Iddris Sandu turned his background into his inspiration
Born in the country of Ghana, but raised in Compton, California – a city known for its memorable hip-hop scene –, since he was 2 years old, Iddris Sandu turned his background into his inspiration, building a practice focused on solution-oriented projects to achieve more organic, responsive technology.
Inspired by elements rich with black culture — like hip-hop music, Adinkra symbols & Kenté cloth, just to name a few — Sandu began creating guidelines in the form of equations. This way, all the construction behind these representative aspects could be reproduced & reverenced in different forms of expression.
One outcome of these experiments is the HIP=HOP equation. A theory that contemplates the whole spectrum of creation in practice: from conception to production — HIP being High Intellectual Property & HOP being High Output Production. It’s a way to encourage people to start owning their creations (be it products, codes, or even trends) & using them to elevate their practice, which means: the more you’re able to own your intellectual property, the more leverage you will have in product creation. This way, HIP=HOP becomes something bigger than a concept: it turns into a verb, a way of life that, for Sandu, can be applied to anything — music, tech businesses & even leather-centered brands. As long as they are built on it.
That state-of-the-art thinking shaped his practices spatiaLABS & ethosDNA, both highly involved in state-of-the-art projects with giants from different industries. One of them being the fashion industry. Sandu applied his vision to work with labels like Fenty, Yeezy & Versace, helping these brands to be a part of the new tech conversation & to engage in their roles as avant-garde members of the industry in their own way. Now, in a world post-COVID, he hopes the fashion industry will make even wiser use of technology & turn it into a tool to find smart solutions for general problems, like sustainability & health — becoming an important player in the making of a brighter future.
And if you think his inventive attitude stops there, you couldn’t be more wrong. Since there's nothing predictable or boring about Iddris Sandu, he decided to take everything he learned from this hype mix of technology & culture and dive into the rap game. And it is amazing how art + programming have influenced each other inside his head: pixels turn into colorful paintings, tempos turn into reusable parameters & algorithms take on new meaning — algo-rhythms.
All ready to board Sandu's ship to the future? 👽
To get a little deeper inside the creative mind of Iddris Sandu, check out our exclusive interview below.
You mix technology with different expressions of culture. How did you turn that crossover between fields into a philosophy for your practice?
The Bauhaus movement was created in 1919.
Apart from it originating at the Bauhaus art school, it was initially designed to be a universal set of guiding principles for designers all around the world to embrace in their design thinking.
Growing up, I was at the intersection of two cultures; one being African culture and the other being black African culture/hip-hop.
But there weren't any collectives or well-documented references for both these cultures' shapes, colors, fonts, or proportional guidelines for me to reference as I was creating.
So, I created my own. Realizing that things like hip-hop itself could be equated to a startup; that Adinkra symbols found in central Ghana can be converted into basic shapes of proportional guides; that classical Kenté cloth can be converted into color palettes; and so on and so forth.
What do you think it means for society that a young black man is the one leading the process of driving our culture closer to the future?
Firstly, I am one black man that is leading, not "the" black man. I am just one guide; but never the north star.
The most important thing that I think it shows is what solution-oriented thinking could look like. And, more importantly, what infrastructural related technology could look like through the lens of a black creator; moving with the will of GOD.
The things that we are building at spatiaLABS and ethosDNA are not opinions on how mobile software should look or how it should run. We're giving perspectives on how infrastructures should be built, and furthermore, what tasks they should address.
We don't exist to give our opinions operating around the flaws of problem-based thinking. We exist to give solutions from the perspectives of solution-oriented providence.
In what ways does your work as a digital architect enhance the design process behind the sneakers projects you've collaborated on, like your Yeezy partnerships?
I recently spoke about the importance of creating organic responsive technology. And by this, I meant that a lot of brands are focused on integrating technology into clothing and fabrics to replace garments, rather than focusing on coexisting with them.
In this capacity, I'm excited to see how the fashion space will evolve/elevate in the era of Covid-19 — how the new technologies that emerge will actually protect our health, rather than aspire to make promises they cannot fulfill.
Hip hop dynamics inspired the HIP=HOP equation. Since it contemplates the whole spectrum of creation (from conception to production), this equation can be applied to basically anything. So, how can leather-centered brands use the unique aspect of this material + technology to nail HIP=HOP throughout their creative process?
Hip equals hop (HIP=HOP) is a universal equation to me. It's no coincidence that hip-hop culture is a fabric through which all forms of cultures can be represented by, as different materials (leather, nubuck, Sherpa, etc).
The equation in itself separates it from being just a noun, and it makes it become a verb (a way of life).
So in practice and not theory, no matter what medium your brand is built on, the equation serves you from concept to production.
On that note, can you point out some 2020 musicians & tracks that crossed paths with your work?
By choice, I've never been the best at singling out specific songs; however, I love DRAMA (the group), Kwesi Arthur, King Krule, (((O))), Fana Hues, Billie Eilish, and Francis and the Lights.
Lastly, we know how important it is for you to inspire the next gen of black youth to be inventive & own their sh*t. In these hard social distancing times, would you like to leave a message for those who are inspired and will be inspired by your work?
👉🏿 Don't design invention, design innovation;
👉🏿 When in doubt, act as a human, not an algorithm;
👉🏿 Use culture as your operating system;
👉🏿 Solve problems for purpose or service, not for profit.
We are already in the mood to create something, Iddris.
For more inspiring [metcha originals], give it a go!