I realzed fairly early on that as much as I was in love with painting I was really in love with the written word... with typography and styles and names. So I kind of switched it up early on and took a left turn from where everybody else was heading and decided to go back and study graphic design.
So you went to school for that?
Yeah I went to the School Of Visual Arts, and ironically I studied editorial design under the art director of the Village Voice in 1980. It was George [Delmerico]. I even laid out a few pages for the Village Voice early on. He was one of my mentors as far as learning the grid system and editorial design.
So was there ever a starving-artist era for you? Maybe while you were in school?
Nah not really. I already knew where I wanted to go and I worked on my portfolio all throughout school so when I finished I hit the ground running.