MY NAME IS — Interview
My Name Is, Paris-based design studio founded by Alexandre Bouichou and Thomas Ibars.
— Hello Alexandre and Thomas how are you guys?
Fine thanks. Working on a lot of exciting stuff at the moment!
— Can you introduce yourselves?
We are Alexandre and Thomas, we run the graphic design and art direction studio My name is, based in Montmartre, Paris.
— Where does your interest in design come from?
Alexandre : Well, it’s a mix of different stuff… For example when I was a teenager, our teacher took us to the school’s library to find out about different jobs that exist. I randomly came across information about « art director » and it appeared to be so fascinating. Besides, my parents are associative and political activists. My father used to build tracts using Xpress on Mac and to hand paint big letters on protest march banners. It was a real pleasure to watch him and sometimes an even bigger pleasure to help him. Even if I did not know what the words graphic design and typefaces meant by the time.
Thomas : I would add that our interest in design comes from music. We grew up listening to kinds of music that were strongly related to visuals. By the time, a cover picture was often the first contact you had with a band. We had no idea there was somebody called a graphic designer / art director behind those images but that’s how it started I guess. Later, designing music covers became our student’s dream.
— How did you come to start up the studio?
There is a kind of freedom when you run a studio that is part of the excitement you get from being a graphic designer. Alexandre founded My name is 9 years ago and Thomas joined the studio 3 years later, after collaborating on different projects. None of us wanted to work under the shadow of a great already-well-known graphic designer, neither in a big company. Yet, we liked the idea of a collective thing, this four hands studio felt like the perfect system for us. The idea of not signing our projects with our actual name, but hiding ourselves behind this « My name is » concept / identity that we share together was great.
— Would you like to explain to us one of your projects?
One significant project we could talk about is the Art Ligue photo gallery visual identity we built lately. Art Ligue is a gallery ran by two photo addicts located in the contemporary art district of Paris. They sell limited editions from a selection of photographers they love. When building their identity, we felt like we had to play with contemporary art codes — let’s say minimalistic and elegant. But those codes are usually used in such a boring « no-design / no-risk » way by most of contemporary art galleries. We needed Art Ligue to look more like editors than a brand, it had to feel human and passionate. We tried to create a visual system that could involve everybody surrounding the gallery, instead of a unique logo. By talking with them, we found out that the photographers they worked with were somehow their teammates more than business partners. That’s how we came up with the idea of describing the gallery with sports codes. The visual identity we created has this basketball jersey feeling with its circular typeface and instead of a player number, you find the initial of the photographer.
We like the idea of a visual identity being defined by a system or a combination of element more than a logotype. When clients ask us to build a logotype for them, we usually first think about how necessary would be this logotype and how to avoid it eventually. A certain use of typeface, a certain layout, a kind of paper or a color can be stronger and more sensual sometimes than a sign.
— Do you have a favorite typeface to work with?
No ! All the codes we are using —and typeface is one of them— depend on the project itself and on its context. Trends have an influence too, of course. We find important to use a typeface that has some details you can play with. Even when it’s basic sans-serif, a small detail makes the difference and add some personality to a project.
Talking about context, that’s actually were our name comes from : if you check our website, My name is becomes a complete sentence only once there is a name added… « My name is Art Ligue », « My name is Stan Smith » etc. We want a visual solution to be the result of this specific collaboration and its specific context.
— Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?
There are a lot ! We could say Experimental Jetset since they’ve had a strong influence on us when we were students. Their vision, their thoughts on graphic design, their powerful minimalism, everything in their work is pretty impressive. But our work is a lot influenced by photographers, movie directors and painters, more than designers maybe.
— Is there a book or a manifesto which opened your eyes about design?
So stick to basics, Grid Systems / Raster Systeme by Müller-Brockmann, or Damien Gautier’s typographic guide were huge references when we were students, among other books. But actually, Experimental Jetset’s book that was released a few months ago found its place in our references.
— The last word…
Thanks for your time ! Have fun.
Pictures and projects by My Name Is.
Interview: Dennis Moya + Tiffany Bähler, 04.16