Yorgo Tloupas, designer

Paris, France

Yorgo Tloupas is a busy man: founder of the graphic design studio Yorgo & Co, artistic director of Vanity Fair magazine. Yorgo also teaches the art of logo at Penninghen and curates the works of his famous sculptor father, Philolaos. We met at his studio, where he works with his team to develop advertising campaigns and corporate identity projects for prestigious brands: Omega, Loro Piana, Hotel Crillon, Ricard.

To begin, can you introduce yourself?

My name is Yorgo Tloupas and I am a designer. I say designer because that's what I declare when I arrive at the airport in the United States. If I answer 'graphic', firstly it is too restrictive, secondly it is unlikely that the customs officer knows what it is. If I answer 'artistic director' it's too vague: it could be artistic director of a film, a fashion brand ... So I answer designer.

My job is to 'design' things and make sure that their appearance is up to their function. It's quite broad: I design logos (which are my passion and my specialty) as well as magazines, books, the furniture we're sitting on right now, bottles of alcohol, and even a Greek coffee.

So now, I've been a designer for twenty years. I started my job in Paris then I went to London for 10 years before coming back 9 years ago.

Was it on your return from London that you founded Yorgo & Co?

Absolutely. Yorgo & Co, which is a studio and not an agency, is a way for me to do my job a little wider and efficient. I am fortunate to be surrounded by about fifteen talented people, led by my partner Emmanuelle Beaudet, who all make sure that my ideas can take shape efficiently and quickly. In fact, it's exactly the same structure as a product design studio. That's why Yorgo & Co is not an agency.

What made you want to adopt a studio structure?

Many reasons! First of all, my father who was an artist signed his first name and therefore had autonomy over his work - he did a lot of public art on order.

But above all, it's the fact that I worked alone for fifteen years and that the idea of ​​the studio was to increase the ability to respond to orders but always signing my name. When one puts one's name on a job, the relationship is completely different. Firstly, there is a much more personal exchange, and secondly it allows a form of authority on my part, an affirmation of my design principles and practices. Which is much harder when you are an agency that is only an entity. On the other hand, the design principles and practices of designers like Frank Gehry or Philippe Starck are clear. That is to say, when a brand comes to see them, they seek their design principles, practices and expertise. And that's exactly what I'm trying to put in place.

Here, we do not work for money, we work for pleasure and the desire to change the visual landscape around us. So we prefer to lose customers rather than do something we do not like. This is exactly the opposite of an agency.

Explain your job. What does a designer do?

My job is the shape and surface of two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects. But the quest is to bring nature closer to the form, not for perfection. In a way, we are very much inspired by natural forms. I do not bio design but our role is to ensure that human creations, whether it's a drink or poster, fit into nature as best as possible. I think that today the subject is very present, in the sense that pollution is more than pollution of materials such as plastic, but also a pollution of shapes, objects, logos, buildings. I try to make things look pretty and blend into this planet. So it's really a meagre fight, I will not 'save' the planet! But at my level, I try to make things harmonious.

Designer is a profession as old as the world. When you see the vases at the Parthenon Museum with repetitive patterns it is pure design.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Especially through the history of art. Greek vases, medieval heraldic symbolism and the renaissance are a clear source of inspiration for me. Craftsmanship also inspires me. Craftsmanship in the purest sense, the manufacturer of chairs, roofs, carpentry, boats - wherever there is know-how.

You drew the furniture for the studio. It started because you did not find what you wanted?

I grew up in a house where everything from walls to seats, tables and cutlery, absolutely everything was done by my father. So I will not deny that there is some form of inspiration on that side! (Laughter).

I wanted to go to a three-dimensional shape and it annoyed me to buy another Scandinavian sofa designed of someone else. These chairs, on which we sit, are not working chairs, but meeting chairs which we do not use for more than 2 hours! But it's a prototype and I know that the next version will be nickel. I wanted to do that. It's like when I'm told 'why Greek coffee?' Well, just because I wanted to. I'm fortunate to have a company that works pretty well so I can go on adventures like this. It's a luxury too.

Tell us why you chose USM

The choice of USM predates this space. It dates from our previous offices that were a little ugly (laughs), very 80s materials and we said to ourselves but how to make them more welcoming and more chic? We thought we would combine useful and beautiful design and our storage had to be USM!

Have you known USM for a long time?

It's hard to say how much USM is built into my architectural memory. I often go to the Alps, and at Geneva airport the entire car rental area is in USM furniture. I think it's great. Only in Switzerland! We arrive and everything is in USM! But I did not realise it was USM until I had my own furniture. 

I've always loved the rhythm of USM furniture: straight lines with the ball at intersections. It reminds me of bezier curves on Illustrator design software, my everyday work tool. Watch out, I become very technical! (Laughter). Bezier curves are lines with points at intersection curves. For me this structure, the line and point is very interesting.

This big white piece of furniture?

There were several pieces of furniture before, which served as separating elements between the different parts of our old office. It was used both as storage and separation, which made the two sides as beautiful as each other! It is a completely autonomous structure, architectural, which recomposes the space.

What do your visitors think?

It's pretty funny, I always say it's like some sort of sign of recognition. People who come and know the furniture give me a little wink. Others who do not know very often ask "where did you find it?" My response can come off a little pretentious - "I designed all my storage in USM and I have 4 times more!" (Laughs).

Is it addictive?

Literally. I know that I will not buy any furniture unless I can draw it myself. If we have to add other furniture here it will certainly be USM. 

There is a confidence in the robustness of USM, we can literally rely on it. A confidence that we do not necessarily have with furniture at home.

We warmly thank Yorgo Tloupas for his welcome. You can follow him on Instagram @yorgotloupas.

Photographs: Alexandre Moulard