We have a stunning group of speakers and guests sharing with us this year at TypeParis. We wanted to find out a little more about each of them, so have presented them with a series of questions which they have generously taken the time to answer.
Michelle Phillips and Johannes Conrad studied Graphic Design and Fine Arts with Music at the University of Brighton and founded their Berlin based design studio Yukiko in 2012. The studio specialises in Creative Direction, Art Direction and Design for print and digital media and has made a name for itself with its unapologetic design for a number of periodicals, such as Flaneur, Sleek, Sofa, Cura which has lead them to winning numerous awards at D&AD, TDC and ADC Germany, amongst many others. The studio consists of 6 designers from 5 different nationalities.
Yukiko’s first stage was related to music videos, graphic design and art direction for album artworks. How was the evolution from there to end up working for renowned magazines such as Cura or Flaneur?
Johannes We started off working for the music industry in more art direction capacity, but quickly moved into other areas of creating visual identities for friends that were running their own small creative businesses, such as fashion houses, a nail-art salon, a blog about streetwear, a film production studio in Berlin…, at some point we met some editors of a magazine at a party. They were starting out a project, called Flaneur, and needed some support. We somewhat hit a nerve with the project, and it gained a lot of attention, which led to teaming up with other publishers and institutions, in creating magazines and books. Currently we are actually not exclusively working in the editorial field. I would say, it only takes up about 20% of our time. We enjoy working on visual systems, identities for museums and exhibitions, and for campaigns advertising major fashion brands.
“We enjoy working on visual systems, identities for museums and exhibitions, and for campaigns advertising major fashion brands.”
— Studio Yukiko
You tend to work with type to get powerful and attractive visual identities. Do you believe the use of grotesque and geometric sans-serif typefaces is already an identifying feature of the studio?
Sebastien When we start a new project we always spend a lot of time playing with/searching for new typefaces. We always look for something new, we usually try to not use any typeface we’ve used before to challenge us all the time with new shapes, looking for new combinations, experimenting with each new fonts, reworking them, bastardising them for the good or the bad. I don’t know if we see it as a feature of the studio as we always try to make something new, but this idea of always coming up with a new way of using type could be seen as a feature of the studio, or the way we work.
“The idea of always coming up with a new way of using type could be seen as a feature of the studio.”
— Studio Yukiko
During your creative process, do you draw on paper before switching into the digital workflow?
Sebastien A good type idea starts analogue. We usually tend to sketch and draw on paper when we actually need to do some letterings for logos or type-lead related work. (We’re really no type designers, even though we just created our own font for our website together with Florian Karsten Foundry). If we want to add any raw edges to our graphic tough, we might also scan, brush some textures before hand on paper too.
“A good type idea starts analogue.”
— Studio Yukiko
When you started, who were the teachers or professionals who had the greatest impact upon you?
Sebastien Before I started working at Yukiko, I had work earlier as intern with Philippe Apeloig in Paris, which left me with a way of looking at graphic design and type design in a more crafty way and not being afraid of using colors. I still remember him drawings letters, mostly geometric, on his notebook. My teacher, Andrea Tinnes, at the Burg Giebichenstein in Germany, had one of the main impact on me, as she was always pushing you to keep doing what you were doing, always trying to see the best in it and trusting your decisions as well, and her work with typeface and shapes inspired me a lot.
What is your ratio of self-initiated typefaces vs. typeface commissions?
As we are not 100% type designers, we usually tend to work closely with type designers and share an open process together. We might start sketching letters early on and then we commission a type design to finalise the typeface and add its touch as well.
Have your work habits changed notably after the lockdown and the later pandemic restrictions?
Johannes I think as probably a lot of people, the pandemic enables a sort of reflection process. It shed light on how we were working before, what the ups and downs were. What kind of projects we wanted to continue with and what was best to leave. We are implementing healthier work / life balances, a flexible time approach, and everyone can just decide for themselves if they want to come into the office or not. In a way we allow ourselves to take proper breaks if we feel like it, mentally and physically, to have a good balance between work and social life as well as being able to work from different places too, remotely.
“Breaking habits from time to time when working outside of the studio allows us to bring new perspectives, new ideas.”
— Studio Yukiko
What does a typical day look like for you?
Sebastien I have to bike 30 to 40 minutes to come to the studio, which during summer is a nice way to start and finish work, preparing for the day of work or clearing my mind after work. Then we have almost a daily catch up in the morning with everyone on Zoom and jump on work after that.
Do you prefer a permanent/dedicated workspace, or do you like to keep mobile?
Sebastien It is still good to be working at the studio, where we allow each one of us to interact more spontaneously together, have small talks, make jokes or look at things together, which is missing when you are working remotely. But breaking those habits from time to time when working outside of the studio allows us to bring new perspectives, new ideas, which also helps us creatively a lot to bring new ideas.
“I learned at school that typeface should not be seen, yet at the studio we do the complete opposite.”
— Studio Yukiko
As a user of type, are you always on the lookout for new typefaces? What are some things that grab your eye the most when you are searching?
Sebastien We are constantly on the lookout for new typefaces, we are always attracted to the un-perfect details of a typeface, handwritten or unusually constructed, pushing the limit of readability as well in order to bring some tension into our design and make the viewer notice the typeface as well. I learned at school that typeface should not be seen, yet at the studio we do the complete opposite. We want people to see it, react to it, either bad or good. We’re very expressive with our design, in a way maximalists, hence a typeface needs to have some sort of character. Not all the time of course, but most of the time.
“Say yes to a bunch of projects and practise your skills. Learn to understand your clients needs.”
— Studio Yukiko
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone wanting to become a designer/type designer/art director?
Johannes Keep experimenting and trying new things, push things to the max, even if it looks bad, we often tend to stop the working process when we feel it doesn’t work, but I think sometimes it’s good to keep pushing, making mistakes and enjoy when unexpected things happen within the design. Say yes to a bunch of projects and practise your skills. Learn to understand your clients needs. It’s all about communicating well, asking the right questions at a brief, and eventually showing confidence in what and how you are presenting.
Thank you very much, Johannes and Sebastien!
– Interview by Gina Serret
Learn more about TypeParis courses and conferences!
➼ Type & graphic designers interviews
➼ Attendees feedback series
➼ Summer23 programme
➼ Now23 conference
Apply to TypeParis Summer course!
The deadline for applications is 14 March, every year.