Virgile Flores details his genre-bending, boundary-pushing approach to graphic design
Based in France, Virgile Flores is a boundary-pushing graphic designer with an international client list; ranging from brands like Adidas and Givenchy to superstars like Post Malone and Shaun White. We caught up with him to not only find out more about his work itself, but also his way of working and the intricacies behind it.
EM Hi Virgile. How’s 2021 going so far?
VF Hi Elliott, thanks for having me :) So far I can’t complain. Obviously it is a bit hard to be inspired because we can’t go outside our bubble and find things that make us want to work and create. But having only that problem at the moment is not a bad situation.
EM Has being stuck indoors changed the way you work?
VF Not really, I never really had an office for the moment, and I’m used to working at home so that’s not something that changes me. But my work like anybody else I guess is fueled by what happens outside. Being able to move forward without that fuel is hard. That never-ending transition feeling is heavy to carry.
Why don’t they use that space for beautiful things?
EM Can you pinpoint how you first developed an interest in graphic design?
VF Yes, I think there’s two particular moments I can remember. The first time was when I was a kid/teenager. I was living in the countryside of France and on the road to school there were many billboards with ads that look like crap on them. And because there was nothing else to look at I had the feeling that I was almost forced to look at them. And I was like, why are these things so ugly? Why don’t they use that space for beautiful things? Now when I’m thinking of this it is resonating. I think we all have a responsibility concerning the audience. We owe them respect. We are not working FOR the clients, we are working WITH them, FOR the audience.
The second big step was when I was studying Sports Management and I spent more time doing presentation layouts and finding typefaces than doing research for the projects. I loved sports but I thought that was a mistake to force myself on that path, with a lack of interest and talent. I decided to stop everything and start my studies from scratch.
EM How did you get your start in the industry?
VF Like everybody else I guess, through internships and first jobs. I got some huge help from the studio Golgotha, where I did my last internship and who gave me my first freelance jobs. These guys pushed me and led me to meet and work with amazing people. Meeting people is key. Otherwise, you just have to trust your work and be patient.
EM How important do you think it is for designers to do internships?
VF Internship or not, I think the solution is to meet and work with other people, no matter in which creative field btw, because it both fuels your own practice and makes you meet people you might work with afterwards. Or these people are introducing you to other people. The key is just to meet people. An internship, in my opinion, is just one way to do it.
EM How did you find yourself working with brands like Maison Margiela?
VF Like I was saying, by meeting people. It works like fractals, the more people you know the more you meet, the more opportunities you have.
EM Who would be your dream client to collaborate with?
VF I’m quite happy with the collaborations I had so far, I would love to be able to stay in that same vein. Goals are more led towards mediums rather than clients: set design, products, more videos etc.
EM Your work, particularly the typography, feels inspired by the worlds of heavy metal and punk music. Is that true?
VF That’s the first time someone mentions that about my work but that doubtlessly is an influence! Like a lot of kids in the 90s, I’ve been drawn into Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtracks, NOFX, Gojira concerts, Metallica… I’m definitely not a hardcore expert but it’s part of my culture.
But I feel I’m just more inspired by unusual shapes and characteristics, it probably comes from some punk collage things I’ve seen but also torn posters and flyers, bad logos from industrial companies, that kind of stuff. There is so much personality coming from naive design or accidental things, it just feels alive, and that to me is very refreshing.
A good example of that is one of my favourite Tumblr: soixante-millions-de-graphistes.tumblr.com
Which is a page where you can find awful posters made by amateurs for small rural events in France.
EM It also feels distinctly layered and tactile, which is quite different from the flat and clean design we’re accustomed to. What do you like about this approach?
VF Think it’s the same reason as the previous answer. I’m just trying to push things until they get unusual or at least interesting. I’m really trying my best to show things that are not typical. I don’t achieve that every time but that’s definitely a goal. And in a way, I’m trying to get there is by these accidents, the layering, the multiplication of things, the complexity.
I’m going with the flow because I want to preserve my health and inspiration.
EM What does a typical working day look like for you?
VF I’m lucky enough to be able to have a very fluid schedule. When I can, I work when I want to, when I’m eager to put the work in. It can be during working hours, at night, during the weekend, I don’t really care and it doesn’t really matter as soon as I’m happy with the work I’m doing. I’m going with the flow because I want to preserve my health and inspiration.
EM What interests do you have outside of design that inform your work?
VF Obviously, being in a sport-studies program, sport was a big part of my life, it is less now but I still have a strong connexion to it. Otherwise, I’m a lot into movies and documentaries (watch Icarus) and I’ve been obsessed with Attack on Titan SNK these past few weeks.
EM What skills would you like to learn that you haven’t yet found the time for?
VF Right now I want to focus on what I’m good at and try not to stay in things and aesthetics, but work with people with great skills on things I don’t, like 3D, photography, illustration. But I think video is a medium I really want to dig in.
EM Who do you look up to in the creative world, and why?
VF There’s a lot of great projects in this industry but the more I go the more the people I look up to come from other spheres than the one I’m working in. I think my favourite spot to have some creative energy are museums because you have both full-scale images/objects and context. Each feeding the other.
EM Are there any museums or exhibitions, in particular, you’ve been inspired by?
VF At the moment not really, unfortunately. The last slap in the face was a Cy Twombly exhibition at the Centre Pompidou a few years ago. Otherwise, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris is always a go-to.