Paul Gacon says that though he can’t remember his first steps into graphic design, he “almost always drawn to it”. These days boasting a portfolio that spans printed matter, visual identities, websites and type design, his practice is diverse and adaptable. “I’m always interested in varying the type of projects I’m working on, I can get bored if I’m always doing the same things,” he explains. “Right now I want to design books for instance, but maybe in a few months I will want to focus on designing new typefaces.”
Based in Paris, and working alongside clients such as fellow Parisian and friend photographer Marvin Leuvrey, Paul’s work is consistently thoughtful and beautifully executed. For Marvin’s website, the pair brainstormed ideas that would allow accessibility, whilst being an engaging reflection of his photographic practice. The result is a website that facilitates intuitive navigation and simultaneously places Marvin’s powerful imagery at the forefront through a slick and refined framework.
“One of the first things he mentioned was that he wanted to showcase his work without any clear distinctions between commissioned and personal projects, in the same way that confusion plays an important part of his practice in the images themselves,” says Paul. “He also wanted the intro of the site to be some kind of image collage, to reference some of his work that plays with layers. So we threw some ideas back and forth to find an interaction that felt both visually satisfactory and interesting for the user.”
This sort of close collaboration also led to Paul contributing to the redesign of fashion publication,_ L’Officiel_. Having worked alongside Ill-Studio in the past, who took over creative direction of the magazine in 2016, the team reached out to Paul for this new venture. Though experienced in editorial design through a previous project with French fashion title, Standard, Paul says L’Officiel was at the other end of the spectrum in terms of scale. “It was really interesting to work on an independent magazine and then a magazine with a much larger editorial team.”
This project saw him operating under close guidance from Ill-Studio, whose vision was to provide a contemporary take on the publication’s existing visual codes; clearly exemplified by the implementation of the elegant, modern serif typeface, Traulha, which made for a welcome departure from the Didot typeface utilised by most fashion magazines. But challenges came in the form of imagery, which Paul says was gathered from various sources in varying qualities: “The magazine couldn’t always produce images themselves, so the challenge was to make all the images work together,” he tells It’s Nice That. “We tried to resolve this by building a framework that could adapt to almost any image when we were redesigning the magazine beforehand.”
Paul has also tried his hand at type design, developing his own typeface, Willem, as part of his diploma project as university. Inspired by the local architecture of the Dutch College in the Cité internationale, the designer Willem Marinus Dudok became the namesake for Paul’s typeface. “Taking influence from the grid outlined by its windows and the proportions, I designed this monospace typeface that can be used with a very tight leading. I drew diacritics really close to the letters for that purpose,” he says.
Another design choice was to double the space used by the letters “M” and “W”, which Paul tells us can be challenging to incorporate into a monospace typeface, but gives it a distinctive look. “I often start new typefaces, but I’m always astonished by the amount of hours it takes to draw even just one weight. For Willem, drawing only the uppercase letters was a good way to avoid this and get it done quickly,” he explains. “Today, I use it from time to time. I’m currently designing an identity with it and it’s always nice to get to use spontaneous work like this one in other contexts.”
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.