Morgane Vantorre on subtlety, sensibility and seeing design projects as a maturation process

We took the time to speak with Morgane Vantorre who is a twenty-two—year-old French type and graphic designer who has a penchant for drawing, shapes and letterforms. She’s currently studying an MA in Type design at École Estienne in Paris. Morgane draws creative inspiration for her type design from famous type designers such as Emil Ruder, Herb Lubalin, Wolfgang Weingart - she is also greatly inspired by other fields such as concrete poetry, painting, architecture and sculpture. Using efficient, minimal ways to evoke messages, Morgane describes her work as subtle and sensible. 

Tell us about your journey to becoming a graphic and type designer

My name is Morgane Vantorre, I am a twenty-two—year-old French type and graphic designer madly passionate and very curious. As far back as I can remember, I have always felt drawn to shapes and letters. As a child, I spent a lot of time drawing but also creating books with my drawings and my own texts. My teachers as well as my family said to me I should it keep up. I listened to them.

Naturally, after graduating with an honors in literature A-level specialised in Art, I headed towards graphic design studies first with a “MàNAA” (Foundation year in Applied Arts) in Lycée du Gué-à-Tresmes, and then with a two-year degree in Graphic Design at École Estienne in Paris. Today, I am still in Paris at the same school. In September 2019 I started an MA specialised in Type design.

In fact, I have never felt so fulfilled within my studies. I find something really fine, subtle, even magical in the letters of our alphabets which we use everyday to compose our words, our sentences, our minds. I’m always wondering how signs, or even abstract forms, can signify such immense meanings. What a cute lonely “a” can say to us? And what about its shape? Its combination with others pairs of letters? Its layout in the space?

I see Type design as an ambivalent discipline; it both speaks to our mind and to our intellect because the shapes materialise ideas while also stimulating our emotions through their visual characteristics. The power of the word’s meaning merges with the magic/poetry of its form. It is both a cleverness of mind and an “aisthesis” afair (vibrations/sensations) which makes me so passionate.

Where do you draw inspiration from to motivate your creative practice?

When I start a project, I immediately involve myself inside the subject by defining its concepts. Indeed, I try to think through images or shape associations but also by words. I need to understand the essence of the topic in order to be conscientious aferward. Thus, I place great importance to research (always an interesting stage that enables us to get into an intelligent position facing our project). Reading, writing and word mapping are essential stages of my practices. By the way, I think it is necessary to have both a practical and reflexive approach, in order to become actors of our work.

Next, I think by images, in the form of sketches, before I search for visual inspirations through my libraries – if I have to speak about my inspirations, I would mention famous type designers such as Emil Ruder, Herb Lubalin, Wolfgang Weingart but I also feel myself attracted to other fields such as concrete poetry, painting, architecture, or even sculpture! – and notes. I always make sure that the concept is as close as possible to the ideas and content initially placed in the spotlight. I do my best to make my creative process efficient, it doesn’t mean I want to rush myself.

I have an advice to give, I think I could say we have to first be very patient as well as “doubtful”. Especially when making a typeface - it takes a lot of time. We can’t make it in one go. I am convinced that taking a step back and staying in a doubt position is really important. I mean when you work all the time on one of the same shapes, you can’t see anything anymore at some point. At this moment, it is necessary to take a break, set the project aside and come back to it later with a new eye. I see any typeface or graphic design project as a maturation process. Like a little bread you shape and let it stand for a time aha! Taking time is the secret, besides giving a lot of love and passion.

How has your typographic style developed and changed over the years?

Describing my body of work could be a hard task. At this stage of my career, which is just at the beginning, I find it difficult to describe my style; but I am not really in that process since I accord great importance to research and experiment. I like to feel free to create without aesthetic boundaries. Shapes depend on what we want to communicate, not on our style, even if we obviously give a part of our own sensibility within each project, which generates a personal “color” to our work at the end.

I see each project I begin as something totally new, I do my best to always start from scratch, to make a clean break with what I've already made before in order to propose a visual answer closer to the subject. Anyway, I think my creative practice is a reflection of my personality. I am an organized person, in addition to being a perfectionist and hyper-sensible. Always researching for the purest shape, I use more efficient / minimal ways to evoke messages and concepts while paying a great attention to details.

Indeed, I think in objects as a whole (shapes, matters, and material conditions), and try to give a relevant and expressive sense to each element. In fact, I like to enable people to get several reading levels and surprise them through the littlest component. I think “subtlety” and “sensibility” would be good words to qualify my creative practice.

When did you start incorporating embroidery into your creative practice?

My mother found a new passion at the beginning of the year: embroidery. Already attracted by creative practices (like weaving or knitting) she found something very peaceful within this new activity which makes her very fulflled. As I’ve seen her starting to embroider some letters, especially from Sajou’s alphabets, I had an idea. Together, we thought about a fruitful collaboration which would link our two respective hobbies. What about if she embroider my own fonts? 

To achieve it, it was necessary to turn my font Arthemys Display Light into a new version which enabled my mother to translate its shapes onto a specific textile (named Aïda). This process requires a binary language, just like pixel on computer. Thus, letters are thought through point per point, meticulously assembled. It's not just about thinking of a whole vectorised shape where we only think about the outlines. It's rather a kind of thinking which requires to create the whole matter of the shape, like a lego play! 

Thus, my mother can easily build the different characters by following the grid of her canvas. The process is obviously quite long and requires a lot of patience, but she finds the idea to adopt a mathematical system to create a sensitive art piece very satisfying.

What are you working towards at the moment?

Currently, I’m finishing my last school year. The last push! That means my focus is on my thesis as well as my next diploma (planned in June 2021). My subject is named “Typographic space as playground”. To be brief, I focus my reflections on the relationship between our written words and their space. I'm wondering what happens to our reading experiences when we leave the codes of our language system to enter into a visual / sensitive system (image). And what about the meaningful power of the blank, the space of the page? 

Besides this I also work as a graphic & type design freelancer and I’m working on several self involved projects (typefaces, books, identities...). I always feel I have several lives aha. Being able to extend my days would be amazing! My project for tomorrow is to challenge and surpass myself, a little bit further.