“More experimental than traditional”: Meet graphic designer Hugo Jourdan
Currently studying on a master’s at École Estienne, the French designer plays with the rules, especially when it comes to legibility and readability within typography.
- Ruby Boddington
- 27 April 2020
When Hugo Jourdan was in middle school, his father quit his job and re-trained as a graphic designer. “At first, I watched him work and follow tutorials on Photoshop,” Hugo recalls. “Gradually, he started to explain to me the basics of the software and I was able to start experimenting.” Having always been attracted to the creative industries, Hugo found his father’s career change sealed the deal and he went on to complete a two-year degree in graphic design, with one year in motion design. He’s now studying towards a master’s in type design at École Estienne in Paris.
Hugo’s early foray into messing about with Photoshop still impacts on his practice, one he describes as “more experimental than traditional”. He relishes working on projects which challenge graphic standards, especially in regards to legibility and readability within typography. This latter topic, in fact, formed the basis of Hugo’s bachelor’s thesis, which was focused on the “legibility and visibility of typographic characters”. What this inherent interest in experimentation instils in Hugo’s output is, above all, a want to innovate, even if it means failing – “but that’s the game,” he says.
When asked if there’s a signature visual language to his work, Hugo responds: “Not really, or rather not yet. I would say that my style is a mix of Swiss and experimental graphic design. On one hand, I am fond of the square and visible composition grid, and on the other, of expressive typography – the one that tries to communicate by itself.” This specific amalgamation of approaches gives Hugo’s portfolio a self-assuredness – he is able to break the rules, but only because he knows them so well.
In terms of how these aesthetics manifest, Hugo’s portfolio is full to the brim with typefaces, posters, album cover designs and contributions to exhibitions.
A little while back now, Hugo was given the opportunity to lead a typographic workshop as part of the Une Saison Graphique 2019, at Le Havre, with students from Université Le Havre Normandie. “Before I got my master's degree, I made a series of posters where I would choose a word I liked, or sometimes completely randomly, and produce a typographic poster related to those words. So I decided to repeat this exercise with these students, each had to choose one of the following words – sadness, surprise, anger, love, hope, fear – and then produce a poster expressing that word,” he explains. Off the back of the workshop, Hugo also competed the exercise himself and later exhibited his results alongside the students’ in a gallery during Une Saison Graphique.
Following this event, which Hugo designed a poster for, he had several requests from people who were interested in using the custom typography he produced. The culmination of these requests is Ornamentum, a typeface he released this year. A modular typeface, when using its opentype functionalities, it creates “ornamental lines from letters,” Hugo says. “The idea through this use was to design letters that can both be used as such or, when used in groups, as ornamental patterns.”
Finally, Hugo tells us about a project produced as part of his studies. “I had to choose an expression or a word from a book by French artist and writer Brigitte Fontaine, and treat it graphically in order to subsequently produce silkscreen posters, and overlap several productions by other students,” he explains. Hugo’s response to the brief is Sexo-Affectif, a custom type which interweaves two very juxtaposing typographic styles in one wordmark. “The idea conveyed through these two very different typographies with their own styles that intertwine,” Hugo adds, “was to come and encrypt the word, and create an image that requires our full attention in order to be read.”
With his master’s yet to complete and plans to begin an internship with Studio Es in Vienna lined up once he does (if things return to “normal” in time), Hugo has a bright future ahead of him. A smart typographer and graphic designer, he effortlessly merges his thorough knowledge of the discipline with his creative ingenuity in an idiosyncratic language.
Hugo Jourdan: Slussen in use
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.