Many artists grow up in households where their creativity pushes back against their family’s wishes. It’s not often that you find someone who second-guesses a creative career yet has their family champion their talents. Such is the case with one ADC Member, a French born, New York based designer who had thoughts of being a scientist before finding her calling.
New York, NY
Tell us a bit about your childhood. Were you always a creative kid?
I was born and grew up in a quiet little town just south of Paris. My father is an engineer, and my mother is a fine artist, and I think that both sides were influential in charting my career path. They gave me a good example of working hard no matter what you do, and definitely encouraged my creativity. My mom taught me most of what I know about art, including how to draw. I was always creative, and especially sensitive to visual things, not only fine art, but also typography, architecture, and fashion.
When did you think to yourself “this art thing is something I’d want to do for a living”?
When I was in high school, my parents would ask me that question everyday! I couldn’t stand it! (laughs) And for a very long time, I was not sure whether I wanted to pursue a scientific carrier, like being an oceanographer, or if I wanted to do something that had to do with the arts. But I was constantly drawing, sewing, building things, and it seemed obvious to people around that it was what I should do. So one day, I just set my mind to it, not sure what I would do exactly, but realizing that I was ‘meant’ to do something creative. And the choice became so simple! All of a sudden, I was not scared about the future.
So you went to university to become a fine artist, but something wasn’t clicking with you. What was it exactly, and what did you find in graphic design that did indeed click?
I attended an atelier that could prepare me for any school, but we would only do fine arts. I did not realize that something was missing until I entered design school, and I think that the big difference is that suddenly we had constraints, assignments, rules, and a lot of work with deadlines. Most of all I started learning about typography. I began to better understand the purpose of what I was doing, and that changed everything. Design is great in the way that it strives to make everyday life more beautiful, and that’s something that’s so important to me, as shallow as the idea of ‘beauty’ may seem.
School is one thing, but the ‘real world’ is another. What was it like when you got your first taste of an actual design career?
My first contact with the industry was through internships. It’s so different from school because the client’s expectations differ from your teacher’s expectations so much. You’re not only talking to graphic designers anymore! That can make the work either more or less exciting. It taught me mostly that I should work even harder, to eventually be able to work only on the projects that interest me the most, or in a studio that I really like!
You began your career in Paris, but what drew you to the Big Apple? In your experience, what’s the difference between the graphic design scene in Paris versus New York?
I was always attracted by New York, but it felt so out of reach. I decided to actually make it happen because I realized that I was way more drawn to New York’s design scene than Paris’. Paris’ design scene is a little more serious, respectful of the ‘rules’, and that makes it harder to step outside the box and take risks. That said, I’m full of respect for some very good French studios that are so talented and innovative. New York’s scene is much more dynamic, stimulating and exciting, and so is life in general. I feel like I have a lot more fun in work here, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with very talented people, who I truly admire.
Life in New York in general is very exciting, full of opportunities. As a stranger I am also eager to experience and discover the city even more, so I never get bored. Simone de Beauvoir said “There’s something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.”
Your work is very broad. If you had to pick a favorite, what specific area of expertise do you feel you particularly shine in and why?
First of all, I think that what I’m good at here in New York is different from what I’m considered good at in France. It’s hard to say because I’ve tried so many new things in the last few months… One specific thing about my work is that I like to bring handmade things into the process, and to step away from the computer screen. it’s so refreshing! It could be collage, illustration, hand lettering, painting, whatever. My creative director really encourages in this aspect, and I could not thank him enough, because I have fun everyday.
What types of personal projects do you like to work on? Do you find them a luxury of time, or a necessity of the business?
They’re definitely a luxury, and I feel like I never have enough time to devote to personal projects. I’m trying to do more illustration for myself, or the type of projects that I don’t get to do too much at work, like packaging. But sometimes just sitting in a café and drawing people is enough.
If you could’ve taken a completely different career path, what would you have done?
If I hadn’t been in the creative field, I would have tried a scientific career, like a doctor or a scientist studying at the North Pole.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What do you hope to have accomplished by the time 2020 draws to a close?
I usually don’t say my goals out loud, for fear that I’ll fail or sound too ambitious and presumptuous! What’s great in America is that people cultivate their uniqueness, and it’s OK to seek recognition for your work. I want to have done good work, that allows me to work wherever I want, and have the luxury to pick my projects and chose only those that I’m excited about. I want to be happy doing what I do.
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Tags: Maud Passini