Q&A with WDCD Live São Paulo speaker Pete Hellicar

‘Be an empath and always try to understand your subject’

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Pete Hellicar rides skateboards, designs and makes music. His unusually varied professional experience includes pro skating in the late 80s and early 90s, setting up of one the UK’s first independent skate brands Unabomber, working as art director of Etnies Worldwide and most recently founding his eponymous design studio. Hellicar Studio focuses on the intersection of art, design and technology, aiming to make the transition between analogue and digital as seamless as possible and advising brands on all areas of design, strategy and technical implementation.

Ahead of Pete’s main stage talk at WDCD Live São Paulo on November 22nd, we found out about his most significant moments, how broad interests have influenced his approach and why he believes designers should guide rather than dictate.

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What has been the pivotal moment in your career so far?

I’m not really a careerist. This is my life and it isn’t always pretty. I don’t do this to advance up or climb some kind of imaginary ladder. I am driven to action because I can’t not do it! I could mention many moments that have blown my mind:
Hearing The Meters “Just Kissed my Baby” and realising that Public Enemy sampled their breaks.
Watching Mark Gonzales skate in real life.
Hearing John Renbourne play live.
Seeing the stars in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time.
Getting an interview in Skateboard Magazine.
Watching my kids be born.
There are many moments.

What challenges do you face in your work? 

The main struggle when I was younger was understanding my themes. As I get older I have created more work and therefore have a better perspective. I’m able to spot the lineage. My interests are very broad and this tends to influence the way I approach a project. To some extent I feel that the current Hellicar Studio set up and the kinds of projects I make are a better reflection of my process and make more sense. 

What keeps you up at night?

I sleep really well generally. If anything it will be the kids.

What do you hope will be the takeaway of this year’s edition of WDCD São Paulo?

We are a strong and industrious world collective and we should believe in that power. Create with purpose, work hard and be nice to each other.

What advice would you give to designers addressing societal challenges?

Be a human.
Don’t be afraid of change.
It’s vital to have a broad perspective.
Remember that your opinions and position are dictated by your background and don’t make you right.
You don’t need to agree but you can at least recognise what, why and where they are coming from and with that knowledge try to guide rather than dictate.
Lead by example.
Be an empath and always try to understand your subject.

What would you like to share with the creative community?

A smile and some stories.

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