Axel Pelletanche likens his design practice to cooking from a recipe
“Fewer ingredients: fewer variables” is his mantra, and with it he’s built a portfolio of punchy designs across music, art and fashion.
- Ayla Angelos
- 20 July 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
When making a meal, usually you’ll begin by selecting your ingredients – to then be chopped and tossed together as you follow the rest of the cooking instructions. Axel Pelletanche, a graphic designer based in Paris, likes to refer to his design practice as a recipe. But instead of focusing too much on the ingredients, he prefers to look at the composition and rhythm. “Typography, colours, photography and blank spaces” are his key elements, he says. “Also, I have more trust in the idea of designing a system with various scenarios and flexibility than delivering a very precise guideline.”
We last heard from the designer in 2016 as he was finishing up his MA in design and typography at Paris École Estienne. Since graduating, he spent a few months in London before joining Paris-based marketing and advertising company Ohlman Consorti as a full-time graphic designer. Working in a small team on a plethora of branded projects, Axel was able to design everything from visual identities, flyers and billboards to show invitations, shop windows and party menus. “It is basically the way I understood how the identity of a brand can be deployed and how it is done with a small toolbox of elements,” he says.
These days – having left the studio in the summer of 2018 – you’d be hard pressed pinning Axel down to one type of subject matter. Yet this is precisely what gives his portfolio such a fresh and exciting appeal. Editorial design, visual identities and art direction are the key pillars to his practice, and he’ll typically take on a brief for clients within music, art or fashion. “I really do not restrain myself about subjects or mission,” he notes. All that matters to him, really, is that he does his job well. “I like to take on projects that allow this. There are obviously different ways of doing your job well, but this should concern every aspect from the design process to the relationship with the client, not only the final shape of the project.” It’s a fine balance of subject, content, time, money and collaboration, and one that Axel does with great finesse due to the fact that he limits the ingredients he likes to work with.
“For instance,” he continues, “my choice of typefaces stems from a whole bunch of rules, beliefs and personal references. It is really important for my practice, since I deal heavily with typography and it is often the starting point of a project. Fewer ingredients: fewer variables. This allows me to cut down on some discussions and free up time on the project itself. The goal is not to be minimalist in the final form, but to do a lot with a little – that’s very different for me.”
His recent work for clothing and homewares brand Forma is an example of this simplicity in action. Axel has been working on the art direction and visual direction since January, and works closely with Etienne Derœux and Rae Boxer on the graphics, branding and campaigns. The result sees a crisp and monochromatic identity come together, achieved through a curation of minimal ingredients: a custom logotype, a black-and-white colour palette, and bespoke font Univers. Axel adds: “As you can imagine, those are very generic elements to start with, so it is again a matter of composition.” A left-aligned logo was used to create a “strange balance”, one that’s slightly unexpected and skewed, but equally it makes way for a flexible system. Additionally, the square format has been employed across the campaign and labels, “which echoes this idea of simplicity while being quite unusual for a brand.”
In other news, Axel has released the summer issue of Trax magazine along with Clément Gicquel. In the making for 25 years now, the bi-annual French publication focuses on electronic music and club culture, merging stories from fashion, technology, nightlife, security, youth and politics, “LGBTQIA+ questions in art and culture,” and more besides. To reflect its broad ethos, the designers decided to throw away any highly rigid rules or guidelines, and instead allowed some elements more flexibility. According to Axel, the “body text, credits and introduction to the articles are fixed on a six-column grid and common baseline, while titles, epigraphs and citations are navigating freely on the page.”
We’re loving where Axel’s work is heading and it’s safe to say he’s progressed in all aspects of his practice over the past few years. So where will the next few months (and more) take him? He reassures us that there will be more visual identity projects and branded work released very soon – so keep your eyes out.
Axel Pelletanche: Forma (Copyright © Axel Pelletanche, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.