Panama Papers.Office merges tech, 3D and typographic systems into its detailed graphic design
Set up in 2018 by new grads Pierre Dufresne and Florent Martini, the studio has since worked on a plethora of projects ranging from art direction to editorial and typeface design.
- Ayla Angelos
- 20 October 2021
Eight years ago, Pierre Dufresne and Florent Martini had met for the first time while at university. A blossoming creative partnership, the two embarked on their debut project together: the art direction and visual identity for a techno record label in Paris. “At the same time, we created a silk screen workshop to produce and release fine art printed sleeves and other related communication material,” Pierre tells It’s Nice That. “We approached and oversaw all aspects of the project: from design to production, organisation events and logistical planning. It had been our first step in the professional world. It became obvious we had to stick together and give our partnership a shot.”
Fresh out of school in 2018 the duo then decided to set up their own studio, Panama Papers.Office (PPOffice). Ever since, they’ve been channelling art direction and creative consultancy through a variety of projects – including editorial and typeface design, web design and development, plus a host of collaborations with artists and collectives, exhibition curators, publishing houses and art centres. The results have garnered quite the following too and have been shown in several international graphic design festivals and exhibitions such as Le Signe, Centre national du graphisme (based in Chaumont, France), GDF Scotland, International poster competition in Glasgow, Offprint Art Book Fair at Tate modern, Weltformat graphic design festival in Lucerne, plus the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
While defining their visual language, Florent explains how, in the past, their time at university steered them onto a more rigid path. “We’ve been taught graphic design, typography and image making in a very academic way,” he says. Striving to break the moulds and become free of tradition, the two wanted to react to this “do this and don’t do this” attitude found in their education system. “We were interested in challenging the notions of legibility and the rules of systems in design,” he continues. “What we learned in terms of methodology was very helpful, however, when dealing with all the other parts that surround a design project next to the creative process: a rigorous file nomenclature system, a meticulous online workspace management, the organisation of a project… It represents 60 per cent of the work when running a studio.”
Flicking through the studio’s broad range of projects, you’ll notice the great level of detail and attention paid to each and every design element. From minute and spotty formations – like a cluster of dollar signs meshed together to form a typographic image – to bespoke and funky typography, everything is designed from the ground up and respectfully catered towards the project at hand. When asked what it is that drives their work, Pierre explains how the studio is inspired greatly by the post-modernist movement and “international style”. A meeting with Russian poster designer Peter Bankov during a workshop in 2015, also naturally influenced a lot of the work they went on to make; a leading designer and reference point for Russian graphic design, his abstract poster work have become synonymous in the post-Soviet design world.
In one of the studio’s recent projects, the team have turned their focus onto the Refresh programme – a new contemporary art programme that invites the younger generation of “digital native artists” to present artwork on the topic of the digital world, ecosystems and the future of the biosphere. With its two episodes released in October this year and August 2022, the release will see seven group shows in an “outdoor hybrid artistic path featuring physical, augmented reality pieces and a contemporary art award,” says Florent. The first exhibition is titled Future-Proof and aims to “question the current overlapping tangle of technological and human structures,” he adds. It’s a speculative look at the anthropocene and its fragility, so to emphasise the urgency of the future of our environment, PPOffice has devised an “organic inspired, in situ visual communication” that places tech and uncertainty together. This has been achieved through an AI model featuring sound, plus printed and moving image.
By using different elements and mediums, PPOffice created a sensory identity for the exhibition. “These elements were made by collaborating with friends and colleagues,” says Pierre, “and include symbol-based and typographic systems, still and moving images using machine learning technology as well as ambient soundtracks.”
Elsewhere, the studio work on graphics and a typeface for contemporary artist Timur Si-Qin for his solo show, Take Me, I Love You, held at VonAmmon co gallery in Washington. The team have also been diving into the workings of their own studio’s identity – so there’s many exciting things to come for this flourishing duo. “What is most important to us is that young designers and students become inspired by our approach,” Florent adds. “This is really rewarding. We hope that this new generation of designers will be receptive towards our values.”
Panama Papers.Office: PPOffice Identity (Copyright © Panama Papers.Office, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.