Jay-Z’s New Alter Ego: Diva Designer For Rich Guys

We’re a bit skeptical of Jay-Z’s design chops, but the man can market anything. Maybe even the Brooklyn Nets.

Jay-Z’s New Alter Ego: Diva Designer For Rich Guys

The Wall Street Journal brings us news that Jay-Z’s been working hand-in-hand with SHoP architects, helping create the look and feel of the luxury boxes at the new Brooklyn stadium that SHoP is building for the Nets:


Jay-Z was sitting on the edge of his impossibly large oak desk when he stressed the importance of flatware.

Forks need to be heavy, he told his small audience, which included Chris Sharples, the architect in charge of designing a block of luxury suites at Barclays Center that would bear the rap impresario’s imprint. Forks, Jay-Z said, need to have substance. A plastic fork? Please. Even stainless steel was out of the question.

The meeting, which was held last spring at Jay-Z’s offices in Manhattan, was Sharples’s introduction to him, and he said it was revealing: The team’s most glamorous part-owner wanted to be involved. “He’s a very confident individual,” said Sharples, a principal at SHoP Architects.

Last spring, when Sharples and his team first met with Jay-Z, they had him watch an animation that revealed some of the details of the building’s ongoing construction. Sharples recalled that Jay-Z got up from behind his desk, leaned toward the screen and, when it was over, sat quietly for several moments before he shared his vision for the suites—the ambience, the color, the experience.

Indeed, while Barclays Center will feature 100 suites in different parts of the arena (average annual lease: $267,000), The Vault was conceived as a collection of uber-suites, part club scene and part Kasbah, replete with a VIP entrance framed by a 15-foot sheer curtain. The first tenant? Jay-Z himself.

Ha. Architects are always aces at diplomacy around the money men. And you know Jay-Z: He’s gotta keep up with Kanye, who just started a design firm with the aim of “picking up where Steve Jobs left off.”

But there’s a certain logic behind Jay-Z being the foremost consultant on the luxury boxes, since he’s the only one on the design-team that can probably afford one: These things cost up to $550,000 a year, with a minimum three-year lease. Still, I’m struggling to imagine how this place will turn out. Jigga apparently wanted the design to be based on the bottles of his favorite champagne, Armand de Brignac. So I’m totally mystified as to how this:

Fits with this:

Grant those guys one thing though: There might be no better marketing gimmick than a sign emblazoned with the words, “Designed by Jay-Z.”

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.