Bijan Berahimi is a Portland via L.A. designer that has worked with the biggest names in the business down to the closest of Portland homies. He has taken charge of the aesthetic of A Happening. festival this year and will be producing a limited newspaper/zine type situation for the event. He took the time to have a (digital) fireside chat with Schmutz:
Hey Bijan, I’ve been a fan of your design for years now through your work and relationship with Beacon Sound Records. We’ve met in passing several times but have never had the chance to sit down and chat, so this’ll be cool.
Thanks Nolan! Really happy to meet in Berlin, at long last.
How did you get involved with Andrew and the greater Beacon Sound community?
It was magical. I wanted a change of scenery after graduating from design school in 2013 in Los Angeles. New York didn’t feel right, and Portland seemed cool. I packed my car up and drove north. I met Andrew a week in through Sarah Cline, who I worked with while interning in Portland in 2011. The first project I did for Andrew was a four color screen print for the launch of his record label, it was a 2 night showcase on the Oregon coast. I drove up there, not knowing anyone, kind of nervous, and barely knowing Andrew. It was the best introduction to the scene in Portland I could ask for. There were hikes, late nights drinking, campfires, fresh food, amazing music and even better conversations. A lot of the people I met then are here in Berlin with me and still good friends today. I think I officially became apart of the greater Beacon Sound community that weekend. From there, the rest was history, as they say. Our relationship really blossomed through design, collaboration and friendship. He had a need for a designer and I had a desire to do record packaging. It was great timing.
Your project FISK seems to be an ever-evolving entity that is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of design and how people consume design. Can you give us a little FISK history and shakedown of what’s going on right now?
It started as an art school project in 2009 focused on community and opportunity. Since then it has repeatedly been killed and been reborn. Most prominently it’s transformed into an art gallery, which I founded with Michael Spoljaric in 2014. And a graphic design studio, which acts as my full-time practice, serving commercial and cultural clients. FISK has been a vehicle for me to pursue projects and create an environment I want to work in with others. It does have some underlying themes; most importantly FISK has been centered around opportunity, collaboration, and community. Sharing and people. Those two things are my lifeline and FISK will always place emphasis on them. We’re coming into a bit of stability in the coming months for the first time. In the past two years we’ve changed spaces over three times, and cities twice. We just closed our satellite gallery in Los Angeles to focus full-time on Portland.
FISK, at one point, was occupying space in the Beacon Sound storefront on Mississippi Ave. in Portland, Oregon, utilizing it as a gallery space and featuring one artist at a time. Whenever I was working at Beacon people would often be a bit skeptical about the space and its contents. FISK seems to be a bit of an eye opener for some people in Portland, where do you think that’s coming from and how do you think FISK fits into that?
It has to do with us not being from Portland. We come from Los Angeles and New York, which most people would roll their eyes at in Portland. But we have a deep love for creative culture on a global level. We saw opportunity in Portland because it was lacking that. We don’t really fit into Portland but that’s why we exist.
What is next for FISK? I’ve heard whispers that FISK will be opening a new HQ in Portland sometime soon. What’s the word on that?
We are making a real home for ourselves and investing in Portland 100% for the near future. For the first time, the gallery and studio of FISK will live together in one space. Our first show is slated for November 18, with New York by way of Portugal-based artist Braulio Amado. We’re excited about this show and so many other things. We will finally have a space that will allow us to shine.
I’m also good friends with FISK collaborator Abby Morgan and have been following along with your creative processes and shenanigans. The both of you recently went to Japan and came back brimming with design concepts. The most delicious one being the JPN line of chocolates. What are they? Where did the inspiration for them come from? And where can I get one?
JPN is a chocolate inspired by some of the flavors Abby and I experienced during our visit. The packaging was inspired by our relationship with the architecture, nature and convenience stores in Japan. It’s hard for me not to be scheming projects even while on vacation, Abby now knows this. I wanted this to be a true vacation so I promised her I wouldn’t work while in Japan. So in this case we meditated on our trip after the fact and quickly after getting back home we knew we wanted to make something. The opportunity to work with client and friend, Sebastian Cesanaros of Cocanú Chocolate casually came up. We did some design work for him and offered to barter for chocolate. After a week back in Portland, we were missing all the flavors we tasted in Tokyo. Especially all the tasty treats so we thought we should make our own flavor with Sebastian! It felt right. Everything just lined up perfectly, the idea and design came within a matter of days. In the end, it’s more than a chocolate to us, it’s an artifact of our experience in Japan. You will see that if you purchase it and hold it in your hands. You can buy and read more about the chocolate at fiskprojects.com/jpn.
As far as your trip to Berlin and your involvement with A Happening, how are you and FISK involved?
FISK is involved because of our relationship with Beacon Sound which involves being responsible for their visuals across all record packaging. We are bringing the full experience to Berlin, not just with the musicians but by having me out here too! Which I feel very fortunate for. We will be creating a collaborative newspaper or publication of sorts that will feature interviews with the greater community of Beacon Sound. It will act as a souvenir for people who attend and a time capsule for people who aren’t able to be in Berlin. Physical objects representing physical experiences is something that is very important to me.
Have you been to Berlin before?
I have not been to Berlin before. It’s been a dream of mine for many years, Abby and I are both so excited to visit as we have only heard good things. Also, lots our friends and colleagues live here so it will be especially special.
Last but not least/fav. question: What have you been listening to lately? You’ve been making your way towards Berlin via Reykjavík, Paris and Amsterdam, any select tunes you’ve been crushing on?
Most recently, Icelandic hip-hop. We just spent some time in Reykjavik and walked by a poster that really caught our eye. It was a album release party by a group called Cyber for their new EP, Horror. It blew our mind, it was super refreshing and fun to see. Now we are a bit obsessed with the music scene there.