Each of our 2019 Ascenders spoke with us about their design inspirations and work.
Here is our interview with typeface designer, Loris Olivier, who is currently working in Lausanne, Switzerland.
What schools did you attend?
I attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where was introduced to graphic design. Following that, I went to the ECAL in Switzerland. Directly after that, I went to The Hague to study at the KABK in the Type & Media program.
Did you have a teacher, past employer, client, or colleague who was instrumental in your career?
It would be quite difficult for me to have a short and really defined list. There are many people who are either currently in my life or who I’ve crossed the pass at some point.
However, I have to say that one of my teacher in San Francisco, DC Scarpelli, was the first one to believe in me vis-a-vis type design. He supported me and encouraged me like no one has. Following him, I had the chance to have François Rappo as a teacher in Switzerland, who is also a pure source of inspiration. It has been a more indirect relation but his rigor and immense knowledge is a shiny star always present far in the sky.
The whole team of teachers – Erik van Blokland, Peter Verheul, Françoise Berserik, Just van Rossum and Paul van der Laan – at the KABK in The Hague were amazing. I haven’t been a very focused student but they had such an incredible amount of patience. They showed me an incredible determination through their teaching interactions.
And I can’t just finish here. I owe so much to Philipp Neumeyer who has always been a constant source of encouragement and brain stimulator. I admire the way he draws and make letters talk with such elegance and the whole mystery flowing through his incredible work.
Did they have any specific advice/words of wisdom that you remember?
There have been many and hopefully there will be many more. DC Scarpelli stimulates the effervescent passion in his students, and I have been lucky to have received his constant positive energy.
The main advice I’ve received from my teachers and Mr. Neumeyer was all about consistency. This may sound strange but this is a complex and mysterious game of balance between design and shapes system. This applies to almost any writing system. Many people have given me advice on how to maintain consistency, but there is always the question of where to place the cursor. This helps to create any coherent visual language with any piece of visual design. At the end, the most difficult is to know when to escape this strict toolbox and give rhythm to your whole set.
Which of your design projects are your favorites? Why?
Two categories of projects are my favorites. I have an example for each.
The first is when you design in partnership with someone who can provide his vision. This situation leads to the creation of new visual archetypes together. I worked with anthropology designer on his brand called Whisper and Giants. He provided me with his vision and his process vis-a-vis culture interactions. Together, we built a three-typeface system and we are still making it evolve. The goal was to twist different typographic models to create a common vision of the future. It’s like shaping a new tribe. We defined it around letters of a new specific visual language. Long story short, I am crazy about branding built around multi-script systems.
I call the other example the wild card. Typically, Gloubi is one of these. Go as far as possible in any crazy direction – from a group of unusable shapes, trying to get a system, a visual algorithm.
What’s your worst design experience and project? Why?
Mainly facing my frustration when there is an intuition floating and I am unable to put it down into a type or interactive project. Otherwise, being pushed to repeat the same kind of visual expression over and over is quite boring at some point. Embracing the status quo has always been my worst design nightmare.
Where do you work now? In a studio, independent, other? What’s a typical workday like?
Currently, I am lucky to work at Superhuit in Lausanne, Switzerland, as a brand strategist. On the side, I work on Latin, Hangeul, and Hanzi projects with three other designers. I have always wanted to explore new design space with these scripts and their cultures. I am dreaming of creating new visual languages.
In addition to that, I am trying to learn electronic systems and build a CNC machine with a friend. I would like to give another life and purpose to the letters I draw.
My weekdays are spent in the city of Lausanne, were Superhuit’s office is. I usually work there in the morning, and then work on my type and interactive projects. I am also trying daily to learn more about front-end development. When the weekend comes, I take a train and slowly go to the Swiss Alps. I usually juggle between hikes, working on type, calligraphy, graphic, and UI projects.
What are your hobbies besides typography or design?
Aren’t they all? I am kidding! Seriously, I am deeply in love with Morgins, a little Swiss village and its mountain. I spend most of my weekend on the little paths between the forest, the wild rhubarb, and the little mountain streams.
Otherwise, I am practicing capoeira. I’ve always loved dancing and falling on the ground like an old 33-year-old chicken while trying to do a back flip. The whole dance, martial arts, and music side have always fascinated me.
Do you know any of the other Ascenders personally? If yes, whom ?
Yes, I personally know Philipp Neumeyer. I even have his autograph; however, he wrote “back off John!” on it.
I also know the amazing work of Zhao Liu and Tien-Min Liao. I have met Mark de Winne and know his work. I am also a big fan of Wael Morcos’s work.
Do you have any favorite designers and/or artists? Who are they?
Dividing by categories, I would start with purely graphic design. I have long admired the work of Ludovic Balland and his radical aesthetic practice. The work of Alex Dujet from Future Neue is also fascinating on so many levels.
Concerning Latin type design, I don’t have enough arguments to express how much I admire the work of François Rappo. In addition to him, I am relaly fascinated by the work of Rui Abreu and his very diverse approach to type projects and his sharp aesthetic.
Other than that, I strongly believe in the power of writing, especially books and stories that make me escape out of my world. I am in absolute admiration of Fabienne Verdier. She is a French painter and calligrapher, who spent ten years in China learning Hanzi calligraphy. In addition to her, Sylvain Tesson and his numerous adventures that he narrates in his books are the essence of my existence.
Do you think you have a design philosophy or methodology? If yes, what is it?
Philosophy might be too big of a word for me, but I need to fight against one of the bigger dangers of aging – losing the instinct of curiosity. I am trying to find balance between not reacting against previous projects I’ve done and trying to challenge myself. Going on a path where anybody would say, “That will never work! That’s inappropriate and crazy!” is quite interesting. More than producing, it questions your ability to create a visual world from any piece or component.
However, globally, I have one “methodology” that is dear to my hearth: prototyping. Quick and dirty. I apply it in UI, UX, motion, graphic and type design. It’s an essential constant state of exploration that indicates what potential story a product or a visual language can tell.
Now that you have had some time to think about it, what does the award mean to you?
I can hardly realize that I have received this recognition next to the stunning, amazing designers like those selected in 2018 and 2019. I feel honored and undeserving in a way.
I entered the competition thanks to someone really dear to me who pushed me hard to apply. She believed in me more than I did. For me, the TDC annuals have always been quite a prestigious series, but always a quite distant entity. I have seen certificate of excellence badges on designers that I admire on many social media. This award is not so much something of which I will be proud, but more of an encouragement and fuel to my continued exploration and practice of type in any shape and form that it might take.
To see the list of all the 2019 Ascenders, click here.