In a freezing but still beautiful Paris the third edition of the Fête du Graphisme was inaugurated on Thursday (January 14th), an International graphic design festival celebrating work from around the world. The brainchild of friend and colleague Michel Bouvet, French poster designer extraordinaire (a Personal Views lecture series speaker at ESAD in 2013), whose energy and passion has managed to create a notable graphic design event in the French capital.
Michel kindly invited me to participate once again – last year in the 'We Love Books' exhibition and to run a 4-day workshop – this time as one of 39 international designers asked to design a poster for the streets of Paris under the title 'Celebrate the City'. The brief was short – a design to celebrate, not specifically Paris, but any city. Simple is good but not necessarily the same as easy. The city is many things. Above all perhaps, it is from its shared collective nature that it derives its power, a home and place of work for so many where the diversity of its inhabitants, individual and unique, combine to create a collective dynamic – individual trajectories that form a tapestry, sometimes chaotic, sometimes uniform but always with a marked identity. There are as many ways to define the city as there are stories to tell about it, and each invited designer recreated their own reading. For me it was a story about the sum and its parts, moving independently but with a collective dynamic.
The arrow is a simple graphic sign and I used it in an attempt to symbolize movement and direction in every sense of the term, not simply physical. It is of course also associated with urban signage. The arrows are combined together so as to create a collective presence, and like the city itself, can be viewed from close and from far, as a pattern or as unique components. Within the design, in addition to the title, I included a text, suitably situationist in reference – "Nous ne sommes pas simplement observateurs du spectacle, nous en faisons nous-même partie" (We are not simply observers of the spectacle, we are ourselves part of it). The electricity of the city – its human energy – led me to limit the colour palette, as I imagined the contrast of the black and yellow with the poster backlit at night.
Some posters have a sort of independence, unhindered by physical context, but in this particular work it had seemed to me beforehand that its location would define its existence. Consequently, it was only complete for me as a work on seeing it in the locations for which it was designed, and particularly in my mind, at night.
The 39 posters were placed in locations all over Paris – approximately 10 different sites for each one. Later this month they will all come together in one display on the Champs-Élysées. They will be available to see on the Fête du Graphisme site in the near future. Many thanks to Michel, co-organiser Blanche Alméras and the Fête du Graphisme team for their hard work.