Behind the scenes with Willo Perron, designer of pop culture’s iconic moments

Perron, one of the most prolific designers in the world, in an interview with STIR reveals his unique approach to design and creating moments that make the world stop and watch.

by Avantika Shankar Published on : Mar 07, 2020

Willo Perron has designed it all! A Canadian designer and the founder of Willo Perron and Associates, he works with interiors, graphics, performance art, and video production, and is always a step ahead of the curve. He may well have carved out the curve, leading the way for trends and cultural movements to follow suit. Early in his career, Perron designed stores for American Apparel and even briefly worked at Apple.

Currently, he is best known for his collaborations with some of the music industry’s biggest acts. He has enjoyed a long-standing connection with Kanye West, for whom he has designed album artwork, concert stages and Yeezy stores. He floated a surprisingly life-like inflatable yellow Ferrari over the crowd on Drake’s 2018 Aubrey and the Three Migos tour. His set design won Jay-Z a Billboard Music Award for best rap tour in 2018, and most recently, his album packaging for St. Vincent’s Masseduction album was awarded a Grammy. Adding to his tremendous success as designer of live performance, Perron continues to work on interior projects—like Adidas’s Los Angeles office and stores for Los Angeles-based lifestyle brand Stüssy—album artwork, creative campaigns and brand design.

  • The Rihanna AntiWorld Tour (2016), set by Willo Perron | Willo Perron | STIRworld
    The Rihanna AntiWorld Tour (2016), set by Willo Perron Image Credit: Courtesy of Willo Perron & Associates
  • Stüssy store in Taipei designed by Willo Perron | Willo Perron | STIRworld
    Stüssy store in Taipei designed by Willo Perron Image Credit: Courtesy of Willo Perron & Associates

In an email interview, Perron speaks with STIR about his creativity and his approach to crafting iconic designs.

Willo Perron | STIRworld
Willo Perron Image Credit: Vincent Haycock

Avantika Shankar (AS): What attracts you to a project?

Willo Perron (WP): Several different reasons, they have to inspire me. Sometimes it’s doing the right version of something I think has been done wrong, sometimes it’s just to make myself laugh. Sometimes it’s pushing an idea forward or it’s a musician or artist we have worked with that inspires me. It generally has to inspire a conversation. 

AS: Would you say you have a particular sensibility, and if so, how does it express itself when you are working with artists who have a strong aesthetic of their own?

WP: In working with artists I study what makes them interesting and try to accentuate the things that make each artist special and different. That’s why I have been able to work with such a diverse array of people and styles, because we really embrace the idiosyncrasies of each person and try to work from those things versus doing a show for me. When I do something for myself, it feels very different. 

For the Tame Impala Coachella set Willo Perron created precise lighting scheme cued to each beat for the music | Willo Perron | STIRworld
For the Tame Impala Coachella set Willo Perron created precise lighting scheme cued to each beat for the music Image Credit: Courtesy of Willo Perron & Associates

AS: Have you been through any significant stylistic phases in your career?

WP: Nope. Honestly, I don’t think at all. I am pretty consistent in the fact that I have always liked the same things. I have basically had the same haircut since I was a six-year-old. 

AS: What is the process of working with a choreographer to design architecture for performance?

WP: My job is generally to have an eye on the overall aesthetic through-line of a performance or a show. That being said, it is very collaborative between all the different people and creatives working, and in the case of choreography, you have to make things that suit the movement and are safe for people to move around on. There is definitely a lot of back and forth when the architecture is being designed and built.

Willo Perron provided the Creative Direction and Scenic Design for Rihanna AntiWorld Tour in 2016 | Willo Perron | STIRworld
Willo Perron provided the Creative Direction and Scenic Design for Rihanna AntiWorld Tour in 2016 Image Credit: Courtesy of Willo Perron & Associates

AS: Are there aspects of designing for live events that have come to influence or inform your work in interior design, or vice-versa?

WP: I think it is more architecture influencing the live portion of my work. The materiality, the finishes, all of those details. Technology and automation are beginning to just now creep into the architecture and interior design work that we do. 

AS: Are there any types of projects you have not done yet that you are eager to do in the future?

WP: Yes, absolutely, tons of stuff. I am curious about all mediums and I would love to be able to work in all of them. From making a film to cooking, to doing an opera. I think the reality is I will probably never get to do all the stuff I would like to do.

Drake’s Aubrey and the Three Migos Tour 2018 | Willo Perron | STIRworld
Drake’s Aubrey and the Three Migos Tour 2018 Image Credit: Courtesy of Willo Perron and Associates

AS: Are there any ‘landmark’ projects in your career that you would say embody a change or evolution in your process or aesthetic?

WP: I think that’s really constant for me. I always think there is a better version of what I do, so I am constantly trying to perfect and better my work. I am always trying to learn how to make a better version of the last thing I did. 

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