Thibaud Tissot

Currently based in Berlin,he studied in La Chaux-de-Fonds (CH) and he is now the art director of the design studio onlab.


Hi Thibaud, how are you ?

I am good, thanks!

What is “onlab” and who are you? Tell us more about the studio.

onlab is a design studio founded in 2001 in Berlin by Nicolas Bourquin. We work on commissioned, collaborative and self initiated design projects with a strong focus on editorial design and visual communication. We work mainly in the cultural field with works ranging from books and magazines, to exhibition design, data visualization, visual identities or posters. We have also edited books, like Data Flow 1 and 2 for Gestalten.

I was born and studied in La Chaux-de-Fonds. I left right after my studies in 2007 and joined onlab. Now, we are a core of 3 with Nicolas Bourquin doing the creative direction, Niloufar Tajeri the project management and myself the art direction. We also have a full-time graphic designer, one or 2 interns and freelancers, depending on the projects running.

What’s your interest about graphic design? When did you start?

I like the universal aspect and function of graphic design. It is simply everywhere and, good or bad, it is a sort of mirror of our society. I am naturally very interested in contemporary design and its scene but I also love old things, like antique books, type specimens or vintage magazines. I am also fascinated by vernacular graphic design.The naive and pragmatical approach non-professional can develop is very inspiring, particularly because of the lack of rules and references and the strong link to the context and its needs.

This universality is also why I have become aware of graphic design. When I was a teenager, I was an ice hockey fan (it is still the case) and I was completely fascinated by north american teams’ logos and visuals. I once asked who creates them and that is how I came to an art school.

You are the art director of onlab. How do you process in your work?

My work normally starts with a discussion with my partners Nicolas and Niloufar. We try to understand and set the goals of the project based on the topic and the content, which is something important to us. We begin with a research, analyze the results and then I sketch the basis of the visual to be developed. After that my role is to coordinate designers and interns to realize and elaborate the project until the production.

What project has given you the most satisfaction?

I really can’t say. I can have two kind of satisfactions after finishing a project. The first one is about the result and a subjective feeling I can have regarding its formal aspect. The second one is about taking the project as a challenge or problem considering its specificities and complexity and measuring if I was able to solve the equation. When client and public confirm that it is the case, I feel really happy.

What inspires and influences you?

Everything but nothing in particular. The more we see, the more we know…

You created the famous cloud logo of the audio platform SoundCloud. Can you tell us more about this project?

It is funny that you ask about this particular project because it is actually pretty different than what we normally do. The founders Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss came to us shortly after having set up their business in Berlin. They explained and showed us their website and we were pretty bluffed even if it was still a beta version with a couple hundreds of users. It was the beginning, an untypical start-up with some programmers working on ironing boards in a funny rooftop office in Berlin Mitte. We worked three months long, almost full time on the development of their logo. We were from the print world and had no references, no idea about their universe and the exact result they were aiming to. We researched about meteorology, cloud typologies, built 3D clouds, proposed live-evolutive solutions, complex signs, etc. But they wanted an uncluttered logo, a somehow timeless sign able to last and evolve. After 3 unsuccessful proposals in a row, we refocused on the name but also on the basis of their platform: the auto-generated waveform. And that is how we ended up with this pure visual translation of the two components of their name: Sound–cloud, merging together.

What’s your interest about book design?

When I started with design, I was rather fascinated by flyers and posters. I had the feeling that they were the best mediums of expression for a designer, implying a kind of authorship. Later, I realized that everything I was creating was always meant to land in the trash-bin and begun to look closer at books. They are maybe the most noble object a graphic designer can deal with and definitely one of the most complex. There are all the different formal aspects, materials, proportions but foremost the fact that you have the opportunity to tell a story! Structuring a content, taking position regarding a topic through combinations of texts and pictures, adding navigation or illustration to challenge and help the reader are aspects as gripping and important as developing and shaping an object. This level of books captivates me while glancing through books or magazines in a book shop as much as the font or papers chosen.

What graphic design mean to you?

It’s my job. It gives me a lot and takes a lot of my time.

What does your typical day look like?

After a good coffee and having checked our mails, we start with a short meeting to define everyone’s tasks for the day. Then my time is made up of e-mails writing, phone calls, discussion with my colleagues and, in between, some too rare design moments.

What advice would you give to the young designers?

Since 2 years now, I have been teaching graphic design basics at the School for Applied Arts of La Chaux-de-Fonds (EAA La Chaux-de-Fonds) in the first year program. During these one-day-a-week workshops, I can really experience the amazingly quick progression some of the students reach in less than a year. Thinking about it, it is definitely due to a certain level of naive self-confidence. They try, restart, copy sometimes but don’t analyze themselves and their results too much. They do more than they talk. I think that is really important to start like that, and not the other way around.

The last word…

“Without graphic design, you would not be able to find the restroom.”
Prem Krishnamurthy, partner in the firm Project Projects, in The New York Times Magazine.



Interview : Dennis Moya – May 2012
All pictures and projects are ©onlab studio.

Graphic Design