In March of 2016, Paul Faure, Léa Beaubois and Marion Cachon were taking part in the social movement, Nuit Debout. This wave of protests which translates to ‘Up All Night’ broke out as a response to the French government’s proposed law reforms known as El Khomri Law or Loi travail. The movement began at Paris’ Place de la République, where protestors held nightly assemblies.
“At this time, we were in the last year of our bachelor degree and were writing our thesis’,” Paul, Léa and Marion tell It’s Nice That. “We were taking in theoretical sources but we were also feeling useless, and angry, and upset. Like we were incompetent novices,” they explain, “we felt culpability for staying behind our screens while the important stuff was going on outside.” As a result, We Sow was born as a way to question the responsibility of the graphic designer, but also to enable Paul, Léa and Marion to engage with issues they feel are important.
We Sow, now in its sixth issue, is an alternative publication full of texts gleaned, redesigned and redistributed by the trio. “The purpose of We Sow is to widely share words and culture we find important but which are not visible at all in the public space,” they explain. Each issue of the publication contains three to five texts, all sealed in a plastic packaging.
“They are lampoons, kind of open letters we want to share with people,” they continue, “the three of us have a graphic design background, but we also have interests in various other fields such as fiction, environmental care, political issues like immigration, housing policies.” Because of their wide-ranging interests, the range of sources presented in We Sow are also incredibly diverse including “essays, poetry, newspaper articles, films, even cookbooks sometimes.”
A key factor in We Sow’s appeal and success is the eclectic design aesthetic Paul, Léa and Marion have developed. All printed on a Risograph machine, the publication has certain restrictions: each page is no bigger A3 and only primary colour inks can be used, however “it offers infinite possibilities,” the trio remark. When it comes to actually designing, they allow the texts to dictate the visuals. “Choosing a typeface, a particular way of folding the paper, specific ink colours or paper – by making all these choices, we try to give a meaning to each extract we design,” the We Sow team explains.
Although clearly full of interesting content, not to mention looking great, it’s We Sow’s distribution method that is at the essence of its ethos. In the early mornings, the trio place copies around Lyon – on its metro and around the docks as a means of never “selecting” the audience that receives their messages. Having created the previous issue out of a workshop with ten students at École de recherché graphique in Brussels, Paul, Léa and Marion hope to continue this format, approaching different school and towns, “as soon as we finish our masters,” they add.
Having explored We Sow as a printed object so far, they are currently working on a website which will allow them to reach a much broader audience. “It will allow us to share other mediums, such as video for example. Our wish is to make a big data bank of all our extracts, which the little physical pockets will be become an open door to.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.