From plants to Playboy, type designer Mathilde Quentin finds inspiration everywhere
We talk to Mathilde about her graduate project that challenges the binary in the French language, and discuss her latest work for The Steidz.
- Joey Levenson
- 15 September 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Simple, elegant, and refined are just some of the words that spring to mind when surveying the work of French graphic and type designer Mathilde Quentin. “I have always been attracted to geometry as my father was an architect,” Mathilde tells It’s Nice That. “I even wanted to become an architect like him.” Such an early love for the craft of architecture is evident in Mathilde’s work today: sharp lines, decisive shapes, and clean and elegant compositions fill her portfolio. There is something minimalist yet fulfilling in her graphics and typography. “I discovered graphic design during a year of preparatory school, and the fact of composing with images touched me.” It’s a beautiful way to articulate a craft that seems to come so naturally to Mathilde. Even the most simple of typefaces become distinct – whether it be through how they’re placed on the page, the colouring of their lettering, and so on.
“I studied graphic design in France and in my third year of study I discovered the world of type design,” Mathilde says. “Fascinated but not really gifted, I decided to learn more on my own and to enter a master's programme in La Cambre, Brussels.” The highly esteemed master’s programme in Brussels helped Mathilde hone a craft she would one day come to grasp. “As I was passionate about beautiful books and page layout, I turned to this field of graphic design,” she explains on her choice to pivot to typography. The choice paid off, as Mathilde’s elegant graphic eye clearly lends itself well to the serif font aesthetic. “In the graphic world, what excites me is that you can tackle every possible and unimaginable subject and give it the importance you want,” Mathilde says. It’s clear by talking to the designer that she’s not simply a typeface creator, but a genuine student and lover of the field. “There are a thousand ways of dealing with the same subject in graphic design and yet the way each person responds to it is singular,” she tells us. “I think that’s beautiful because each project is not going to have the same reactions depending on who’s looking at it.”
One fascinating insight into Mathilde’s ever-articulate state of mind is her final year project from La Cambre. “I highlighted the problem of binary in the world and the French language through various layouts and language manipulations,” she explains. “These questions of binary and gender can also be found in various typographic projects that several graphic designers and typographers have already dealt with, and yet there are still many things to do.” Mathilde is someone who seeks out the most unique way into a project, how to engage in conversations and projects in ways that are exciting and honest. “When I work for an artist, what I like most is to work hand in hand with him or her in order to transmit their practice as well as possible,” she says on her myriad collaborations. “For example, I worked with the ceramic artist Lorie Ballage to create a typeface that echoes her work based on the element of water, and our future plan is to play with these different elements in a catalogue.”
A work that particularly caught our eye was her type for the latest book by Soufiane Ababri, published by the Steidz. “The layout was worked on hand in hand between the publisher, the artist and myself, and we wanted to link Soufiane’s works with theoretical and personal texts in a single object.” After multiple conversations between herself and the publishers, Mathilde landed on the idea of blending her final year project on binary into her work for Soufiane’s book, which also dealt with gender. “I really appreciated Soufiane’s work, which made it even more fun for me to lay out his work,” Mathilde says.
“Overall, what I like in the editorial context is to be able to sublimate an image or a text by the choice of its position in the space of the page as well as by the choice of paper, which brings a real materiality to the book object.” Hours spent in bookstores, flea markets, and vintage magazines and vinyl continues to provide Mathilde with thought-provoking inspiration, but ultimately it is anything and everything which serves to inspire the designer. “For example, for my typeface Astrance, I was literally inspired by the characteristics of the plant: delicate and pungent,” she explains. “Whereas for my typeface in progress, Bernie, it was by leafing through an old Playboy from the 70s!”
Mathilde Quentin: Soufiane Ababri book (Copyright © Mathilde Quentin / The Steidz, 2021)