Parisian graphic design consultancy Les Graphiquants’ name is a play on words, conveying in French something between a group of dealers and of makers. ’It has also the suggestion of doing things in the shadows,’ says one of the team before another chips in with ’We sell drugs’.
This playful and conceptual approach defines the studio’s output. ’Structured games in graphic design,’ is how creative director Maxime Tétard describes the consultancy’s philosophy, adding, ’We like to play with things to change them into a new shape, to play with concrete forms to get abstract things.’
The consultancy is made up of a tight-knit team comprising two creative directors, Romain Rachlin and Tétard, who studied together at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. After graduating, the duo freelanced together before setting up Les Graphiquants in 2008. They have since been joined by Cyril Taieb and Françios Dubois and are now busy carving out a niche producing uncompromising, even difficult work, often for cultural institutions.
’We want to be a bit complicated, we want to involve the reader to get two or three seconds more of their attention,’ explains Tétard. ’We don’t want people to get the clue immediately. Our work is perhaps more like paintings, and definitely not like advertising we are the opposite of advertising.’
Inspiration comes from the Bauhaus movement and conceptual art, but also from photography, some of which they take themselves, such as in the self-commissioned Les Controversions series, that graphically juxtaposes black and white images. ’We want to get the feeling of photography, which works on several levels and adds volume and a sculptural quality to our work,’ says Tétard.
So far, Les Graphiquants’ client base has been pretty specialised. ’It’s only really been cultural institutions that have given us the opportunity to do the work in the way we want to do it,’ says Tétard. ’Everyone we work with approached us rather than the other way around.’
But now, three years on, the unusual nature and distinctive quality of the group’s work has begun to attract attention further afield. Accolades have begun pouring in, including Agency of the Year at this year’s European Design Awards and two golds one for an annual report for the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (featuring gorgeous pie charts that resemble slivers of precious stone) and another for an equally beautiful catalogue for the Centre Pompidou-Metz.
Has winning awards changed things? ’Not for our clients, but it’s made our mothers more confident that we are on the right path,’ says Tétard, somewhat disingenuously. The mail bag has swelled, however, and the phone has begun to rung, with big brands interested in getting some of the action. New clients include TV channel Canal Plus, luxury giant Christian Dior and cosmetics brand Codage, with various others in the offing.
’This is the very moment of our change. We want to play in another playground,’ says Rachlin. But will doing big brand projects affect the tenor of the work?’ No, we do not to have change, but just to follow the direction that we want,’ says Tétard. Nor will this new work affect the size of the office, the plan being to continue bringing in freelances as and when needed. ’We want to be a small studio for ever,’ says Tétard.
Similarly, Les Graphiquants intends to continue to produce itsown self-initiated work, which it describes as a sort of personal workshop albeit one that the studio takes very seriously and which is now supported by a dedicated e-commerce website (www.la-graphiquerie.fr) to sell its designs. Does that make it art? ’No, just design without a client, but designed for the same reason,’ says Tétard.