Artistic directors Alice Bouchardon and Maxime Pirot run multidisciplinary creative Studio Ouam in Bordeaux, France. Specializing in the creation of memorable visual identities, they love to tell stories and – in collaboration with talented designers, developers, illustrators, and photographers – turn them into beautiful and cohesive brands.
Studio Ouam’s colorful style ranges from the minimalistic to the detailed, straddling graphic and digital design, print and packaging as well as iconography and illustrations. At the heart of the studio is a desire to work on meaningful projects that Alice and Maxime believe in, with clients that are just as passionate as they are about doing social good and improving people’s lives.
Alice and Maxime share thoughts about their design process, the role that storytelling plays in the development of a brand, and how they approach creating visual identities.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get to where you are today?
We both attended the same design school in Paris and had the opportunity to work together on projects quite early on, which was a lot of fun. After graduation, each of us landed jobs in big branding agencies and quickly realized we were missing something. As we were frustrated about never being in direct contact with the clients, it made us feel that too many intermediaries were killing the creativity. So when the opportunity of a first independent project came up, we jumped in and kicked off our own studio: Studio Ouam was born!
Storytelling is a crucial step in the development of a brand: it’s the brand’s soul. A good story allows us to catch the sensibility of the audience and gain its interest. This is what will differentiate the brand and make it unique.
What’s your design process like?
First of all, the most important part is to feel connected to the client. We invest our efforts in meaningful projects, led by passionate people, with a real will to change the world and make it better. That doesn’t only apply to the projects they pursue but also to their working process and mindset. For us, it’s the basis of a solid collaboration.
Once we have a good understanding of the client’s design brief and expectations, we can all work together on the brand message, storytelling and editorial direction. Then, when everything is approved by the client, we start creating visuals, supported by a bespoke team that fits the needs of the project: photographers, illustrators, copywriters, etc.
What’s your overall aim when you start a new project?
We always want to approach design in a playful way and create a universe that’s easily accessible to everyone. The more we succeed in reaching out to people with our work, the happier we are. We aim to make visual identities that are versatile and as exhaustive as possible.
This means not just creating a “cool logo,” but a full design system that can be applied to every medium without being repetitive. Design is not merely visual. It also covers experiences, words, spaces, ideas, facts, actions… We blend all these ingredients together when designing brands.
How do you go about defining a brand identity?
Branding is everything that can define the brand and the way it’s perceived by its audience. Designing a brand requires our commitment, but above all a commitment from the client. Sometimes it can be hard to make a client understand this when they approach us for “just a logo” or “a nice website,” and that’s quite normal. Educating a client is part of our job, as much as designing a logo or a graphic charter is.
If the initial thinking is relevant and accurate, there will be no problem juggling between print and digital, to retail and customer experience. We just need to identify and follow the essence of the brand. That’s why it’s essential to first think about storytelling, art direction and editorial strategy before you begin to create any visuals. Once we validate all of these, everything comes more effortlessly. That’s when we know a project is right and will work.
How important is storytelling in your designs, and how do you find the right stories to tell in the first place?
Storytelling is a crucial step in the development of a brand: it’s the brand’s soul. A good story allows us to catch the sensibility of the audience and gain its interest. It lays the foundations of our creative thinking. This is what will differentiate the brand and make it unique. In short, storytelling is what we need to build a consistent brand.
Generally, once we understand the project, know where the client wants to go and what they have in mind, the story comes quite naturally. It’s essential to keep an open mind, stay curious, and find interest in everything that surrounds us. It’s the key to crafting brands that generate interest and make a lasting impression.
What’s been your favorite project so far and why?
Each project is satisfying on its own, and that’s why our job is so exciting. Some projects affect us more than others, for sure, but when the client is truly passionate about what they do and there is a real understanding between us, the outcomes are far better. A full synergy is the key to the best results!
We especially enjoyed working on Pop for Gault&Millau, both because we love food so much, but also because of the mutual trust and understanding that led to a great result and shared satisfaction. Currently, we are working with a new client who is sourcing coffee, and it really is a pleasant experience. Their love for what they do is just deeply inspiring.