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Open Manifesto

Collaboration, identity and design: backstage with U2.

A conversation between Steve Averill and K.F.
{28th of November 2008}


It may surprise readers to learn that Bono hasn’t always been a fan of the name U2. Equally, it may surprise readers to hear that it was in fact you, Steve, who suggested the name U2 in the first place. How did this come about and has Bono grown to like the name more over the years?


Well, yeah, interesting. [Smiling] No, he still hates it. But the first time I actually heard him voice this was in the book ‘U2 by U2’, where he said the band name was based on a pun, and he hates puns. But that’s fine.


The genesis of the name came from Adam [Clayton] really, and from talking to him about various names. One week they wanted to be a certain kind of band, and the next week they wanted to be a different kind of band. Our conversations led to names Adam liked, for example XTC, which means nothing and can mean everything at the same time. It’s a name that can be interpreted in many ways.


So really, I just thought about that for around a week and after various options I came up with the name U2 because it has, among other things, connotations with the Russian spy plane. It’s also a pun, in the way people say: “Have a good day” and the reply is: “You, too”. So it was part of common language. But I also knew that, graphically speaking, a single letter and a single numeral together would look very strong on a poster—it would be very identifiable.


(The rest of this article is available, in print, in Open Manifesto #5)


Steve Averill is Creative Director of Four5one Creative working in all aspects of emerging new media. The company has, in various guises, worked with a wide range of music acts in Ireland and internationaly, including names such as U2, Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, Tom Jones, Sting, Phil Collins, Genesis and Dierks Bentley and reknowned local acts such as Clannad, The Dubliners and a who’s who of Irish rock acts.


Averill continues his passion combining graphics and music running a fanzine called Lonesome Highway, which has spawned a website.


Like U2 he feels that the best work that Four5one will produce is ahead of them and he is excited about the prospects of working on the next music project with a team of equally passionate designers in the role of art director and designer.