David Tanguy of Praline, Award Winning in Graphics, Art Direction and Branding
Praline been described by clients as ‘remarkable’, ‘excellent’ and ‚inspirational’ ‚ so when you consider their international projects that span the globe, from Moscow to Taipei, and that their projects include the TATE Modern, the infamous Richard Rogers, Central Saint Martins, the Design Museum; Centre Pompidou, Philips and Adidas in Paris ‚ that’s high praise indeed for the small team at Praline, a design studio based in Paris and London.
Designer David Tanguy established his company, Praline, back in 2000, specialising in graphics, art direction and branding. Since then, Praline’s won awards and been recognised by Fedrigoni, Art Directors Club, RSA, 100 Show Chicago and the British Book Awards. We’re impressed!
Creative Mapping met up with the charismatic David Tanguy, who shared with us some of the inside mechanisms of his company ‚ as well as letting us in on ways he keeps the work environment fun and productive‚ ping pong!
“Design might be a bout solving problems, but for me the inherent poetry is what makes design so intriguing.” David Tanguy of Praline Design Studio
ABOUT DAVID TANGUY
CM: Where and what did you study?
I Studied at Central Saint Martins. I did a BA (hons) in Graphic Design. I specialised in Typography with a conceptual approach to Graphic Design.
CM: What was the transition from study to work? Was it difficult?
No, it wasn’t difficult. It actually happened quite naturally. During the last two years of my studies, I was collaborating with two fellow students. We started doing small commissioned work for exhibitions and CSM while we were still studying. Straight after graduating we started getting more projects and we decided to set up our own small studio. I was also lecturing at CSM.
CM: What’s the story behind Praline ‚ how did you get started?
Praline was set up in 2000, straight after graduating from CSM. We weren’t really a company, but three individuals excited to create interesting work together – and we had lots of fun too! After three years, as we weren’t generating enough work so the two others left and found full time jobs. I found a job in New York and moved there. After few months I realized being an employee was not for me, so returned to London to carry on Praline. In 2005/ 6 the studio started to grow and attract more exciting projects.
CM: Tell us about the Praline team…
Praline is a team of six: five designers and one project manager. As we’re still fairly small, everyone is involved in the creative process, everyone has an input on the work we do. Working as a team is great – you get six brains working on the same project. When the project needs it, we organize workshops where we explore ideas together.
CM: What professional programs do you use in your work?
Like most Graphic Design studios we use the Creative Suite, Indesign, Illustrator, Photoshop etc.
CM: Do you have favourite materials, textures, shapes, colours?
We design a lot for print so we love our papers! We have a decent library of paper swatches. We love odd papers, interesting textured and embossed paper. We also work on exhibitions and 3D environments. For these projects we use a lot of different materials like acrylic panels, aluminium, laminate. My favourite shapes are letter shapes. Typography can be so expressive and fun. But I can never say no to a nice ‚“circle‚. It always works! I love bright colours, neon colours and 4 printing colours for their purity. However, I’ve recently found an interest in pastel shades. I also love metallic colours and foil but they have to be used for the right reasons.
CM: What makes a productive work environment for you?
One that is fun and alive! Where you feel you can experiment, make mistakes and even be a bit silly. At Praline we play a lot of Ping Pong during the day – it helps us avoid sitting in front of the computer for too long. We cook and eat lunch together, which is very important for the studio spirit. I’d hate eating a sad sandwich in front of my screen every day. And of course we listen to lots of music. We also have a big party every year to celebrate The Most Depressing Day of the Year. That’s also important for the studio – maybe not for being productive though!
CM: Do you ever suffer creative blocks?
Sometimes, at the beginning of a project, especially a big branding project.
It’s when I don’t know what we’ll do, but I wouldn’t call it a creative block. It’s actually quite exhilarating not to know, not have any pre-conceptions. It’s after doing some research that slowly an idea forms itself. But it’s never, or not often, a clear idea, but something intangible that will take few days or weeks to turn itself into a strong solution or a system.
CM: What’s the most challenging part about working as a creative?
We work on widely different projects for different clients, and also in many countries. So one day we might create a new font for a book on fashion, the next we do research on Provence, or design an exhibition about architecture – so the diversity can be challenging, but it is also what makes things exciting.
It keeps your mind very active. We always like a good challenge! There’s always something new to learn, discover and experiment with. It’s also important to be aware of what other designers are doing, but also keep a certain distance and not be too influenced. It’s important to find your own voice while staying open to be inspired by what you see.
CM: Do you have a particular routine in the creative processes?
Not really. Every project is different. I don’t have a set of rules (apart from typographic ones!), but we have our own process which often involves defining the limitations of the brief. Those limitations actually become your ideas springboard.
CM: What’s the ethos of Praline?
To always create fresh and innovative work. To always look deeper and try something new, while being relevant to the project and the audience.
We believe in creating experiences through design. How does a book feel, what does this identity proposal really say, how will people interact with this exhibition. We also work closely with other people; clients, designers, photographers and suppliers – those human connections are really important to us.
CM: Is there an emotional element in design?
Of course. Design might be about solving problems, but for me the inherent poetry and sensuality is what makes design so intriguing. I like it when design creates intrigue. The key is having just enough to create that emotional connection that will make you want to find out more. As I said earlier, creating experience through design is the most magical thing… and we have a responsibility to deliver something not just pretty, or clever, but something that will strike a chord. Often we try to bring some fun and lightness to the work, but for certain projects the work has to feel a lot more sensitive and warm. For a successful design result, the relationship with the client can also make the difference – one has to really understand where he/she comes from, and what the project really means to him/her. The best projects are often done working closely with a client with whom we share similar views.
CM: From the client’s brief, how do you start your research?
The first thing we do is re-write the brief so everything is clear between the client and ourselves. The problem with a brief is that they will all generally say the same thing, and use the same keywords. So we need to dig deeper and understand what the aim and/or problems are. For an identity scheme we start with the research on what the company is actually doing and offering to its clients. We also look at competitors, how they position themselves.
Then we establish a strategic approach which will be the basis of the creative work. For the identity we created for Costa Navarino, a holiday destination in Peloponnese, Greece, we started by visiting the site and the region. We did extensive research in local museums and historical sites. Back in London we visited the British Museum and interviewed the curator of the Greek department.
CM: Describe your research methodology.
Our methodology is to start by really understanding the project, then we meet the team, arrange visits, immerse ourselves in the subject. We keep track of our research using photographs and sketches. The next step will often involve creating a moodboard, or ideasboard as I prefer calling it. These can be digital or on walls. We like using the walls as much as possible so everyone at the studio can react and discuss it. From there, we start to explore possible creative directions. We often decide on a few directions to develop so we can push ideas as much as possible. When working on more interactive projects, like the SHOW studio exhibit we designed at the Somerset House, we use photographs of the space and design mock-ups, so everyone can have an idea of how it will feel.
CM: How do you present your ideas to clients?
We try to have the client involved as much as possible, exploring ideas together. We present idea and moodboards to the client, we discuss them and we amend them until we are all on the same page. We usually prefer doing these presentations in person, but as we’re now working increasingly abroad, we also do Skype presentations. Once we have the idea, we work on the design and arrange regular discussions with the client to discuss these.
CM: Do you ever feel your work is truly complete?
Well, at some point we have to let it go. It’s exciting to see the client starting to own the idea and design. We usually try to keep an eye on how they use it, and we often carry on working with them to help them push ideas and new visual expressions. The good thing with exhibitions is that there’s a strict deadline and all the work needs to be done for the opening. It’s often very hectic in the last two weeks – but everything falls into places at the last minute – then we all have the opening night to celebrate!
CM: Tell us more about where you live
I live in East London and find it’s such a great city to be in if you work in design (as it’s) a big part of the culture and there are so many interesting designers and creatives here. I think London is also a city where it’s easy to work too much. I often feel the need to escape somewhere just to enjoy doing nothing. I don’t do that often enough, but I know I should if I want keep sane!
CM: Do you collaborate with other creatives?
I often collaborate with other designers, interior designers, architects, model makers, photographers and copywriters. I’m also currently collaborating with a fashion designer.
CM: Do you have a philosophy for successful collaborations?
It really depends on the project, but it is always so important to listen. You need to be open to new ways of working, and also ideas that you wouldn’t have on your own. At times this can be difficult but the result is usually surprising and rewarding.
CM: Who’d be the ideal person to collaborate with?
They are so many people out there I’d love to collaborate with. I’d love to work with an architect on an architecture project, rather than a graphic design one.
I’d also love to collaborate with designers who have influenced me, like Karel Martens, for instance.
CM: How do you market your work?
Well, that’s something we should do more of. We sometimes send recent work to the press, we try to update our website as often as we can. We also send e-newsletters when we’ve completed a project we’re proud of. And I also try to do frequent lectures and talks.
CM: Which industry events do you like to go to?
I try to attend as many private views as I can, often at the Design Museum or the Serpentine Gallery.
CM: Favourite blogs & magazines?
It’s Nice That is a great blog, otherwise I try not to look at too many design blogs. I think this is the reason why everyone does the same kind of work these days. Magazines? I’ve been searching for my ideal magazine for years, and still looking! I read Grafik sometimes. I actually quite like the new version.
And I like the TATE magazine too. And Grazia ‚ but that’s another subject!
*Photo Credits:John Short, Ed Park, Praline