Q&A Atelier Baudelaire

On 3 June 2023, the Now23 conference will take place in Paris. On that day, more than a dozen graphic lecturers, artistic directors and type designers are expected. Join to attend talks by international speakers around graphic design, web design, motion design, publishing, visual identity, communication and type design. If not already done, register now to take advantage of the best rates.

It seemed interesting to us to make you discover the profiles of our guests. Discover Atelier Baudelaire‘s interview.
Biography Camille Baudelaire and Olivia Grandperrin led a research and creative studio — Atelier Baudelaire, linking graphic design and volume, culture and innovation. The studio works with institutions, artists, and businesses in creating custom identities, editions, signage, objects, and spaces. Atelier Baudelaire pushes traditional boundaries within graphic design delivering excellence and commitment, while offering an innovative and flexible model: it values the work of female designers, promotes interdisciplinary practices and collective intelligence.


Describe your typical day?

Our day starts quite early, after dropping our daughters off at school. We are trying to start our day by taking stock of the distribution of tasks and progress on projects. We have learned to adapt to the priorities of the day with very dense working times, and more moments of relaxation, exchange and discussion. We finish between 16:30. (once a week), 18:00, and later when our companions are out of school, it is variable geometry.

We start our days with a half-hour walk (8:45 to 9:30) along the Canal Saint Martin to get to the office, which is very pleasant. It is an appreciable moment, as we’re disconnected from phones and emails. We take the opportunity to sort out the things to do, note the important ideas that came to us between emergencies from the day before...

Have your work habits changed notably after the lockdown?

We partnered the time of the first Covid lockdown. So we immediately got into the habit of working remotely, and exchanging a lot by whatsapp, or by phone. Sometimes we like to work from home wearing comfortable clothing, without children, but these moments are rare. A closed room for an office at home seems to be a luxury in Paris. It’s not for now!

Favourite kind of music to listen to while working?

Some phases of work require concentration so we rather work in silence most of the time. We also listen to a lot of podcasts on many different topics.

Do you read news?

We subscribe to several Instagram accounts specialized in design, Art, visual culture, political news and feminism that are good relays to magazines, quality newspapers, and in-depth articles. We prefer to spend time on certain targeted topics than on often anxious and caricatural daily news.

“We strongly believe in collective intelligence and we practice creative ‘ping pong’ on a daily basis.”
– Atelier Baudelaire

What do you do to evade yourself from work?

Camille A lot of manual activities with my daughter, including gardening. I try to go to at least one dance class a week. For 2 years it’s been tango, but I’ve done many different types of dances in the last 10 years.

Olivia My daughter is still small so I admit that my leisure time is quite reduced. But I’ve been running again for some time, a sports practice that gives me time to think.

What is the best way to work? In a team, alone?

As a team of course! We strongly believe in collective intelligence and we practice creative ”ping pong” on a daily basis, first between us and then by integrating one of our recurring collaborators into the creative process very early.

Do you ever feel "too comfortable" in your work?

At the moment it’s not happening. We have the feeling of always being on the move. Camille: If I have the feeling of being bored, I personally have a reflex that consists of engaging in a new activity such as the rubik’s cube, reading an unexpected book, or changing daily routines. This attitude constantly recreates neural paths and allows you to get out of any form of repetition or boredom on a daily basis. I have as many projects in mind as I have available moments in reality.

What do you think of the never ending trend of grotesque and geometric sans-serif typefaces?

We work with both styles of typefaces, that’s what’s interesting. Our work subjects are often at the crossroads of culture and research, which lends itself well to serif typefaces with innovative twist. If we use a sans serif, we look for the ones with personality, who reflect the style of its author. We do not necessarily seek to get all our projects into the dominant visual trend. We think that there are two currents, which can also sometimes meet: a slightly retro trend towards the grotesques and geometrics sans inherited from the Swiss School and the Bauhaus, and a more organic trend with more rugged fonts, which bring strangeness. We are often attracted to fonts with generous x-height, to allow a contrasting text density.

What are some things that grab your eye the most when you are searching new typefaces?

We are doing a permanent watch. Everything interests us, until it has an innovative character. We work with Eugénie Bidaut, a type designer, specialized in “inclusive typography”, with Alexandre Bassi, or Alice Savoie, a teacher at ANRT and Écal. Anne-Lise Bachelier, Lenny Hudson and Clément Frassi, talented graphic designers and regular collaborators of the Atelier, is also permanently monitoring trends.

What do you think of this trend of free fonts?

This is an obviously very interesting axis because it allows several designers to work successively on the same typeface and create a real story around it. As part of a bid for the Centre d’Art Bétonsalon, we worked with Space Grotesk and the Authentic Sans, customized with Eugénie Bidaut, because the history of these typefaces seemed interesting to us to fit the client’s budget. We think that this philosophy of typeface, "in perpetual movement", whose design evolve over time by different protagonists, is very inspiring. As teachers, it is much easier to teach students how to do graphics when typefaces are available for free. However, we make it clear to them what copyright is for and the importance of respecting them. They are very sensitive to these issues. We believe that there will always be commercial typeface, and that both possibilities are important to preserve the good economic balance of the profession.

How graphic designers can have a role in transforming the life of the city, as well as the political dimension of design?

The objective of this project was to allow this large city to distinguish itself within a very codified and homogeneous visual ensemble, by capitalizing on subtle cultural and historical graphic specificities (through the design and use of typefaces). We find the Rennes Ville et Métropole approach ambitious. Valuing graphic design independent studio is a courageous and rare choice for a community. Since we signed this reference alongside Alice Savoie and Alexandre Bassi, we have been engaging as best we can in the public sector. We have been involved in Cap Com (presidency of this year’s jury as well as a conference workshop), in order to disseminate our vision to political leaders, but also to specialized communication agencies, which could work more frequently with independent graphic designers like us.

“You have to “do to do” and talk about it to the universe!”
– Atelier Baudelaire

Do you remember when you decided to pursue your career in design?

Camille I had a click in high school when I discovered that the “Bac Arts-Applied sections” existed through a friend who was passionate and work addict, unlike me who had been living schooling as a constraint for many years. I took drawing classes, enrolled in the “Arts plastiques option” at the baccalaureate. It was while writing my cover letter for the Duperré school competition in the final year that I immersed myself in very specific definitions of the profession. At the time, I thought that design was above all furniture design.

Olivia My mother is an architect and my uncle is a press cartoonist, I have always bathed in a certain creative environment and taken drawing and comics classes. I still passed a scientific baccalaureate, but the question of doing an art school quickly imposed itself on me in a natural way, even if it is a choice of curriculum that was not necessarily valued by teachers and friends!

When you started, who were ones who had the most impact on you?

Camille I learned from all the teachers with avidity the first year in Duperré school because I was very enthusiastic about this new Parisian life and stimulated by the objective of the competitions for the following year. I think all the teachers brought me something at one point, but I never felt like I had mentors, it happened later in an agency, because the relationship was more daily. There is one person I often think of: Brigitte Smadja (who passed away this year) and who was my literature teacher in Duperré school. She influenced me a lot by her very strong personality, her sincere involvement and her frank humor. It was with great emotion that I found her books for my daughter and reread the letters she wrote to us as corrections to our renderings. His work is not known to the general public but I consider it a great work of children’s literature.

Olivia During my studies at Arts décoratifs school in Strasbourg, I had the chance to do an internship with Frédéric Teschner who at the time was working on the catalog of the triennial La Force de l’Art. I was very marked by his kindness and his desire to transmit. After my graduation I went to do a post-graduation at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam where I discovered the work of Dutch studios such as Metahaven, Dumbar or Kesselskramer who subsequently influenced me a lot in my general approach to graphic design.

Do you sketch–draw on paper before moving on to the digital workflow?

If freehand drawing allows you to express certain things faster than on the computer, then yes, we sometimes use it in any phase, whether to pose first ideas, during a brainstorming, or in more advanced phases depending on the projects.

Do you have words of wisdom for someone who wants to become a graphic designer?

Three things:

  • Write and draw your intuitions of personal ideas when they come to you. If you do it as a habit, un the future, these notes inevitably end up turning into beautiful projects.
  • You have to “do to do” and talk about it to the universe!
  • Don’t forget to laugh at your own practices.

What will be the message you would like to convey at Now23?

We would like to praise the virtuous links that can be established between graphic designers and type designers, as part of long-term collaborations and large-scale projects for territories, for example. We want to tell why and how this vision of a multidisciplinary practice seems to us to open up new perspectives for graphic design.

We are always curious to discuss our practice and how to consider self-employment and/or entrepreneurship. This is a great opportunity to develop our network. On the other hand, we are in full development and are always looking for confirmed and autonomous profiles, able to work as a team on complex visual identity projects, both in the cultural sector, but also and especially in the institutional and corporate field.

Thank you very much, Camille and Olivia!

– Interview by Yi Shen

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May 23, 2023
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