The multidisciplinary design studio Principal was borne out of five partners’ shared design philosophy. With an ethos rooted in modernism (in the architectural, industrial and graphic design sense) the Montreal-based creatives combined their specialist knowledge of computer science, visual arts and graphic design to inform the studio’s refined output. These founders are Bruno Cloutier, Mathieu Cournoyer, Bryan-K Lamonde, François Morin and Patrick Pellerin, and Principal has been collaborating predominantly with cultural institutions for many years now, openly working with clients to define a constructive dialogue to suit every project.
Attacking each brief from a distinctly cultural perspective, the studio – currently consisting of 14 designers in total – utilises a great number of disciplines in-house. From the creation of visual identities, branding, signage, web designs, exhibitions and so on, the studio’s members’ diverse interests allow them to take on a variety of projects from strategy to editorial. “In the studio,” explains co-founder Bryan-K, “we are adamant that our projects pass the test of time. We cherish that each project will never become outdated while feeling intelligent and relevant to this day.”
With the over-saturated abundance of images and creative platforms that exist today, more than ever, Principal is focussed on the creation of timeless designs. When making physical objects, the studio pays particular attention to the delicate balance between the material and immaterial, exploring what needs to stay in a design and what remains ephemeral. Adopting a humanist approach which values durability, above all, Principal seeks to respect a project’s heritage and legacy.
“In a way, we’re like half artist, half engineers,” says Bryan-K on Principal’s problem-solving spirit. Largely influenced by the grid system and the Swiss international style, the designers employ strong typographic approaches as seen in the likes of Gottschalk + Ash’s output, not to mention Massimo Vignelli’s. Dedicated to a creative process focussing on rigour and thoughtfulness, the studio is not about big and bold statements, but the more subtle details.
In the visual identity for Yoko Ono’s latest exhibition Growing Freedom at the Phi Centre, Principal’s concept-driven designs are exemplified. “We wanted to focus on the fact that Yoko’s show was based on participation and interaction,” says the co-founder. Translating these movement-based concepts through the identity’s interlocking typography, the designers decided not to use any images of Yoko’s work, instead, evoking the artist’s performative work through the humanist letterforms. Keeping the levels of information to a minimum to further highlight the typographic identity, the studio draws out the emotional connection between Yoko’s work and the city of Montreal; one of the locations for her seminal work, Bed-ins for Peace that took place in the sixties.
In another work, Principal designed the exhibition booklet for the Canadian painter Pierre Dorion. Echoing the artist’s themes of visual ambiguity, the book design reflects Pierre’s mind-boggling mix of architecture, context and light. And in a similar way, the designers created “a kind of confusion between reality and the artist’s work” through print, hinting to the artist’s obsessive archiving techniques through text at the same time.
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