Conceptual re-evaluation: Balthazar Delepierre’s design exploration

The Brussels-based independent graphic designer Balthazar Delepierre (1993) is rightfully celebrated for his clean-cut, striking designs. Primarily centred around all things visual identity, his portfolio hosts an impressive mix of commissioned works in such a short period of time. Ever the busy bee, he’s got an exciting year planned ahead from collaborating with PointCulture, a new prêt-à-porter Parisian fashion brand and more to be announced. From familial inspiration with typography to finding his stride in style, the passionate visual visionary talks us through his portfolio.

At its core, how would you define your studio’s artistic intentions and vision?

I develop made-to-measure visual systems that help my clients become better seen and heard, utilising a holistic approach to visual design – both functional and aesthetic -, underpinned by a substantial period of research and strategy beforehand. I’m trying to keep it as simple and direct as possible, whilst conveying the intentions of the project visually.

Can you talk to us about your approach in general?

In my opinion, first impressions are everything with clients: the founding steps in the creative process are established together during the first few interviews. I regularly get the opportunity to collaborate on projects where graphically-speaking I have carte blanche, resulting in some pretty interesting conversations where we’re able to focus on the clients’ initial intentions and motivations. Sometimes, these debates drive us to re-evaluate the very nature of the commission – for example, shifting the focus from visual identity to a shop’s visual merchandising).

Alongside this discovery phase, I heavily rely on typography as a key visual tool in my design process: I find that drawing a custom-made alphabet is a powerful yet subtle graphic design method in itself, creating a noticeable impact on the conception of an identity. Typography carries a lot of historical baggage, yet can also be a pertinent way to express the intentions and desired aesthetics of a project. For example, I designed a one-of-a-kind family of characters inspired by large wooden printing press letters with Habemus Papam, a production and theatre art distribution office, incorporating it into their logo, stationery and website. Incorporating it into their entire visual graphic design identity. I tend to design using a computerg, but for this occassion I printed all of the stationery with Chez Rosi‘s risography. This printing process was foreign to me, but in turn inspired me to return to the workshop to experiment with techniques that are more physical rather than digital.

Habemus Papam stationary

Can you discuss the internal dynamics of your studio?

For now I work alone, but from time to time I get much appreciated help from interns when the volume of work requires it. I also collaborate with freelancers who are qualified in a particular technique for certain projects. More recently, I linked up with the very talented graphic designer Fanny Kruk in our bid to find La Cambre’s new visual identity with my two interns – students at this very school. This team effort between four is a working method that I’d like to put in place more often for future projects!

What about your studio’s name? Where does it come from?

Pretty simple: first name + last name + studio. I quite like the term studio as it doesn’t limit me to a single practice, and allows me to overlap with other disciplines where needs be – spatial design, video art, you name it.

Can you pinpoint a person, or a moment, that was instrumental in making you want to become a graphic designer?

I’ve always been inspired by images – I think that comes from the fact I grew up without screens. As soon as I entered a space with a turned on TV, I was literally sucked into the cathode-ray tubes – no exaggeration. All to say that when we were graced with our first computerin my house, I threw myself into it, putting together little videos of 3D modelling objects or creating virtual houses in video games. It wasn’t until my grandfather specifically asked me to use Helvetica when typing up an invitation to a family event that I discovered graphic design – especially typography – as a notable discipline in itself.

What are the challenges you face as a a graphic designer working in Belgium today?

Having to constantly re-evaluate the way in which we interact with clients is a real challenge. Technology and their needs are evolving incredibly fast and the problems that graphic designers had to respond to in the past are not the same ones we face today. I also have the impression that our role as designers is increasingly dematerialising, transformed into more intellectual and conceptual assignments that I find very exciting.

To you, what role should graphic design occupy in the community?

Designers have the fantastic task of cenceptialising the omnipresent elements of our daily lives, in both content, form and style. A pretty serious responsibility…

On a more personal note, how does your everyday inform your work?

Every time I leave work, I try to observe how my environment is changing. Street poster typographies, building constructions and new establishments are great sources of inspiration. My environment stimulates reflection, which leads to new methods to approach problems put forward by my clients.

What were your first introductions to graphic design?

Making stickers on Paint with my cousin.

Who were the first clients that took a risk on you?

I think my collaboration with the restaurant Amen was a real gamble for them. Having the opportunity to work on a visual identity for Michelin-starred chef Pascal Devalkeneer‘s new project, alongside Pili Colado and Hervé Yvrenogeau was magnificent, insofar as I was able to partake in the overall conception, from the moodboard to the production of made-to-measure chairs. A humongous bar made of travertine – a really beautiful project!

Who are some of your main clients today?

PointCulture with a lovely new challenge of rebranding their image. I’m also working on the visual identity of a new upmarket brand of ready-to-wear fashion in Paris, a print project based on Nijinsky and much more to come!

What work would you say you are the proudest of?

Without a doubt, my collaborative work with Ester Manas, a young stylist fresh out of La Cambre. We’ve worked together since her very first collections, all the way up to her most recent Big Again collection, which offers clothing to women of all sizes. This collection went on to be a finalist at the London-based H&M Design Awards 2018, and will be shown again at the next Villa Noailles project Festival International de Mode in Hyères. What’s really rewarding about our collaboration is the fact I’m able to intervene at every stage of the creative process, from handling the photoshoot and the website to designing the books presenting the collection, all whilst being given complete confidence and free reign. I hope to be able to bring this level of interdisciplinary creation into my future projects too.

Who would you say are your design mentors?

Graphic design isn’t necessarily where I look to for inspiration , even if I do have an intense admiration for designers like Mirko Borsche. I think cinema really shaped me to become who I am today, courtesy of Jacques Tati, Michael Haneke, Denis Villeneuve or even Peter Jackson at a younger age. Architecture and music are also rich sources of inspiration for me. I remain fascinated by today’s fashion world and its collaborative projects, like Nicolas Ghesqiuère for Balenciaga or Raf Simons for Dior, who in my opinion are some the best examples of creators redefining our present cultural identity. Inspiring and sharp, working in the industry today.

What does success look like to you?

On a more serious not, having the privilege of choice.

What would you say to the budding graphic designer just about to open his own practice?

Be confident in yourself, and be driven! Passion is your best ally when starting your career.