Postcard from Paris
Gauthier Boche, VP of strategy and innovation for Europe at global brand design agency, Marks, speaks to Transform magazine about the distinctive aspects of brand design in Paris and more widely, in France. He explores how the projects Marks covers in Paris differ from those in other countries and which design macro-trends exist in Europe but are not present in Asia or the Americas.
What is distinctive about brand design in Paris and more generally France?
In France, historically, and semantically, brand design has been more about ornament and craft versus concepts and ideas. In English, ‘design’ means both the drawing and the intention behind the drawing - the idea. In French, words tend to be more single-minded, so design has leaned more towards the fine décor versus the disruptive marketing idea as it is in the UK. Hence, we have very fine typographs (Jean Baptiste Levée), pattern makers (Marion Richard), photographers (Hervé Lassince). In Paris you will find many amazing designers that act as ‘artisans’ of brands.
Marks has offices all across the world. How much of an agency’s work with brands is informed by where the agency is located? How do the projects you cover in Paris differ from those in other countries?
Amongst the variety of marketing activities, brand design seems to be the most globalised – the processes and ways of working are relatively similar throughout the world. However, the culture that immediately surrounds designers is often reflected in their work. In Paris, the type of projects we handle often lean into the craft aspect of brand and lie slightly more in the premium and super premium spaces, especially in food and cosmetics. We can thank Louis the Great and Versailles Castle for that!
How do you make your branding work relevant for the very diverse audience that makes up Paris’ population?
A brand for everyone is a brand for no one! ‘The postcard syndrome’ is the danger of living in a place like Paris. Paris is indeed a city of fashion but also a buoyant place of street culture, especially in its outskirts. To make sure we stay tuned in to the pulse of the city, our teams regularly go creative scouting, exploring various different neighbourhoods. Because high fashion usually recycles culture from the street, this helps us to keep an eye on both the diversity of the city and the avant-garde of branding.
Paris is a city rich in culture, history and heritage. How does that influence your work?
Our surroundings are what make us. The Parisian culture first and foremost influences the way we contextualise brand strategy. Something we do often is revisit the original meaning of words through etymology, as well as also understanding how a style / shape travels through history. This gives us a robust cultural background to anchor anything we do.
What kind of brand design macro-trends exist in Europe that are not present in Asia or the Americas?
The world nowadays is so globalised that it is hard to find some region-specific macro trends. However, in Europe I’ve witnessed the topic of sustainability being handled with a great deal of thought when it comes to product and brand design. It is a small, urbanised continent, so people are very conscious of this topic.
Another trend is around ‘unbranding’ or ‘debranding’. Brands have become the symbol of ‘industrial production’. Marketers and designers are trying to step away from this perception by creating more fluid brand guidelines, letting the experience through product and innovation take the lead a bit more.