French designer Julien Priez produces astoundingly beautiful experimental typefaces – having honed his craft through an internship with Parisian playful-type maestro Pierre di Sciullo, he now works independently, creating typefaces that evolve and develop through their application to everything from restaurant identities to music festival posters. Julien is featured in Talent in Grafik issue 189, but for his full interview, read on…
Grafik: Describe your work in three words.
Julien Priez: Punk—A blogger once described me as a “French punk type-designer”. Maybe because I try to break rules, to feel free and to find something new. Opera—Because to break rules you have to know rules, and always begin by following them. It’s also a word that reminds me of calligraphy—an important part of my work. Hip-hop—Because I grew up with this culture, and I think that it subconsciously influences my work a lot.
G: What would be your fantasy commission?
JP: A visual identity for a city like Montreuil or my hometown, Bagnolet, for a supermarket, or for anything that needs a big, combinable font family.
G: What inspired you to pursue a career in typography?
JP: Designing typefaces is just my approach to creating a graphic design solution. Every typeface I’ve designed has grown out of a more general graphic design project, even if the client didn’t ask for a typeface. It’s a way to find ideas, systems, and to work fast. That’s the reason why I don’t consider myself a ‘real’ type designer. I think I’m just a graphic designer who builds his own tools.
G: Tell us about your internship at the studio of Pierre di Sciullo…
JP: I saw on his website that a young guy, a thirteen-year-old, was doing his internship in this studio and was designing a typeface for the city of Montreuil, and I was doing the same thing for my diploma at the same time. It was a funny reason to ask him if he could help me with my diploma. I went into the studio for some advice, and at the end, since everything went well, I asked him whether I could join as an intern. I began two months later, and designed the Briqueterie typeface.
Pierre’s approach is calm, simple and so intellectual. He’s very impressive when he talks, and has the power to convince every client to trust him and give him the freedom he wants. I also appreciate the fact that he doesn’t play the superstar graphic designer game. He and Marian Bantjes are my role models because of these qualities. My dream is to become a graphic artist like both of them.
G: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
JP: I had a teacher, Stéphane Darricau, who gave me a lot of good advice. My favourite, and the funniest, was that “the best graphic designer is the laziest”, which is another way of saying ‘less is more’.
G: Which typeface do you wish you’d designed?
JP: Above all, if I could, it would be the Francesco typeface by my teacher Franck Jalleau. I love this font. I think maybe because he is the person who taught me to draw. I would like to be able to draw like him, he is crazy, so talented and strong. That is another reason why I don’t consider myself a ‘real’ type designer.
G: Tell us a little bit about your town…
JP My town is a little town, Bagnolet or ‘Bajo’, near to Montreuil and Paris. I’ve lived in the same building there for twenty-five years, since I was born. Some people would say it is an ugly town, with only buildings everywhere, but others say it is special. I really like this city, maybe because it’s mine—it’s like a second mother. I think this is why I’m attached to the idea of designing visual identities for cities, it’s something I think it is very important for graphic designers to work with it. We have the power to dress a city, with posters, signage, etcetera.
G: What’s next for you?
JP: My Jimmy typeface will be on sale at the B.A.T. Foundry in 2011. I am also preparing a big project, but at the moment it’s a secret.