Jean Jullien is a French graphic designer living and working in London. Originally from Nantes Jullien studied Graphic Design in Quimper before moving to London, where he graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2008 and the Royal College of Art in 2010. His practice ranges from illustration to photography, video, costumes, installations (including bonkers bar designs), books, posters, and clothing to create a coherent yet eclectic body of work.
One of this year’s Pictoplasma speakers, Jean presented an accompanying solo exhibition at the Neurotitan Gallery displaying giant laptops, iPads and smart phones playing animated loops that poke fun at our relationship with technology – specifically mobile devices. Describing the show as “a tongue in cheek take on devices and everyday observations that everyone can relate to Sylvie is a continuation from his exhibition Allo? at the Kemistry Gallery in London early last year.
Recently illustrating the cover of UK magazine Wrap, we caught up with the illustrator in Berlin to find out more about his inspirations, aspirations and latest music video for The Coward; an animated series of erotic encounters that reveal just enough to get your imagination working overtime.
Do you have any creative heroes? Who had the most significant impact on your career and desire to become an artist?
I really got into design and illustration with three people: Evan Hecox, Saul Bass and Raymond Savignac. Evan Hecox was the artist who was designing all the graphics for Chocolate skateboard. I loved his use of composition, color and the fact that he always worked his subjects in a series (due to the nature of the product, who was released for a team of six or seven pro skaters, each with their own deck). I also loved the fact that his work was destined to be destroyed as it was adorning a skateboard. The idea to make something practical beautiful is what fascinated me in design and what made me want to do what I do today. I love the challenge of practicality. Saul Bass and Savignac are amazing talents I was introduced to during my first very “industry oriented” degree in Quimper.
They made me realise that you could have fun and be clever in the most unexpected environment (namely: the commercial environment), and that you could communicate playfully. Playfulness is a mark of respect to the viewer in my opinion. It’s respecting its intelligence and try to challenge and engage him. Whether it’s through an image selling a product or just exchanging ideas, Saul Bass and Raymond Savignac were both masters at that game in my opinion.
Tell us about process behind creating the latest animated video for The Coward? Why did you decide to base it on this particular subject matter?
It started as a joke with my brother Nico (the musician The Coward as well as my work partner for all things animated) when we were brainstorming in a pub. I think we were reminiscing about how unsuccessful we thought our last video had been, despite all the time and effort we had put into it. We joked that we should go the easy way and do something that used one the three “things that sell”: Sex, Drugs and Violence. But we thought we should do it subtly, or at least as subtle as possible. So we thought we should go minimal and let people make up the scenes.
I love involving the viewer in my work, adding a bit of playfulness to the work, a bit of interaction. We did a first edit of the video were it was easier to “read” the bodies, positions, etc. but we thought that was too banal and enlarged the whole thing, abstracting it as much as possible. In the end, what I like about the video is that a lot of the loops don’t actually have anything vulgar nor figurative, they’re just shapes moving in a repetitive motion. The flesh tones and motion is what makes the mind associate it with a sexual content. Next up should be a narcotics-orientated video!
How has the experience of living and working in London influenced your work?
The population of London is fascinating. Observing everyday life in London has definitely influenced my work and made me want to connect to people more, by trying to create engaging social commentaries.
Describe a typical day…
Rising early, going to the studio, checking morning blogs, news and usually doing a self-initiated illustration to share on social networks. It’s really important for me, before a day of commercial work, to make time for a more personal piece. Round midday we have a lunch break with my three studio mates (namely Nico Jullien, Thibaud Herem and Daniel Frost), then getting back to work with more Nerf breaks than reasonable. After work drinks are often necessary.
Your exhibition at The Neurotitan takes your work into the 3D realm – something you mentioned you’d enjoy doing more of – how do you see your artwork evolving?
I would love to carry on working on large scale projects and public spaces. I’d love to design interiors and overall work more in the physical space. It’s a real test for any image maker, to see your ideas and work pass from 2D to 3D. Thinking and designing in two dimensions is comfortable in the sense that it’s like a beautiful mask, like make up on a face. You make sure that what you offer in this one angle of vision is as perfect as possible. But to try to cover what’s behind it, under it, below it is a whole different story. I love illustration but have always had admiration for sculptors in the sense that they were working in reality.
Can you tell us anything about the projects you are currently working on?
I’m working on an object with Case Studyo (to follow on from my previous answer), which is something I have dreamt of for a while! I’m also working with LINE, a Japanese social network to design 1,000 emojicons (for a JJ theme), a food show, a chocolate collection, a Disney collab, the communication for the national scene of Montbéliard, an ident for a french production company, the communication for japanese fashion label Édifice, more ads for TFL, an oyster wallet for them, a new hoarding for Byron burgers, a show about dogs to launch my book Ralf, a TV series spinning off my Allo? show, two collabs with big names I can’t mention, a festival in Norway and finally, an animated series which is a LOT of work but has my brother and I very excited. I hope people will react well to it, as it’s a brand new direction for us.