“I like to say that graphic designers, at least in my case, act as storytellers,” states Amsterdam-based designer Virginie Gauthier. “I don’t often create ‘stories’ or content. Instead, I edit, cut, assemble and work with other people’s productions: a text, a compilation of writings, documentation of an exhibition.” Originally from “a very empty, flat region in the middle of France called Touraine,” Virginie’s portfolio is packed full of delectable books made in collaboration with artists and writers.
Virginie’s love of printed matter stems from her studies in Paris where she undertook a course in advertising and visual communication. “Although brainstorming the best way to sell the latest ‘whirlpool laundry machine’ wasn’t my cup of tea, the very few classes we had on typography, its history and uses, were more appealing to me,” she recalls. Diving into this world, she discovered the National School of Fine Arts of Lyon which she later attended, focussing on typesetting and editorial design. “These two years gave me the tools to think of an object from the ‘publishing realm’ in conceptual terms and the knowledge to link them to historical references.”
The conceptual approach learned during this period still greatly impacts her freelance practice today, often resulting in allegorical designs. When tasked with designing Jeroen van den Eijnde’s PhD research, Het Huis Van Ik, Virginie allowed its content to inform her process. Jeroen’s thesis is an exhaustive study on schooling and education in the Netherlands throughout the 20th century, in the applied arts. “He talks about different types of schools and their ideologies, counter-movements and how architecture has been affected by these different mindsets,” explains Virginie. Through the materiality of the book itself, Virginie developed a metaphorical representation of these ideas: a brick. With its reddish colour and bulky mass, the book becomes a totemic object reflecting its content.
“The green pages which contain more loose and iconographic content are spread here and there, as a kind of organic ‘moss’ growing on a wall,” she adds. The use of red and green – and only these colours – reflect another facet of Virginie’s practice. “I generally try to limit myself to a couple of elements,” she explains, “one or two typefaces maximum, one or two colours, paper and materials referring to some keywords. I’m the kind of person who needs to justify any decision by rational arguments.”
With projects ranging from a documentation of one of the most photographed philosopher’s of French theory ever, who famously refused to be represented in the media – made in collaboration with François Girard-Meunier; to a publication for the newly opened space for art in Paris, the Lafayette Anticipations; not to mention the plethora of self-initiated projects, Virginie’s work is varying in content but incorporates enough visual anchors to make it recognisable. Through considered research and an emblematic approach, Virginie strikes a balance between simple elementary graphic components, “with a little twist to spice it up.”
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