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Best of Behance: Graphéine

By Jenny Carless

Who: Graphéine

What: Brand Design for Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau

Where: www.behance.net/grapheine

Behance member since: 2009

It was a daunting challenge: come up with a fresh way to visually represent one of the world’s most iconic and beloved cities. But the French agency Graphéine recently proved itself more than up to the task, after winning a competition (among three agencies) to redesign the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau’s visual identity.

Graphéine consists of two offices, one in Paris and one in Lyon. The total number of staff varies between nine and twelve, depending on the activity, and includes creative directors, art directors, graphic designers, a motion designer, an illustrator, and office/project managers.

They describe their style as “Less is more...but always with color.”

“We don’t try to complicate things, but we don't want to impoverish them either,” says Graphéine creative director and co-founder Mathias Rabiot. “If all this can be done in joy, good humor, and poetry, all the better.”

Paris convention and visitors bureau
Photo of the Paris office of tourism
picture of Paris passlib'
Paris Passlib' map, designed by Graphéine.

Graphéine landed on a typographic design that suggests the Parisian skyline: the shape of the A evokes the Eiffel Tower, without descending into kitsch. The design was very effectively applied on the Paris Passlib’, the capital’s official tourist pass, which provides access to more than 50 museums and monuments and comes with an information booklet.  

The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau’s mission is to promote Paris as a destination, in France and abroad. But how does one find a new visual way to say “Paris”—without succumbing to clichés?

“Our first question, of course, was whether or not to use the symbol of the Eiffel Tower. It’s difficult, without the great lady, to communicate effectively about the destination of Paris to an international audience,” Rabiot says. “However, we were aware of entering a visual territory that could be considered overused, and that bordered on kitsch.”

“As with every project, we aimed at achieving something simple, meaningful, and poetic,” adds creative director and co-founder Jérémie Fesson.

The solution? Graphéine opted for simplicity and concentrated on a typographic design that suggests the Parisian skyline: the shape of the A directly evokes the Eiffel Tower. The result is a minimalist typogram that is elegant, playful, and welcoming—even the space between the letters seems to invite viewers to explore the city.

Another potential pitfall could have been to take too much of an insular approach. After all, many team members live or used to live in Paris, so together they have deep knowledge of the French capital’s spirit.

“But we’re located in Lyon, also, and our team is composed of four nationalities,” says Rabiot. “This combination of insiders and outsiders definitely influenced our vision of Paris for this project and kept us from becoming too blinkered.”

former logo for the Paris convention and visitors bureau
rejected logo for the Paris convention and visitors bureau

The previous graphic layout (left) was based on the combination of an image of the Eiffel Tower and different photos of Paris, making color a primary differentiating element. One of the team’s early, but in the end abandoned, directions (right) took an emotional tack with the infinity symbol. (“The idea was ‘Paris will always be Paris,’” Fesson notes.)

2016 design for Paris convention and visitors bureau

In Graphéine’s final proposal, the typogram is the central element. The agency felt that illustration allowed them to step aside from the usual postcard pictures of Paris, and to offer a fresh, colorful, and poetic look at the capital. Graphéine collaborated with illustrator Séverin Millet on the project.

THE POWER OF ILLUSTRATION

The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau strongly supported illustration over photography for this project.

“Illustration is often seen as childish, but it’s an extremely rich visual language that expands the narrative field,” Rabiot notes.

When it comes to production tools, “Nothing is better than a piece of paper and a pencil, since the invention of clay tablets,” Rabiot says. “Today, with tablets made of titanium and glass, we’re very far from the malleable qualities of our ancestors’ clay.”

But they’ve found a contemporary solution.

“We see Adobe Illustrator CC as our modern clay,” Rabiot explains. “Creating requires constant remodeling, and we usually have three or four research files for any concept.”

To gather, share, and develop ideas, the team likes Dropbox.

“At the end of a project, we can retrace the path of ideas, like in a family tree,” Fesson says. “It’s a bit like in botany: genetic diversity delivers the best results!”

image of paris maps designed by Graphéine
image of paris maps designed by Graphéine
image of paris map designed by Graphéine

The map of the capital is offered to visitors for free and is available in 10 languages. Displayed together, the different versions form a frieze of legs, inviting visitors to stroll around the city.

THE SPIRIT OF PARIS

Graphéine began working on the Convention and Visitors Bureau project in August 2015, just three months before the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris.

“We think that the spirit of Paris has always been an antidote to inhumanity; that’s why this work fits in a festive and joyful spirit,” Fesson says.

“The letters are dancing, sparkling; the dot on the i in Paris bounces with joy—unless it is perhaps a small moon illuminating the Parisian nights?” Rabiot adds. “This is part of the quality of this particular design: Its soberness leaves room for imagination and poetry.” 

 

multiple photos of the image

Visit Grapéine’s Behance page to learn more about this project and the agency’s other work.