Jean-Marie Courant


BB A significant part of your work is focused on visual identity projects. What makes a successful visual identity?
JMC It’s not easy for me to answer the question in general terms. The criteria can vary somewhat depending on the field of activity of the organisation the identity is being created for. But if I have to stick to a general answer I’d say: this visual identity has to be identifiable! It shouldn’t be too hard to implement, should allow some flexibility in its use, and should be adaptable to the needs of those it will serve…

BB One of the recent projects of your studio is a visual identity for FRAC Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in Marseille. You were awarded this state commission through a competition. What is your opinion on the competitions organised for these kinds of projects? Are competitions fair, or a tremendous waste of energy?
JMC Of course it depends on how those competitions are organised. The one you’re referring to, which Marie Proyart and I won, was fairly well-organised. It had a high-quality jury, and the timeline and payment for the study were reasonable. But I rarely participate in those sorts of competitions. Because after I start thinking about a project, it’s depressing not to be able to complete it… And anyway, there’s something very strange about most of those competition situations: it’s that you don’t have any exchanges with the future client while designing the project. You feel like you’re working behind a two-way mirror. Yet I think good solutions usually come out of an exchange, a dialogue with the client.

BB This time, the International Exhibition is focused on small sets, publications, visual identities, long-term collaborations. Is there a long-term project you have been involved in? How did the collaboration develop?
JMC I could mention my working relationship with the artist Eric Baudelaire. We’ve been collaborating regularly for almost six years. He initially got in touch with me to design a book. We later worked on small publications that accompanied his exhibitions, then on another monographic book, a long-term project. And since then, I’ve created all kinds of things for him, like film credits, posters, and I’ve helped him create certain pieces that involved text. An enduring relationship certainly makes it possible to work differently… You develop trust. But this situation with Eric is a bit particular, since we became friends… That’s a good thing, because we can argue from time to time without causing a permanent rift!

BB You are teaching and serving as a head of the master’s programme in graphic design of the fine art school in Lyon. Can you tell us about the programme? How is it structured? How do you approach teaching graphic design at the master’s level?
JMC Actually the Lyon master’s programme is directed collectively. I work in close collaboration with my colleague Catherine Guiral and in dialogue with all of the teachers in the master’s programme. We define the programme together. Our teaching primarily revolves around the question of publication in the broadest sense: giving shape to contents (from printed matter to digital to exhibitions). Dissertation-writing is an important part of the course. I think what we’re trying to do is establish the closest possible link between the discipline’s theoretical and practical approaches. The history of publishing and typography are very prominent in our teaching. We also try to organise practical projects, some of which are collective… This year our students took part in developing a single and the visual world that goes with it! We work quite experimentally… The programme changes fairly often, and so does the faculty. The most important thing is to create conditions that enable each student’s own personal practice to emerge… We don’t train a standard model of student… At least I hope we don’t.

BB This edition of the Brno Biennial responds to the metamorphoses and the state of contemporary graphic design; its plurality, variety, vagueness and apparent superficiality. Can you identify some of the basic parameters, current themes or motivations of contemporary graphic design?
JMC I find there’s a common concern among all of the graphic designers whose work fascinates me most: an effort to understand the history of our discipline, which offers an infinitely rich repository of subjects for theoretical and practical reflection. This is what I find most interesting to explore. And our discipline still hasn’t been examined very closely, even though lots of major creations have been achieved.

Jean-Marie Courant (FR)

Graphic designer. Born in 1966. Lives and works in Paris. He devotes himself to editorial and visual identity projects. He is teaching and head of the graphic design Master’s of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Lyon (France).

Biennial News

Short interviews with collaborators of the 27th Brno Biennial, authors of its exhibitions, jury members and Biennial Talks speakers.


Interviews and graphic design: Radim Peško Radim Peško (1976) is a graphic designer based in London. He works in the field of type design, editorial and exhibition projects. In 2010 he has established his RP Digital Type Foundry that specializes on typefaces that are both formally and conceptually distinctive. His work includes identity for Secession Vienna, typefaces for identities of Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Aspen Art Museum, Fridericianum, Berlin Biennale 8, various work for the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Bedford Press London or a long-term collaboration with artist Kateřina Šedá. He has lectured at many schools including Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam, ÉCAL Lausanne, HFK Bremen, KISD Cologne, École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon, Sint-Lucas Ghent, University of Seoul. Since 2011 he is part of the curatorial board of the International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno., Tomáš Celizna Tomáš Celizna (1977) is interested in graphic design in connection with new technologies. He is a founding partner of design studio dgú in Prague (2001 to 2005), recipient of J. W. Fulbright Scholarship (2006), and holds MFA in graphic design from Yale University School of Art (2008). He currently lives and works independently in Amsterdam. Collaborations include, among others, OASE Journal for Architecture, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Since 2011 he is a lecturer in graphic design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, and a member of the curatorial team of the International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno., Adam Macháček Adam Macháček (1980) is a graphic designer. Following studies at the AAAD in Prague, Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and ÉCAL in Lausanne, he co-founded in 2004 studio in Lausanne and is a member of 201∞ Designers collective. His work includes publications, exhibition catalogues, illustrations and identities. Collaborations include, among others, the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Théâtre de Vevey (seasons 2003–2012), Galerie Rudolfinum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Chronicle Books, Editions Pyramyd, Museum of Czech Literature, Brno House of Arts, California College of the Arts, Airbnb. For Brno Biennial he initiated and organized exhibitions Work from Switzerland (2004) and From Mars (2006, together with Radim Peško). Since 2011 he is a member of the curatorial team of the International Biennial of Graphic Design in Brno. He lives and works in Berkeley.
Translation and copy editing: Alena Benešová, Kateřina Tlachová
Production: Miroslava Pluháčková
Printed by: Tiskárna Helbich s. r. o.
Print run: 2000
1st edition
Published by the Moravian Gallery in Brno, 2016