Bridging the Gap with Demande Spéciale
We had Guillaume Lavallée and Maude Turgeon of Demande Spéciale hang out with us and pass the time. We covered a lot of topics, but we kept revisiting this idea of Distance. Guillaume and Maude broke down what it means to be separated by space, and how that impacts the work that we make. We collaborated on a shirt that was informed by these thoughts, which can be purchased here.
MW: Maybe it’s just from an outside perspective, but it seems like Montreal has a strong design community, along with a look and feel that reflects that. Do you agree? Is it something you’re proud of, or trying to break free from?
DS: It’s interesting for us. It’s hard to say one way or another because we’re so surrounded and influenced by it. Montreal is a city with a lot of history, like many others. It’s adopted many peoples, and has become a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds and personal histories. The real strength of the identity of Montreal comes from this rich cultural pool, we think. There’s something interesting in being French but surrounded by Anglophones. It plays a role in how we want to celebrate and promote our culture. We are proud to be a studio from Montreal, but it’s certain that our aspiration since the beginning was to be inspired by all the work done at the international level, and trying to bring something fresh and new to the local design scene.
MW: That’s wonderful to hear. We see a lot of overlap between our two studios. We’re interested in hearing what are some of the benefits you two see in maintaining such a small studio practice.
DS: The first thing that maybe comes to mind is the possibility of saying no to some of these projects. It’s something we’re really unfamiliar with and still feeling out. We find ourselves still saying yes to most projects that fall into our laps.. Obviously a big point to be made would be in regards to the creative freedom we have with the work we make. We’re able to make what we make because we can stay true to ourselves and our values. That’s not always possible when you’re at the mercy of another agency or business. We both find it incredibly rewarding that we have the ability to wear multiple hats throughout each day. In the morning we can be an accountant, the afternoon a graphic designer, and a janitor by night. That sort of flexibility really allows us to perform our best while getting the work we need done. It goes without saying that we’d love to grow our team at some point, but we’re in love with the fact that we can decide who we work with and make sure we’re all on the same page. It makes everything easier and more fun.
MW: 100%. We love the fact that we all have multiple titles and roles within our practice. It keeps things interesting, and we’re always learning and pushing our boundaries. If we only ever did a single thing, I think we’d all get bored rather quickly.
DS: We feel the exact same way.
MW: You two have been working together for awhile now. Does Demande have an overall style? And how do your individual styles differ?
DS: It’s a hard thing to pin down. Since we’ve been working together for a little while now, I’m not sure an overall aesthetic was ever clearly defined. It seems more like a natural merge of what we individually like. We both do minimal, bold, simple, and colorful stuff. [Maude speaking] Guillaume has always been more conservative in his approach to design. Simple and clean. He’s weary of the message being lost in unnecessary elements. I am maybe bolder and more colorful. I’ve always leaned more towards experimental types and design than him. I’m all about balance. I can’t help it, I’m a Libra. But also thinking about contrast and how to be clever in my approach.
We think of our aesthetic as a reflection of our dynamic, which we’ve always described as a complementary duality. We’re very similar but in seemingly different ways. Despite that we never fight with each other! We have a very familial relationship. We trust and challenge each other in ways that don’t seem possible with other people, at least not to this level.
MW: I’m glad you mentioned trying to be clever in your approach to design. We’ve always been so impressed with the presentation of your work. There seems to be a desire to contextualize your creations physically. Why do you find this part of the process important?
DS: We really try to push case studies. It’s the one part of the project that we can really do what we want without answering to a client or brief. When we can, we try and take this opportunity to work with new collaborators. We work really hard on these projects, so even when they don’t go exactly as planned, we still feel the desire to bring them to life. We definitely don’t want to be cutting corners when it’s time to present them to the world.
MW: We find incredibly important, but also really rewarding, to be making physical objects in an age that is so clearly defined as digital. How something feels, how it interacts with its environment, all adds to the discussion surrounding the work, and gives it more meaning.
DS: We couldn’t agree more. We try to bring the essence of the brand to life in the documentation. This essence becomes more recognizable when it is physically manifested. We firmly believe that branding is not just the logo, stationeries and all that. Like you said. It’s how the work presents itself and interacts with its environment.
But mainly, we do it because it’s fun for us.
MW: Being in such an international design community, do you find yourselves using design to bridge the gap between those you work with that might not speak your first language?
DS: I think we do. We all seek simplicity and clarity in our communication. For us, a good design transcends culture and borders. What brings people together is a common passion. Design being a visual language, it can connect people around the world pretty easily. We’re always trying to work with more and more people around the globe, and design really is a tool to help us access people that we wouldn’t be able to under other circumstances.
MW: It makes sense then, that the shirt we made together was inspired by this idea of distance and travel. Design being the bridge that made it all possible. How do you guys think we can maintain an affinity with others despite being separated from a distance?
DS: It makes a lot of sense! We’ve never viewed distance as a barrier. Time zone can sometimes be more of an issue. With the tools all of us have, there’s no real excuse to not be connected with people from all over. As we said before, we don’t really believe in borders. Where we come from doesn’t affect the connections we make, the people we want to work with, and the friendships we can build.