Interview with Julien Fischer


Interview with Vevey-based designer Julien Fischer.

DM: Hello Julien, how are you?

JF: Hi Dennis! I’m very well. I hope you are too!

DM: Can you introduce yourself?

JF: My name is Julien Fischer. I was born in 1990. I live and work in Vevey, a small town in the French speaking part of Switzerland, which is on Lake Geneva and surrounded by the Alps. I work as a freelance graphic designer. Apart from my commissions, I am a member of an art collective called “RATS“, and publish books for the collective under the name of “TSAR“. I am also involved with other projects like the art space “Silicon IVIalley” in Lausanne, the music label “CAF?” based in Vevey, and the label/brand “ARMES” in Lausanne for whom I mainly design the books “ARM978“. “ARM978” books are available online at Ligature Books. I am also responsible for the visual identity of the shop “Lowkey” in Vevey as well as some design elements for the shop “Belleville” based in Lausanne.

DM: Where does your interest in design come from?

JF: Ever since I was a child I wanted to know how to draw. I remember a plate at my grandparents’ house with Donald Duck printed on it which I tried to reproduce. Later, as an adolescent, I had a growing interest in graffiti and this motivated me to continue to draw. I was particularly attracted to the letters, drawings, paintings and printed matter I encountered on the streets, and this in turn began a search for them elsewhere such as in museums, on signs, or simply on apartment walls which had to be repainted. As if my eyes were becoming accustomed to a new way of seeing. My aunt, who is an artist, was also influential in my artistic development. She opened my eyes to many things from art to design and beyond. From the age of 16 I used to visit her each summer until I began my studies at the ECAL in 2009. In the mornings we began by doing construction work in her loft that she was renovating almost entirely herself,  and then we would spend the afternoons together in New York discovering neighborhoods and spots new to us both, and then on to meet her artist friends. We also went to a lot of exhibitions together.

When I started at the ECAL I hesitated between studying art or design. I was encouraged by my parents to study design and I haven’t regretted that choice since, for me, what defines us as artists is the way in which we approach the world and this is not limited by a particular medium or technique. Graphic design is part of my personal ethic. It is an essential tool which supports my ideas, values and commitments. My current interests are broad but remain very linked to printing, painting and drawing.

DM: Can you tell us more about TSAR Editions?

JF: TSAR Editions is part of the RATS Collective which was founded in 2009 by a group of artists based in Vevey. The collective began as a group of friends looking for a studio to share when they finished school. Besides using this studio for their own work, their initial idea was to bring contemporary art to Vevey by organizing exhibitions and by providing a forum for other artists of our generation who did not have access to art institutions, and through this, to stimulate a conversation on contemporary art in our region.  

While at the ECAL, I got to know the members of the RATS collective through the music scene. And in 2012, during my last year at the ECAL, I joined the collective to work on their visual identity. There I was given total freedom to experiment and develop my design practice. This period also coincided with my acquisition of a risograph printer and my desire to produce books. Having this printer allowed us to print our own promotional material as well as our first books.

When I joined the collective one of its members, Thomas Koenig, already had a project plan to publish books under the name of “TSAR” (a scramble of the letters in RATS), and my arrival facilitated the genesis of the project. We printed our first books manually in small editions using my risograph. We collaborated with artisan binders “dlignes” in Vevey where I learned a great deal, especially about the binding process.  

In the beginning, we approached young artists whose work we liked and wanted to publish. We quickly realized that there was a growing demand for such publications, but that very few artists had the means nor the recognition necessary to work with established publishers. Our idea was to provide a platform to enable such projects. Then, as our projects multiplied, our vision grew. We began to involve printers, binders and to include an increasing number of other disciplines. At that time we also began to develop a distribution network.  

Currently the activities of the RATS collective consist in providing an exhibition space in which artists can develop an artistic proposition. Inversely, for our books, the idea is to create a space that is bespoke for the contents. And importantly, our books become spaces which are easily distributable. TSAR Editions does not have a recognizable visual identity; each book is unique and the approach of the material is redefined for each publication. Special care is given to all aspects of the book from its chosen content to its production. What is common to all TSAR books is the unique and radical way in which they are conceived, and the way in which the book itself becomes a work of art. The most important element of the book is the content. The design of the book is at a minimum so that it serves the content and does not appear in an obvious and intrusive way.

DM: Can you tell us about the last TSAR Editions release?

JF: We have published twenty books to date. The last one is a book by Anne-Sylvie Henchoz titled “don’t forget to touch me”. The performance of the same name is a collection of choreographed pieces in which the dancers use their bodies to produce rhythmed percussions. The melodic landscape is a creation of blunt sounds, sometimes hard, sometimes soft, produced by flesh and bones. In the book, the different forms of contact creating these sounds are represented in a succession of screen shots taken from previous performances. In the center of the book, a booklet in another format contains several scenarios for future performances thereby inviting the reader to take part in these future scenarios. In this way, the reader can project himself in the universe of Anne-Sylvie through the images and the future scenarios. The images have been printed in offset on pink paper and use the three primary colors (yellow, red and blue) to give them a soft and uniform character. The print has further been enriched by a coat of white silkscreen that, contrary to the offset ink, is not absorbed by the paper. The readers’ visual experience is thereby enhanced by the tactile effect provided by the multi-textured quality of the print on paper. The design of the book is by Marietta Eugster.

DM: Would you like to talk about one of the recent projects you designed?

JF: There’s more than one! I am currently designing the promotional material of the music club RKC in Vevey for its 2018–2019 season. I am also finishing the design of a book of drawings by Alain Huck and Sandrine Pelletier which will be published in November of 2018 by “art&fiction” publishers in Lausanne.

In addition to these projects, I am working on three projects with TSAR Editions which will be published at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. The first is a book of drawings by Xavier Robel, an artist and graphic designer from Geneva. The second is a book which combines a science fiction text written by the American author Mark von Schlegell and drawings by Guillaume Dénervaud; and the third is a book of photographs of Christmas decorations by Joachim Sommer, a photographer from Vevey.

I am also in the process of finishing a series of skateboards for a collaboration between the Swiss skateshop “242” and Di-Meh, a rapper from Geneva. These will be available in 2019.

Watch out for my capsule collection of clothing for the brand Avnier which will come out around 2020!

DM: How challenging is to be a freelance designer in Switzerland today?

JF: Don’t sleep!

Dennis Moya


©Julien Fischer, Julien Gremaud

Graphic Design