What was the motivation behind the book? Why the penis?
JB: It was born out of frustration with a trend amongst designers: people not wanting to try a different type of project. It’s not a major issue but it’s something we wanted to poke fun at. ‘Wow, is that really another self-initiated project where designers/illustrators are asked to design a poster on one theme??’ We’re taking the piss out of me as much as anyone else here. A couple of years ago I curated a project that invited artists and designers from around the world to contribute posters inspired by the phrase, ‘No Fly Posters’, (see noflyposters.com), After seeing more and more projects of a similar nature it just all got a bit much. I remember saying, ’I wish someone would just curate a project of dicks’… and then we looked into it, and no one had done it.
LZ: Yeah it started as a bit of a joke over a beer. All the 'wanky' projects that we'd come across inspired us to do something a little more in your face. I mean as much as I love ‘cool looking’ stuff, there was space for something a little more juvenile and fun.
I know that the idea of the dicks came more from a frustration with the design world, but I do feel like a lot of its appeal comes from people loving and wanting to draw penises.
JB: Of course! The project was born out of frustration, but Christ, a book full of illustrated penai needs no rationale. For almost everyone the appeal is the dicks, but someone did tweet... ‘Finally – the project the art and design world has been waiting for’.
How was the experience of putting the book together?
JB: We tried to put it together early, but like anything with a deadline, people always leave it until the last minute to submit, so we were sat there with a month to go with not much of a clue as to how the book would turn out! Which was unnerving but ultimately very rewarding when so many amazing dongs filled our inbox. We tried not to overthink the design – we wanted to let the dicks to do the talking
Tell us about some of your favourite penises.
JB: There are so many great ones but I think one particular favourite was the very last one we received before we closed submissions. It was illustrated by Dan Button (‘Hero of Switzerland’). His submission recreated the famous ‘Free Willy’ scene where Willy (the killer-whale) jumps over Jesse to freedom. Dan replaced Willy with an actual willy. Fucking genius.
LZ: There are so many to choose from. I think my favourite is probably George Heaven’s. He approached us, took a postcard and drew it in about 10 minutes – it’s gross and great.
You said in an interview with Hover States, “We wanted to make stuff that made people laugh, or upset them.” I like this mix of the playful and the shocking. How do these ideas feature in your work?
LZ: Laughing and crying are almost the same, right?
JB: Louie and I, along with a few others who we collaborate with, share a very similar ethos: I call it ‘Asshole’. We love the creative industry but we want to challenge it. Challenge mediocrity and ‘nice’ things. The industry takes itself so seriously sometimes, and when it’s not busy being up its own arse its other mode is just ‘very nice’.
I drew a penis for the book, which I’d always intended to do. When it came to it though, I felt kind of nervous and didn’t know what to draw. I ended up doing a silly cartoon penis face. Did you want to make people feel uncomfortable?
LZ: I don’t think we wanted people to be uncomfortable – we’re not psychopaths – but I think being out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Like Jon said, too much ‘nice’. I like the idea of people being a little nervous.
Why do you think we are so drawn to drawing dicks – like the way boys obsessively draw dicks from when they hit puberty?
LZ: I think it’s because they’re funny. It’s super quick, easy and crass to draw a dick – what could be more fun for a pubescent boy? It’s also a nice release from having to be professional all the time. There’s now nearly 500 published illustrators because of Pecker, and I’m sure it wasn’t the hardest work in the world.
What/who excites you most at the moment?
JB: I get excited by graphic design not produced by graphic designers. When you walk around London you see so much stuff that has just been made by someone fighting for their lives. I feel like designers know too much a lot of the time, and charm gets lost.
What’s next? The Vagina Book?
JB: We’d really like to continue building a collaborative body of work. We’ve created two projects together so far; Louie’s personal branding and Pecker. We’re open to a third project, if anyone has something… let us know. Designing Ladybeard would have been great!
LZ: We’re not sure about a vagina book – it seems almost too logical. I think I’d like to keep surprising/alarming our mothers. We’ve definitely got our eyes on the tricky third album though…
Jon is set to become a Designer at Apple in California having previously worked with London Fashion Week and Phillippe Starck. His work has been discussed by Vogue, The Guardian, The BBC and Tony Blackburn. Louie works at the international branding agency Moving Brands and is an author for People of Print. His client list includes Sony, the BBC and the British Medical Association.
Excitingly a third edition of PECKER will be available online soon…watch this space for a link to where you can get your hands on a copy!
Interview by Madeleine Dunnigan and all images from PECKER courtesy of Jon Bland and Louie Zeegen