antoine ricardou

architect, graphic designer, art director, narrative designer... interview with the co-founder of be-pôles, a gifted artist with eyes wide open.

what feeds you in your job, what is the source of your inspiration, the stories you tell in the course of your creations?
inspiration is a challenge. i notice that many people don't bother to go looking for it anymore, contenting themselves with looking at each other, in a reflex that is certainly reassuring but ultimately inbred and much too comfortable. to be strong, you have to be able to get out of this closed system and venture into other territories. literature, first of all, constantly opens up new fields for me. a book like zola's stunner is full of vocabulary points that are playgrounds, certain words - such as society - have meanings that allow me to draw new places in my head without seeing a single image. of course, there are also exhibitions, but - in this collective artistic food - you have to be able to look for and find the little thing, sometimes tiny, that will touch me. my wife is a graduate of the national school of gardens and landscapes in versailles. my last territory is nature. i'm particularly contemplative in difficulty, so i try to put myself in a situation that jostles me, it generates in me a kind of positive energy that then makes me want to produce.

what are the people or the artists who are references for you?
it evolves over time. in the pictorial artists, i would say cy twombly. i have in my head the images of a book - a house is not a home by bruce weber - we see the house of cy twombly, hanging on the cliff, we really feel the fusion between the artist, this place, his art; everything merges there to such an extent that we don't know who is the genesis of the other. Closer to my world of work is the illustrator rené gruau, whose imagery for dior is so well known. he's the brother of my maternal grandmother, I was told about him when I was younger. I discovered the extent of his production late in life, so impressive because of his characteristic signature. he has nourished my world with the strength of his line and his sense of colour.

what compliment touches you most in your profession?
to be told that one has the feeling that a place or a brand that i've accompanied has been there for 100 years. i'm for the permanence of things, i'm anti-fashion. i say that with a lot of respect for fashion and for trends that bring a completely necessary energy. i've simply chosen to stick to the foundations.

the city or destination that inspires or resembles you?
if it wasn't paris. then i would say chamonix. because i feel surrounded by stories, i feel like i'm living the mountain literature, being at the heart of the adventure. it's incredible to look at the peaks when you're at the bottom of the valley. it's such a city full of stories, such a powerful place, it's like a city drawn at the bottom of the mariannes' pit and looking up at the light, the exit. but still, i wish i could also answer paris, i continue to be amazed by the beauty of this city, by its stacked strata that make it what it is, by the trees that have been there for centuries. when i ride my bike, i confess that i sometimes feel like a knight on his mount, so exhilarating is the history of this city.
"Inspiration is a challenge. I find that many people don't bother to go looking for it anymore, just looking at each other, in a reflex that is certainly reassuring but ultimately inbred and far too comfortable. »
how would you define your way of being and living?
i try to make it as natural as possible, in the sense that i don't want it to be scripted. that's the condition of wonder, i never want to feel jaded. so i live with my eyes wide open, looking for inspiration, for a form of wonder that can be found in everything. we have to keep that part of childhood that allows us to touch the extraordinary. when I take a plane, I try to return to the state of childhood in which I was the first time I took off, to that form of candour and disbelief.

your favourite themes in your creative approach?
colour, for one thing, is a constant search, as the work of delaunay or josef albers still inspires me. typography too, helvetica is a theme in its own right, as are the serif typographies of the 18th century. I would also say the poverty of means, I think it's a tremendous constraint to start from little to finally generate a lot of energy. last but certainly not least for me, there is functionalism, the idea of working only in a will always linking form and function. zero decoration.

your reference visual identity? or the one you would have loved to do, and the one you would like to do?
in fashion, for me the most solid construction is hermès, in all that it entails. because the notion of identity goes beyond the visual universe. so at hermès there is total coherence from the logo to the seam and the fold of a leather. each point of contact is a brand experience in its own right. i would have liked to work with aesop, its founder is someone who inspires me a lot. they have this unique way of living with architecture, they dared to break free from systems by refusing decay at all costs. i would have loved to have been at the origin of a project like that, which is as much architectural as it is graphic.

your favourite graphic form?
my form is a homothety of the din format (deutsches institut für normung) generated from the ratio that is the golden ratio. I always start from this grid of formats. so we always come back to this notion of functionalism, to this need to associate form with function.

your biggest challenge as a graphic designer? as
I mentioned earlier, it's already a daily challenge not to fall into the trap of fashion.

your ritual in your job(s)?
sport and drawing: on the same level. I can't explain the mechanics, let's say that the elements are inscribed somewhere, they will be triggered at some point, it's my way of sortand way of structuring the data. one of my teachers told me: "an architect is an eye and a line". you have to know how to look but also how to transcribe things. to stop and look through the prism of drawing. it's my way of integrating what surrounds me, I know that if I stop and draw something then I will remember it for the rest of my life.
"I would also say the poverty of means, I find it a formidable constraint to start from little to finally generate a lot of energy. »
the graphic design that annoys you?
the one that's so fashionable, of course. the student portfolios that follow on from one another identically. it's like a kind of collective algorithm that governs everything, this mise en abime of graphic designers looking at graphic designers, looking at other graphic designers...

you trained as an architect, you've finally become a reference in graphic design, what other profession would you have liked to do?
zinging on the roofs of Paris, to be able to go to the top of buildings, to be allowed to build a hut above the roofs, to picnic while watching Paris, to be on the top at all times.

a favorite place where you usually find yourself?
on a rooftop precisely. at 9e chez be-pôles, at montmartre chez moi... I need to be at the top, it allows me to choose if I want to come down or not.

your favorite object? How much does it weigh?
I have two of them, a 5b pencil that's a bit greasy and a moleskine notebook a6 b6. I've been numbering my notebooks for almost always, I'm now at number 118.

What's important in your life?
my wife, my children, my family.

your objectsle gramme, what are they? how do you wear them?
i have the 43g ruler that i use all the time, it's on my desk, i roll it mechanically often... i also have a 23g brushed pyramid guilloché bracelet that i confess i don't wear all the time, i realize that i erase the points of sophistication over time.

What is your relationship to the object?
it's a beautiful question. i would say it's even a fascination. it's certainly not the ostentation that attracts me and even less the effect. it's the function of each thing that touches me. when it's used well and the gesture with it becomes perfect, then harmony is obvious. it's touching how an "ugly" object can become sublime in a context of work or use. this ruler on my desk, i've looked at it in its smallest details and i find it perfect. but it's when i draw with it that it becomes much more extraordinary. the more it's the function of the object.

if you could give a new form to itle gramme, what would it be?
le gramme is eminently solid, precious, raw. I would like to change its molecular structure to make it a liquid, just as precious as a perfume, in milliliters.
"It's a beautiful question. I'd say it's even a fascination. It's certainly not the ostentation that attracts me, let alone the effect. »
his accumulation
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