Celine Strolz, Designer

Celine Strolz is a designer from Paris we've come to know and love. Her work is striking, as is her approach to her practice and her life. We love what she has to say about form and functionality, and the importance of content and purpose. Thanks so much Celine! 

What do you do?

I am a graphic designer, mainly printed matter. Occasionally I draw and colour things.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

One that I work by: don’t work with assholes.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

It is way too early to say!

When I decided to work as an independent, and received the letter confirming my official status, I was paralyzed. And the day after, I stumbled upon a post by designer Eike Koenig stating the eight rules he wrote to himself when he started HORT. Reading these « rules » was the first time I felt like I made the right choice, and that everything would be alright. My maxim actually comes from those rules. The first time I felt independent and capable, maybe that can be considered a milestone.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

Right now I am finishing up a publication with painter Nick Jeffrey and curator Carolina Ongaro which is coming out in May, in parallel to his solo show at Hannah Barry Gallery in London. I am also doing a publication for Larché Metzger, an architecture studio working in sustainable construction. We are also working on a complete makeover of their visual identity for the release, which should be launching at the beginning of September.

On a regular basis I work for the contemporary art gallery Lily Robert on their invitations and materials. And I am also working with Flofferz Magazine, an independent publication about fashion, art and culture. The second issue came out in March gathering a wide range of artists’ work around the question of conformity. We are starting to work on new collaborations for the third issue coming out in March 2018. And in the meantime, we are developing our Flofferz events to bring together active and creative people from different fields for future projects. I am very excited about this upcoming issue!

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Yes, a very strong one and since the beginning. My mother has her own architectural practice, having several employees, she managed to build something while having a family. I never felt like having both independence at work and a balanced personal life was an impossible challenge for a women, on the contrary. I was always surrounded by independent women creating and producing, it was an obvious goal to follow the same path and have my own practice. I work with both men and women of course, but until now the collaborations that have stuck the longest are mainly with women - curators, illustrators, designers. Maybe because we can drink red wine and talk glitter skirts while working.

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

I am a very slow reader. Two summers ago I read « Les Yeux bleus cheveux noirs » from Marguerite Duras without stopping once. It was so intense, I can not explain it. Plus the title is perfect.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I listen to a lot of music when I work, it gives me rhythm and stimulates me. Going from 90s French rap to jazz standards like Dizzy Gillespie, or any american folk singer with a guitar and a harmonica. But I have a habit of binge listening. I listen non stop to one song, or one artist until I cannot hear it anymore. Than I move on to the next obsession. I am not very good at discovering artists so I go round in circle sticking to the basics. Currently it’s Les Sages Poètes De La Rue all day long in my ears.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

As I mentioned earlier, I never felt like being a women would be an obstacle to my independence or my achievements. But I can see now that there is a huge gap in the field of graphic design between the number of female students in art schools, and the number of successful and well-known female designers. I can literally count them on one hand. The creative community is very open minded, so I don’t think it is a question of power between men and women. I feel like the problem is the image one has of a female designer, as if we could only do soft and poetic design. Very often the first question I am asked is « So you do like illustrations and stuff? ». Women are as capable as men to produce strong and powerful design, radical aesthetics and typographical images that have an impact.

In general, being a graphic designer is a very recent profession, existing for less than 100 years. Particularly in France graphic design is still dusty - not really understood or considered as a contemporary practice. Clients work with web developers, illustrators or communication agencies, but very few choose to collaborate with a graphic designer to produce non generic and sustainable work. I hope working with a designer will be considered more of an added value for a business than a risk.

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

Do you believe in witchcraft? The answer is yes.

What is your dream project?

Until now I consider all my projects to be important ones, they have been challenging in a positive way. I don’t feel that there is such a thing as a « dream project » for a designer. What would it mean once the project is finished, nothing better could be achieved after? Designing means constantly going beyond, starting over, it’s a perpetual renewal.

But in the future I hope to collaborate on more « commercial » projects, small businesses, brands etc. My work is focussed on the art and cultural scene for now, so it feels restricted to a certain community already sensitive to visual things. Graphic design, and nice things in general, should be part of everyday life and visible everywhere, to everyone.

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I am half German on my father’s side. I was raised with both French and German culture, but it’s definitely the German side that influenced me to become a designer. Both my parents are architects, so from a young age I was confronted by the concept of esthetics, especially to the creative approach led by the Bauhaus. Functionality, uniformity, structure. Very soon I developed a sensitivity for composition, and finding balance between forms and colors. It naturally led me to design.

What places are important to you?

Sea and sun is what makes me the happiest, like everyone else I guess. But I don’t have a specific place I go to when I feel down. I am very inspired by the dynamic and the hectic life of a city, especially London. While I was studying in Germany I realised that I am actually really attached to France, French culture, and French cities. I think I am just a regular « citadine », following the pulse of the city, and that might be where I am at my best.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

Research is the key! Until I don’t know every aspect of a project I cannot start designing. I don’t have specific tools like other designers, tools that you can use and repeat on any projects. My only tool is research. I collect information, content, often to much of it, and reduce it to the essential. Content naturally leads to form - it’s the only way to be true to a project. Your design skills should serve your project, not overshadow it.

How can we find out more about your work?

Website (under construction, but I keep posting images) / Instagram

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

Stevie Dix, she’s a Belgian painter based in London. I adore her work (to my friends and family, if you are reading this - perfect birthday gift).