Gregory Page on his design practice so far, beautiful new website and bright plans for the future
Gregory Page is a Swiss graphic designer with a reputable list of clients such as Watch.Swiss, Sony Music and Genève Tourisme. Throughout this career, he has become known for his typographically-driven work and striking attention to detail. In our conversation, we cover all aspects of his design career to date; from childhood and the early beginnings to the challenges of 2022 and the bright future ahead.
PT Hi Gregory, how are you?
GP Hi Poppy, I am doing very well, thank you.
PT Can you tell us a bit about your background in design? How did you first become interested in it as a career?
GP The interest in design came through different steps. From early on, I was interested in all that’s manual. I used to draw a lot as a child, whatever came to mind, objects, bodies, shapes and also letters. As far as I remember, I had my first little graphic job quite early, I was about 11 or 12 years old, and I got to draw an invite for the Swiss national summer scout meeting and a few years later some posters to celebrate the end of the school year.
After completing art courses, encouraged by my teachers and also my parents I started graphic design studies. As part of my last year of studies, I got an internship in a renowned design and branding agency in Lausanne for eight months where I learned a lot about the job and also a bit of the behind the scenes, how to handle clients, projects, deadlines, etc. Right after my degree, I got hired as a freelancer, first in a Geneva-based design studio, then later in the agency where I did my internship and in parallel, I started my practice as an independent graphic designer. Freelancing besides setting up my practice enabled me also to be able to secure income for living.
PT Looking back at 2022, how would you summarise the year as a whole?
GP It was a tough year haha! But very good indeed. Besides some cool completed projects, I was pleased to be invited and featured with my Safine typeface in the lovely and super inspiring New Aesthetic 3 book and also be selected as a finalist in the Tokyo TDC awards with the NEA logo/identity, which got part of the selected exhibited works among all the awarded projects at the Ginza Graphic Gallery, Tokyo.
On the other hand, there were some goals to reach in terms of personal projects, but due to lack of time, I didn’t manage to complete them. Typically, my second typeface, Safine, a medium-high contrast display that I started working on in late 2019 was expected to be released in 2022 and also a condensed type specimen and goodie for the Eclect typeface, as well as a type zine/book, a project that is boiling somewhere in my head since the lockdown in 2020.
PT Can you reveal anything about this type zine/book? :)
GP As it is really in its early stage, the only thing I can reveal is that it will focus and highlight a selection of experimental and crazy custom type/lettering works done by designers for commissioned projects or for personal uses. Whether it will be a zine or book will of course depend if a publisher is interested or if it will be self-published.
Sometimes things are turning out differently than expected and it is even better.
PT What is your usual approach when creating editorial work? For example, do you plan everything beforehand or is the process more experimental?
GP I would say a bit of both of them. Plan/draft is for me absolutely necessary at the very beginning, it helps me organise the project, but after that things can also be more experimental or fluid, depending on the type of project. I like to keep a part of freedom within the structure that could also stimulate unexpected errors and maybe change your approach on the layout for example. It is not that I am looking for errors, it is just sometimes things are turning out differently than expected and it is even better than what was planned.
For instance, in the above zine/book, the most exciting parts of this personal project would be researching the works, building a coherent selection that would fit together and make sense.
PT Your new website has beautiful transitions on the homepage! What was the thinking behind the design, and what was the process like alongside Carlos Mayo?
GP Thank you! All the merits go to Carlos Mayo!
Following the very discreet release of my website in 2021, I’ve kept adjusting things till it made me clear that design-wise it wasn’t that. So in the summer of 2022, I’ve decided to start again from the very beginning with a more simple approach inspired by the HTML Accordion feature. This enabled me to have all the content displayed at once without being redirected to a dedicated project page and the thumbnails were replaced by titles which automatically emphasised the type part and that’s what I wanted. In desktop/tablet, the construction grid and lecture are pretty basic, and based on a cross.
The process alongside Carlos was chill, great and complimentary. Besides coding the whole website, he also came up with a lot of value-added ideas and tips in terms of functionalities and transitions. There were some tricky things he achieved to make work, for example, the endless loop list by having every project be able to open each time centred, no matter if the project is listed at the very beginning or at the end of the list.
My next collaboration with him will be to set up my type foundry portal, really looking forward to it!
PT Sounds super exciting! Why have you decided to set up your own foundry as opposed to publishing via other websites?
GP Well, for my first typeface, I had the luck and was pleased that it got picked, along with other great ones by talented designers, to be part of Typelab’s Weave collection, so at that time, with only one typeface in the bag, there wasn’t any need to set up a foundry. But now, as I am working on two other typefaces, I see it is useful to have a dedicated platform to showcase, test and sell them. In the future, I may also release some short, more spontaneous typefaces, limited in glyphs, so basic A-Z with numbers and basic punctuation signs.
PT With regards to your portfolio, what piece of work are you most proud of?
GP It is difficult to select only one, because each project has its own criteria in terms of challenge – end design result – how the whole collaboration went on, etc…
I would actually choose two projects. The first one would be the identity for the Watch.Swiss – 10-year worldwide exhibition commissioned by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Why this one? Because it was quite a challenging project, my first one in the watch industry field – with a lot of barriers – ‘not to do’s’ in the brief. The client aimed for a very traditional identity and I was willing to push things further because for me what is making Swiss watches so renowned worldwide is indeed its traditional long-term manufacturing and know-how but also all the creativity and technical advancements they put into it. So, I’ve decided to work on two completely different identity routes – 1. Traditional; 2. Contemporary with a dynamic logo; and after defending these two routes in front of the client, they were convinced to move on with the contemporary one.
The second project is the logo/identity for a new artist called NEA commissioned by the Swedish music label Milkshake, a division of Sony Music. On this one, it all went quite fast and easy-going with the label and I’m super happy about the result. At that time in August 2019, it was my first collaboration with the label and since then, we did a lot of projects together, so I’m grateful for their confidence!
Fail is just an intermediary step to win.
PT How would you describe your starting approach to a new project? What ideas or projects do you normally find yourself drawn to?
GP Following the brief, I start documenting myself on the client and their needs and also scheduled a call, firstly to meet and share thoughts on the brief and beyond. This human contact even if it’s through Zoom is super important for me, it is really what launches the project. A well-written brief is great, but having the client resume their needs with his own words gives you so much more and fills the missing in-betweens.
Currently, I receive a lot of type-driven projects, but I’m open to any kind of graphic design work. I also really like collaborations in general with other designers and/or artists, mixing disciplines and sharing thoughts. You learn a lot from other parties.
PT How did you get into type design?
GP I was confronted indirectly with type during my childhood/teenage years, when taking the railway from Thalwil to Zurich for school. I was always in admiration of these clean blue railway station panels with white type on them. But the real interest came when I started my design studies with Typography history and all the exercises that came with it. It was also at that time I got to create my first, basic typography based on an 8x8 square grid, with each character being shaped into that frame with some rounded angles and corners.
And In 2018 after friends told me to definitely move from Facebook, I deleted my 5-10 holiday and whatever pictures on IG and started posting stuff on Instagram with the hashtag weekend crap. First, some posters, shapes and very quickly I got to draw abstract letters, words and it challenged me to go further and further. I liked the fact of that weekly challenge I had set for myself where I had absolutely no constraints and no pressure. These weekend crap posts made me even more fall in love with letters and all the sensitivity and complexity you can put into them to give them any type of rendering, a bit like a person’s character.
P.S. A lot of people asked me why I named it ‘crap,’ at that time I think I chose that word to make it less serious, to enhance the fact that it was just all about experimenting.
PT Before you begin working, how do you like to prepare for the day ahead?
GP Most of the time, I like to plan the next day the day before in the calm of the early evening or sometimes night. Doing a to-do list with priorities and also pre-writing/answering some emails, that I can re-check the other day and send out. On the day itself, I used to dispatch my working days into blocks, to vary the projects and avoid being on the same work the whole day, it also brings a certain form of intra-project stimulation. Of course, this is possible when there is no rush on deadlines.
PT What piece of advice has helped you throughout your career?
GP Fail is just an intermediary step to win.
When your project isn’t being selected or you fail a design pitch or contest, you can sometimes take it too personally, you can doubt yourself and it can hurt. Take a step back, question yourself why it has failed, move forward and then try again.
PT If you could only use one typeface and one colour, what would they be?
GP I would say black, even if some people would argue that black and white cannot be qualified as real colours.
Hmm, it is a good question, some of the typefaces I like go a bit with trends, so I would rather choose a timeless one that could do the job for nearly everything whether it’s for now or in 20 years. A grotesk or a serif sounds like a secure value. Let’s go with Helvetica.
PT Are there any designers or studios that particularly inspire you at the moment?
GP Of course! It is difficult not to list all the people/studios that I admire and inspire me. Here are some of them…
Alex Valentina, Blaze Type, Charlotte Rhode, Daan Rietbergen, DIA Studio, Dinamo, Eric Hu, Felix Sandvoss, Floriane Rousselot, Folch Studio, Giliane Cachin, Han Gao, Hoang Nguyen, Horah.inc, Hugo Blanzat, Jacob Wise, Jaeho Shin, John Sampson, Laura Csocsan, Leonhard Laupichler, Lucas Hesse, Massimiliano Audretsch, Michael Clasen, Naranjo-Etxeberria, Nolan Paparelli, Obby & Jappari, Offshore, Pauline Le Pape, Sophia Brinkgerd, Studio Nari, The Rodina, Tim Lindacher, Virgile Flores, Vrints-Kolsteren, Zoo…
PT Looking forward, have you set any goals for 2023?
GP On a personal basis, complete my move back to Zurich by finding a flat and then an office place to work :-)
I used to row when I lived in Zürich a few years ago, so retaking rowing courses wouldn’t be bad. Sounds cheesy, but I want to get that sensation back when you go on the lake early morning in the Summer.
Job-wise, trying to achieve the unachieved personal projects of 2022. Let’s speak again in December 2023 if I managed to do them, haha.
|Graphic & Type Design|