BUILDING PARIS — Interview
Building Paris, design studio founded by Benoît Santiard & Guillaume Grall.
— Hello Benoît and Guillaume, how are you?
Hello! Very well thanks: we just launched our website! What a relief!
— Can you introduce yourselves?
We are Benoît & Guillaume, two French graphic designers who met in 2000 at ENSAAMA Olivier de Serres, a public multidisciplinary school of arts in Paris.
— Where does your interest in design come from?
Tough question! Urban culture mainly: skateboarding, basketball and all the logos, photos, magazines and music surrounding it. We were born in the 80’s so photographers like Ed Templeton or graffiti artist like O’Clock are amongst the people that had an impact on us. We definitely have a thing for the non-expert design, the things that you find in the streets, the vernacular, the DIY, the “super normal” design as Jasper Morrison calls it. Our dream job would be to design the tarps for a truck company.
— How did you come to start up the studio?
In 2004, we were part of a crew called LCDC with three close friends we met at school: Julien Bouvet, Julien Lelièvre and Julien Martin. It was a playground rather than a studio but it gave us a taste of collective work and “trouble making”, through humor and open mindedness. In addition to graphic design, both of us started teaching communication at the École d’architecture de la ville & des territories at Marne-la-Vallée in 2007. It was quite a challenge because we were young and inexperienced. This was the beginning of a long discussion (one that still goes on) about how to explain what we do and how to transmit our knowledge to architecture students. We started working together on a magazine for the school called Marnes, documents d’architecture. The school was asking for a large floppy magazine with big color images, but had a small budget and bad quality images. In addition we thought the publication had to be handy and easy to carry around. Thus, we designed a small page-heavy duotone book. We were lucky enough to work with interlocutors that were keen on dialogue which allowed us to put our thinking in action. Back then (in 2010), we shared an office with Olivier Lebrun (graphic designer) and David des Moutis (product designer), so there was a lot of idea sharing on pretty much everything, including design related questions, collaborations, teaching, etc. After we were asked by the school to work on the French Pavilion visual identity and communication material at the Venice Biennale in 2012, we decided to work together as Building Paris. And Bob’s your uncle.
— Would you like to explain to us one of your projects?
We could talk about Trianon, a type specimen we designed and art directed in 2015 for Production Type, thanks to our friend Jean-Baptiste Levée. This project was quite a challenge as this is not the kind of typefaces we would generally use. We therefore decided we had to think in a different way and try something new. It sounded interesting to introduce photography in type specimens that are usually only technical and “flat” because it’s filled with only type. The Trianon is a typeface designed for use in fashion magazines, so we wanted to set up a fashion photoshoot. We used the Schmucks (all of the signs that are not letters) of the font to create patterns and went through a careful selection of different type of textiles. The great people of Atelier PPP managed to silkscreen it in no time and on many different textile textures. After that we collaborated with a talented team: Ecal alumni photographer Hugo Deniau, stylist Loris Riso, hair & make up artist Rimi Ura, models Paulus Samb and Gaelle Mancina. Together we produced a beautiful set of images in just one day. We are very proud of the outcome of this specimen that was produced as a small magazine and involved a huge amount of work from many different people, including an old Chinese tailor and several interns (Yoann Le Goff, Axel Pelletanche Thévenart, Sandrine Cheong).
— Do you have a favorite typeface to work with?
No, we like to be contextual.
— Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?
We look at design and art in general and like the approach of people like Alberto Campo Baeza, Christopher Wool, Cornel Windlin, Cyrille Weiner, Dieter Rams, Donald Judd, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Étienne Hervy, Jad Hussein, John Morgan, Karl Nawrot, Katharina Grosse, Max Bill, Myr Muratet, Saeio, and Sophie Demay.
— Is there a book or a manifesto which opened your eyes about design?
We were definitely influenced by the work of Daniel Eatock, mixing fun and a really straightforward and smart thinking.
— The last word…
Elvis has left the building
Interview: Dennis Moya & Tiffany Bähler — 03.16
Pictures ©Building Paris