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- Interview , Graphic Design

10 questions to: Fanette Mellier

For graphic designer Fanette Mellier it is important to produce works that are functional, but she also gives room to chance and thus lends live, enormous appeal and magic to her designs. No matter whether it's books, posters or fonts, for the French designer every project is a balancing act between functionality and emotionality. 

What do you like most about graphic design?

I like the fact, that it is an intellectual practice, that it’s creative and concrete. I like its connection with order and I think my profession is like a horn of plenty. I also like that it is linked to industrial production, which places us designers at the heart of modern society. And it is connected to economy, unlike art our profession is not speculative. We get paid »by the page«.


You mostly focus on printed matter. Where does that passion come from?

My dad was a printer, so my passion is undoubtedly linked to him.


You have a special approach to colour and plasticity and textures play an important role in your work. Why is it so important for you to keep in touch with materiality?

Colour is fundamental in my work. I use it in a functional way (for classification and to create a hierarchy of the contents) and in a poetic way. Often the forms I create are geometric, rigid and very organised. Plasticity and poetry on the other hand come into being with the colours I use. The colours add movement to the forms, sometimes in unpredictable ways, because I allow part of the printing process to be random. 

But it differs depending on the project and the content. For example in »Jardin Infini« (Infinite Garden) the green becomes really immersive and connects to the exhibition.

In »Au Soleil« (At the Sun) with the help of halos and phosphorescent effects, the colour spreads an energy that is almost immaterial. Colour becomes light. In my project »Pompidou Parade« the colour tells us something about the history and the architecture of the Centre Pompidou. 

For me colour is a tool, a language I can use in different ways. I always depends on the project, because everyone has its own cosmos. 


Nature also seems to play an important role in your work. 

Nature inspires me a lot, because of its universal and metaphorical dimensions. Certain forms like in »La lune« (the moon) and »Le papillon imprimeur« (the butterfly printer) are universal and have a special connection to space and time. 

Le Papillon Imprimeur – Fanette Mellier, Editions du livre, 2016

Some of your works are experimental, some are functional. Can you tell us something about your process of creation?

Functionality is a really important dimension, especially when I work of a client. In experimental projects there is always room for doubt, not so when it comes to contract work. The connexion with function is one of the pillars of design and I always question myself, if I’m doing the content justice. For me it is essential to always start the proverbial blank page. This starting point is like an intellectual exercise, a stimulating game: to organise the information, on a cover, a sleeve, a binding, etc. I often work with models that I cut, bind and then bind again, until I know what I want to do. 


You designed the new identity of FRAC Aquitaine, can you tell us something about the challenges of this project?

The identity of FRAC Aquitaine was established step by step and one thing lead to another. Luckily the identity developed over the course of a few years so we were able to adjust the design according to the client’s needs. However, to create a visual identity for an institution is no routine. There is no easy recipe or guideline as far as I know. Consistency is a must have, but all the different media need specific attention. It’s more like an endurance sport. 

The next challenge was that FRAC moved from one location to another. Because it was temporarily closed until January 2019 we took the opportunity to review the indentity and the communication. We made an assessment of all the tools we had created in the past three years and from that starting point we tried to evolve the identity. It was not a matter of creating a new identity, but to use the basics and to adjust them to the new needs and the dynamics of the project. Graphic design is an important part of the history of FRAC Aquitaine.

Graphic identity, Frac Aquitaine, 2015-2016

You also designed the type Bubune for the film »Jacky au royaume des filles«, what was the story behind this project?


It is very unusual to create for an imaginary country. Riad Sattouf, a comic book author and very well known in France, asked me to create the typography for his second film  »Jacky au royaume des filles«. The story is inspired by various dictatorships from the past and present and reverses the position of oppressor and oppressed. Jacky lives in a military dictatorship where the men wear veils and are dominated by women. 

The Bubune type I designed was inspired by non-Latin writing like the Cyrillic alphabet, with rounded parts at the end of the letters’ bodies. The idea was that the alphabet is readably, but at the same time strange and disorienting. 

Bubune was used in the opening credits, but also in the film itself. It became almost like a character in its own right. The actors write these strange letters, so it’s more like a script than a font. It was a really good experience to work on this project. It was completely unusual, but nevertheless applied – even if the context was fictional.  

Bubunne, Jacky au royaume des filles (Riad Sattouf), 2013

In 2018 you created a New Year’s surprise box for the printer Lezard Graphique. Can you tell us more about this project?


The context of this project was special, because my friend Jean-Yves Grandidier, the founder of Lezard Graphique, retired. For 20 years he has given full freedom to a designer or an artist to create his greeting cards, which have become collectibles. So this last greeting had to be exceptional. He told me about the project a year in advance and then gave me the art direction, so I could put a lot of thought into it. 

From the very beginning I wanted to invite different designers to collaborate in this project, to make it ambitious and multi-dimensional. I proposed the greeting box, because it functions as a container and also as a very pleasing visual object. Thanks to its form the box makes people smile and adds to the excitement to discover what is inside. It is also a kind of sculpture that is decorative and worth keeping. 

The surprise inside the box where 12 artworks made by designers and friends of Lezard Graphique, printed in 12 different colours. We used cut paper as a filling and the cards themselves where wrapped in silk paper on which the greetings where printed in metallic ink. 

You just had your first retrospective. How did you chose the works that you presented?

I selected a big part of my books and posters, designed during the past 10 years. More difficult to exhibit were the projects with unusual form, identities or installations for public spaces etc. Graphic design can take on so many forms, it is a real challenge to make everything work in an exhibition. The exhibition was called »Swing« and the concept was to add movement and fun to the usually static form of a retrospective. But fun and movement where important to me: I’m still young!


Here you can find more interviews from the series »10 questions to« …

Swing, Fanette Mellier à la bibliothèque de Saint-Herblain, 2017