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Q&A Marie Boulanger

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 Marie Boulangers interview and register her free Workshop Nº 18 Selecting fonts using neuroscience with your Now23 ticket!

Biography Marie Boulanger Based in London but originally from Paris, Marie Boulanger is a type designer and brand designer at Monotype, guiding the brand’s visual voice. She studied linguistics, graphic design and type design and is particularly interested in the intersection of those disciplines. Prior to joining Monotype, Marie worked in branding agencies and foundries in Europe, the USA and Canada, creating custom type for a variety of clients.

Interview

What is your work environment?

Marie Boulanger After the pandemic, it took me a long time to find balance in my work habits. A hybrid approach really works for me, as does flexibility. If I stay home all week I usually feel miserable from the lack of human contact, if I go to the office every day I’m exhausted. I have a workspace at home and an office, and I enjoy both. I prefer the office for deep design work - with a big screen, a quiet room and plenty of space. I enjoy being home for days with lots of meetings and calls. And when I feel stuck, I love going to a cafe or for a walk. Having the freedom to organize my week is really key.

Do you listen music while working?

Marie Boulanger I love this question! The music definitely depends on the activity. For anything stressful or serious, I usually need silence. Whether it’s writing emails or briefs to designers, music distracts me too much. If the work I’m doing is not as intensive, I listen to playlists or albums I make for working (usually French dream pop). This is slightly embarrassing, but I’ve found that songs from my teenage years, that I know every single lyric to really help me getting into a flow state when I’m getting deep into design work. The emotional connection to them really helps to forget everything else.

Do you read news?

Marie Boulanger I do read the news, even when they’re bad. In recent years I have become a lot more ruthless and intentional about the media I consume - I don’t want algorithms to decide for me. I subscribe to Le Monde and the New York Times to support quality journalism, I try to read more long form articles that go in-depth about things, and independent outlets too. I can’t help getting information through social media too because everything spreads, but I try to keep a critical mind at all times and fact-check everything I can. As far as design goes, I also love subscribing to independent newsletters about typography or cooking, my other great passion. And one thing I do love about social media is being able to follow people from anywhere in the world, and being exposed to all kinds of design.

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

Marie Boulanger I categorically need both. Alone time is very important at all stages, to check in with myself and where a project is going, to see how I feel about things... but there’s so much joy in collaboration. When you can bounce off your team’s ideas, when they take something someone has made and add a little bit of themselves in it, it’s magical. You definitely need a lot of trust to be able to do that.

“I would encourage people to think of all the cultural capital that typefaces carry, and let that influence the way you look for fonts.”
– Marie Boulanger

As a user of type and ambassador for Monotype, what will be your recommandations to users who are looking for the best typeface for their next project?

Marie Boulanger There are many ways of discovering the perfect typeface, whether you’re using a font subscription or not. I’d recommend going beyond form. Typefaces have stories and names. There are designers behind them who might be able to enhance the narrative you are trying to build. Of course you want something that is suited to your needs visually, but I would encourage people to think of all the cultural capital that typefaces carry, and let that influence the way you look for fonts.

Neuroscience research and typefaces? How can such studies can help users as well foundries?

Marie Boulanger We are discovering new things that happen in people’s brains when they look at typefaces - emotional reactions which influence behaviour. Obviously there is a marketing implication to this, but also genuine scientific curiosity. The way this research can help users and foundries is by making branding decisions in a more informed way. There is also a big takeaway that our surroundings shape our perception, and that one typographic choice may not yield the same results in different markets. It confirms that typography is culture, and creatives everywhere are welcome to show and share this research to help people see its value.

You have produced an impressive set of type related stamps, what was the opportunity that led you to undertake this project?

Marie Boulanger Thank you ! I originally created the stamps for my 2021 edition of 36daysoftype  , where you create artwork for every letter and number in a certain style. I was still recovering from the pandemic, I was sad, burned out and anxious, and I latched on to this external brief just to feel creative again. It unlocked something in me, I got obsessed with the detail in the stamp design, with the curation and the narrative the stamps told. It was an amazing moment of connection with people too, when designers saw their countries reflected in the stamps it led to many beautiful conversations and stories.

“Typefaces have stories and names. There are designers behind them who might be able to enhance the narrative you are trying to build.”
– Marie Boulanger

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

Marie Boulanger So many people shaped my creative career! When I was still in school I had two exceptional art teachers, Mr Read and Ms Foskett. They were both classically trained artists, skilled painters and sculptors. Their teaching was the foundation on which I built everything else. They taught me to see things, to think about colour, to write about art too. Recently I moved house and I found some old art essays marked by them, and some still life paintings I made when I was 16. I think about those art lessons a lot. Then, later in my professional life, I got lucky with two encounters which also changed everything: Jean François Porchez and Neil Summerour.  Jean Francois showed me what true passion could yield, and that investing in your craft was worth it. Neil believed in me and gave me the trust I needed to flourish in an industry where it’s hard to get real exposure.

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

Marie Boulanger Always, always, always. I need paper to feel like my brain is functioning. I particularly love going back and forth between digital and analog, printing, annotating, scanning, reprinting.. That’s what works best for me!

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

Marie Boulanger I know 18-year-old me would never have listened but, be patient, trust yourself and others. It is entirely normal for things to take time. I remember so distinctly feeling scared that I didn’t have a graphic style, that I didn’t know what my favourite thing was. And now I do! But I would never have reached that point if I had chased something I copied on Pinterest. I got here because I finally made sense of all the inspiration I’d been digesting for years, and found the way to express it best.

Thank you very much, Marie!

– Interview by Yi Shen

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May 30, 2023
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