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Q&A Zoo

On 1 June 2024, the Now24 conference will take place in Paris. On that day, more than a dozen graphic design lecturers, art 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 Julie Galand and Baptiste de l'Espinay’s interview.

Biography Zoo is a Paris-based design studio founded in 2013. Julie Galand and Baptiste de l’Espinay are two founding partners, managing creative direction. Zoo provides services in the fields of art, design, cultural institutions, brands and fashion. the studio’s creative strategy is mainly based on a pop and sophisticated approach to images, combined with an in-depth knowledge of typography.

Interview

Describe your day?

Zoo Our working hours are fairly standard: Julie and I start between 9 and 9:30 am, while the rest of the team starts at 10 am. We take the time to have a proper lunch break with the whole team, which is an important part of the day. We start the week with a big group meeting to organize the week, so that everyone has an overview of the projects and can consider each designer’s schedule, as well as the week’s important appointments and presentations. We’re lucky to have sponsors and projects in different fields, so the days aren’t really the same, because there are always meetings to present and progress projects, with different issues at different stages and with different sponsors. That’s the rhythm of our weeks.

Have your work habits changed after the pandemic?

Zoo Our habits haven’t really changed, there are just a lot more video meetings, which are often less interesting than face-to-face meetings.

Do you read news?

Zoo Yes, we read a lot of the news and listen to a lot of the radio, choosing the media we find most interesting.
And yes, of course, we keep abreast of the latest news in the fields of art and culture, as it’s important for us to be aware of the developments and directions taken by institutions at all levels. We consult generic media such as France Culture, Médiapart, Le Monde and others. But also Le Quotidien de l’Art, Projects media, The Art Newspaper, Art Press and many more.

“I don’t think it’s the environment in which you evolve that offers the margin of freedom, I think it’s more a question of people, affinity and trust.”
– Zoo


What do you do to evade yourself from work?

Zoo Vacations, weekends and escapades outside Paris are essential. In fact, we make a point of never working at the weekend. We also do a lot of sport, but mainly swimming for Julie and running for Baptiste.

What is the best way to work?

Zoo When Zoo was created, we wanted to work in an agency context, and that’s how we positioned ourselves. We’re looking for the dynamics of a collective approach, of working together. Even if there is a hierarchy within the agency (Julie and I manage the Art Direction), each designer contributes and shares his or her vision and ideas. That’s what makes our approach so rich. Sharing all this, exchanging ideas and helping projects evolve, takes things further.

What do you think of type trends?

Zoo I have the impression that serif or expressive fonts are on the rise, especially in fashion. In any case, whatever the trend or style, it all depends on the quality of the design. Is it well done or not? A good design is only as good as its subject and its execution.

Your clients seems to be often cultural institutions, why this?

Zoo It’s true that we have many prestigious clients in the fields of art and culture. But we also have more commercial projects in the fashion and luxury sectors, although we’re a little less known for that. I have the impression that in Paris, people call you for things you’ve already done, so there’s a risk of getting stuck in a category.
I don’t think it’s the environment in which you evolve that offers the margin of freedom, I think it’s more a question of people, affinity and trust.
With Chaillot’s project, for example, we enjoyed a high level of trust from the management and communications teams, whereas at the Musée d’Orsay the process was much more restrictive and compartmentalized. This can be seen in our achievements.

Can you explain how typography reinforces a visual identity?

Zoo Typography is always a fundamental element of the graphic systems we design. The choice of typeface is no more important than the way it’s used, how it’s combined with iconography, colors, the choice of digital and print communication media, the choice of materials, and so on. All this must contribute to defining a specific, singular and relevant tone of voice.

You recently signed the redesign of the identity of the Musée d’Orsay. How did you position yourself in the face of this iconic work?

Zoo In our application to the call for tenders, we expressed the wish to keep the monogram, for reasons of efficiency. It is an iconic sign designed by two designers who left their mark on their era. We still find it very elegant, but we wanted to give it an optical makeover to make it more contemporary in use and optimize its legibility at different scales of use, while retaining its original DNA. We were unable to do this for legal reasons.
The main challenge for us was to bring order to the museum’s identity, which had inherited a succession of disparate identities and interpretations since the work of Widmer and Monguzzi. We had to deal with a composite and totally incoherent accumulation of graphic elements applied to all media.
Our project is to bring clarity and structure to the entire ecosystem of communication media. In particular, with a clear and simple typographic approach, at the service of content, mediation and works of art. The idea is to encourage a contemporary reading of the artistic expressions represented in the Museum’s collections, covering the period from 1848 to 1914.
We designed a global graphic system defined by a number of rules, which are explained in detail in a 250-page graphic charter. We also designed an exclusive typeface, with the help of Rafael Ribas for design and Jérôme Knebusch for mastering. It’s a contemporary reinterpretation of the typographic evolutions of the Belle Époque. This typeface adds a narrative and expressive dimension to the Museum’s image. We also chose a more neutral, factual typeface, Antique Legacy by François Rappo, to combine with Orsay Elzevir.

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

Zoo I (Baptiste) started my career at Atelier de Création Graphique with Pierre Bernard and Thibaut Robin. As soon as I left school, in 2012, I joined the Atelier de Création Graphique run by Pierre Bernard. It was an intense and extremely formative experience. His vision of graphic design, although a little dated in some respects, was very inspiring, and I learned to defend projects, developing them step by step until they were implemented, while maintaining a form of exactingness. At the time, Thibaut Robin had a fresher, more contemporary vision, less dogmatic but just as committed, and his approach was particularly complementary, which taught me a lot.

For my part (Julie), when I started out, I worked on a number of assignments for different agencies, including Emmanuel Labard and the GR20 agency; I also collaborated with the fashion magazine L’Officiel and the publishing house Les Grandes Personnes, for whom I produced the book In Paris by Joëlle Jolivet. These various experiences were particularly formative, teaching me to work fast, defend my proposals and put a price tag on my work. At school, I was lucky enough to have photographer Alain Willaume (Tendance Floue) as a teacher, and his committed approach reinforced my taste for photography and sharpened my eye. He encouraged me to do things I didn’t think I could do, such as visiting people I didn’t even know.

Generally speaking, what triggers and inspires me most are artistic references. I’m particularly fan of pop art, artists like Peter Blake, and I’m very keen to discover the work of contemporary artists; I really like the work of Mika Rottenberg, for example.

“If you want to become a good type designer, you have to be as interested in photography as you are in fashion, architecture and so on. You have to remain curious, demanding and be able to evolve!”
– Zoo

Do you have words of wisdom for young practitioners?

Zoo You have to be open to lots of different disciplines and favor a cross-disciplinary approach. If you want to become a good type designer, you have to be as interested in photography as you are in fashion, architecture and so on. You have to remain curious, demanding and be able to evolve!

What is the message you want to convey during your talk at Now24?

Zoo We haven’t formulated any particular message to get across, but we want to tell the story of how we work and explain our positioning on projects. We’ll be talking about our approach to design and art direction, with no particular lessons to impart.

What other speaker wouldn’t you want to miss at Now24?

Zoo We’re curious to get to know each of the speakers. We don’t really know each other’s work and we’re looking forward to finding out, because I think we all have a singular and different approach. We’ve been doing graphic design for Intramuros magazine for a few years now, and recently there was an article on Leslie David that we had to layout, so it’ll be fun to hear her talk about her work in real life!

Thank you very much, Julie and Baptiste!

– Interview by Jean-Baptiste Pernette

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