Meet the Designers Behind Frank Ocean's 'Boys Don't Cry' Zine

Zak Kyes and Grégory Ambos reveal their creative process and make sense of Frank Ocean the perfectionist.

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With auctions prices for Boys Don’t Cry running anywhere between $300 and $2,000 USD, advice from Frank Ocean’s mother Katonya Breaux Riley might have brought a collective sigh of relief from eager buyers. “Don’t pay those ridiculous prices for the mags on eBay. Just hang tight a sec,” read the tweet posted on Monday. Selling out in a fraction of a millisecond, Frank Ocean’s print project was masterminded by Zak Kyes and Grégory Ambo of BDC Logo and Zak Group. The people behind the distorted, stylized font that teased fans globally since April opened up to Dazed Digital, revealing the inner workings behind the zine.

Drawn to the collective’s work at the Berlin and Taipei Biennials, as well as their book projects for Cosey Fanni Tutti and David Greene, Frank Ocean’s creative director Thomas Mastorakos reached out to the group a year and a half ago. A meeting was arranged at Abbey Road Studios, marking the conception of the long-awaited publication. The designers enunciated their enormous respect for Ocean, who they claim is “creating a kind of gesamtkunstwerk in which film, photography, music, publishing – and timing – are all intertwined.” Read on for highlights from the interview with Dazed, and make sure to visit the full piece here.

What was the initial brief you received?

The brief evolved constantly, until the last moment, so there is no single answer to give. It would be more accurate to say that Ocean and Mastorakos communicated an atmosphere or a feeling and as designers we provided the visual sensibility.

Can you tell us about that atmosphere and feeling?

We were shown much of the content as it was being produced, so this provided an atmosphere that ranged from conversational to more personal visual references.

Did you ever think it would actually happen?

We knew it would happen – but we did not know when, or the extent that our work would be used. I think we were in the same position as a lot of people – like Wolfgang Tillmans who only found out that his track was used in its entirety when the album came out.

Can you give us some insight and details into Frank’s artistic process?

Ocean surrounds himself with extremely talented people who provide multiple inputs. He is the central nervous system in this constellation and in our experience things were only finished once they were perfect.

What inspirations were you given from Frank and his team, and what inspirations did you bring into this from your side, for the typeface?

The type is a hand-distorted version of the sans serif typeface Union designed by our collaborator Radim Peško. The typography was made by scanning originals on a large-format scanner. The distortions were then created by moving the original typography while the lamp moves across the bed of the scanner. In the studio we called it the BDC treatment.

Only after the album was released did we notice that our capture and distortion technique resonates with “chopped and screwed” mode of editing present in the first single “Nikes” and Wolfgang Tillmans’ voice-over intro to Endless: “Blurring, blurring the line between still and motion / With this Apple device”.

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Kieran Irvine
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