Earlier this year, the second edition of the Biennale International de design graphique took place in Chaumont, France. It celebrated graphic design in a staggering four months of activities and events, asking those involved with the discipline to discuss working practices and topical issues as a result. As the festivities came to a close in May, the Biennale hosted its 28th International Poster Competition, exhibiting around 100 of the best contemporary poster designs as a culmination of the events.
Before le Signe took on the challenge of hosting this mammoth annual event, the world-famous Chaumont graphic design festival was held every year from 1990 to 2015. It was the main event for designers in Europe and its international poster competition was recognised as one of the best in the world. As a consequence, the Chaumont poster collection has amassed to an astonishing figure of nearly 45,000 designs.
In Post Medium, a catalogue documenting the ins and outs of this year’s graphic design biennale, the publication pays tribute to the array of activity spilling out of Chaumont come that time of year. It features the best posters entered into the competition as well as texts from the likes of The Rodina, Vanina Pinter, Yann Owens and Camille Trimardeau; not to mention the director of le Signe himself, Jean-Michel Géridan.
Designed by an It’s Nice That favourite Ines Cox, the bilingual publication encompasses 240 pages of graphic design galore. At the centre of the beautifully designed catalogue, is the work entered into the prestigious poster competition. Unlike the other well-known poster competition in the industry hosted by Graphic Design Festival Scotland, Chaumont’s is pointedly different, primarily in the fact that it is not an open call and there are three main criteria that determine the entrants. The first, is that the competition is intended for professionals, the second is that the posters must have been commissioned or have lived in a real context. And finally, the third is that the posters have to be designed within the three years prior to the competition.
The aim of this criteria, is to deliver a competition that resembles “a genuine snapshot of today’s creations”, explains the biennale’s curator Jean-Michel Géridan. With the hopes of contributing design excellence to the industry, raising the standard ever higher with each year of the festival, he cites Formes Vives’ poster design Golden ball and Extra ball for Editions Ultra as a “visually attractive series with a strong social message.”
The posters echo the recent social protests in France, shedding light on the famous “gilet jaunts” or “yellow vests” movement occurring in October of last year. “The series is strong because of the poetic way it talks about repression and the use of force,” says Jean-Michel. Exemplifying a visual wit that makes use of the French trademark for the hand-held weapons carried by police, the design draws parallels between police hostility and arcade games.
He also notes Studio Dumbar’s Duivelskunst stenaar – Ray Chen designed for Amsterdam’s Sinfonietta amongst his favourites. “The poster shows how code can also be a message, and how generative images can in turn, be a means of information too” says Jean-Michel. Additionally including Erich Brechbühl’s Open club day for Neubad Luzern, and Helmo’s Stratigraphie for Fflag as personal highlights from the competition, Jean-Michel goes on to say of the latter design: “It beautifully reveals the secret behind the poster." The design is made up of layer after layer of overlapping textures and this methodical process is purposely exemplified through the final composition of the poster.
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