Tuesday, November 17, 2015

An Icon of the 21st Century?

“If you are in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good fucking luck.”
John Oliver, presenter of HBO’s This Week Tonight

And so it has come to pass. Within minutes of the Paris terrorist atrocity the French graphic designer Jean Jullien had created his “Peace for Paris,” image that went viral in a matter of hours. Not only on the internet, this symbol of peace and solidarity migrated from Instagram to posters, flags, t-shirts, all the paraphernalia of the modern world.

As Jullien told Wired Magazine “I didn’t do any sketches. It was a reaction. The first thing that came to me was the idea of peace, that we needed peace. I was trying to look for a symbol of Paris, and obviously the Eiffel Tower was the first thing that sprang to my mind. I just connected both of them. You know, there wasn’t much work process behind that. It was more an instinctive, human reaction than an illustrator’s reaction… I’m sort of almost embarrassed to be getting that much exposure as a result of such a tragic event.”

Jullien grew up in the French town of Cholet and after gaining a degree in graphic design from the Le Paraclet in Quimperhe he moved to London study at Central St Martins and Royal College of Art a decade ago. He has since been living and working in the British capital.

With a distinctive black line illustrative style his production covers illustration, photography, video, costumes, installations, books, posters and clothing creating what he calls “a coherent yet eclectic body of work.” Which has seen him work for a wide range of clients worldwide from The New York Times to the London Underground.

As he told The Creative Review’s Mark Sinclair “When I create an image, be it for commercial or personal purposes, it is because I have a message to deliver. That’s the primary objective and everything that comes after is somewhat expendable. That’s why my work sometimes appears to be quite minimal or naive, because I try to stick to what’s necessary to be read and understood in the best way.

About the appropriation of the Peace for Paris symbol Jullien is quite relaxed.

As he says “It’s about people sharing it. It’s like giving birth to something and watching it develop a life of its own. You just have to learn to let go and see what it becomes. It’s quite a strange feeling. I’m just pleased that it’s found a use for everyone, regardless of their nationality or where they are in the world, in Paris or not.

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