Interview with Sarah Kahn

Sarah Kahn is a French art director and designer based between Paris and New York. Her work mixes commissioned projects for a wide selection of clients in arts institutions, cultural events, brands and magazines. Inspired by the worlds of visual arts, sociology and innovation she is constantly experimenting with new perspectives and artistic collaborations.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a Paris based graphic designer and art director. My work mixes commissioned projects for a wide selection of clients in art institutions, brand identities, cultural events and entertainment.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Nanterre. 10 minutes from Paris, but before I was 18, it seemed like a galaxy far, far away.  

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in Graphic Design?

I’ve always been more attracted by images than words. They’ve always seemed more relevant to me. And I needed to find a way to express myself as an artist and finding a job, so graphic design was the perfect match.

BRIGITTE - Identity Design and Artwork

How would you describe your creative process?

It depends on the project. In editorial design, I always first read religiously all the articles. Then I make a large list of illustrators and photographers and I stick them to the wall before brainstorming with the chief editor. Then I brief my team with ideas and we build together the magazine. 

But in branding, it’s totally different. It’s a lonelier job. In the beginning, I’m trying to take some distance with my screen before sketching some ideas and shapes on paper. I love that crafty creative process before making something clean and presentable for clients.

Does your city and surroundings influence you as a creative and individual? 

Not really. Paris is not a source of inspiration in my work. But as an individual, despite all my efforts, I continue to be a hardcore Parisian.  

What do you struggle with the most in terms of working and living in a city like Paris? 

There is no talent agency for art directors in our field! This is a huge difference with New York where there are excellent agencies, who really know how to manage us and what we’re looking for. 

MK2 Store - Art Direction & Visual Identity

The responsibility of the council in every city is to provide a solid foundation of design, art and cultural facilities, is that evident in Paris?

Yes, Paris is full of museums, art institutions, excellent art schools.. it’s one of the best cities for creative people.

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the designer/creative to improve the quality of peoples lives in their city?

Yes ! More than ever, designers have a huge responsibility with cities aesthetics. When I travel around the world I’m sad to see that many big cities look like each other. There’s a sameness, a graphic and interior design monoculture to it like reclaimed wood, fake rustic wall, same pastel colours everywhere, cheesy coffeeshop logo etc… Hyper-gentrification is not a fatality if we really try to improve the quality of people lives in their city. 

Can you tell us about any current or future projects that you are particular excited about?

Currently it’s America magazine and for a very personal reason: I lived in New York last year and I arrived the day Trump was elected. It was a shock and I felt helpless to not be able to vote.

So when I came back to Paris a year after, I was offered a job to become the AD of this magazine created by François Busnel and Eric Fottorino. Its concept is unique: 16 collectors luxury issues during the 4 years of Trump Presidency seen by the greatest American writers. I immediately jumped on this great opportunity cause it was the best way to get involved by doing what I love the most: Editorial design.

America Magazine - Art direction & Graphic design
America Magazine - Art direction & Graphic design
America Magazine - Art direction & Graphic design

What is the one thing you can’t live without in Paris?

Monoprix & Jeu de Paume museum.

If you could add or change something about Paris, what would that be?

Subway all night long! 

Describe the perfect day for you in Paris.

Walking on Sunday morning around the Bois de Vincennes Lake, and eating some pasta at le marché des enfants rouges.

If you could choose any artist/creative from Paris to collaborate with, who would that be and why? 

I love the work of the French screenwriter and filmmaker Alexandre Smia. I’ve just designed the poster of his last short film. 

I also admire the work of designer artist Matthias Kiss, I would love to collaborate with him one day.

La Dernière Nuit, Film Poster - Art direction & Graphic Design

What do you do to switch off?

Reading books. I’m trying to read every morning before work.

Sometimes people relate a specific smell to the city they live in or the place they grew up, does Paris evoke a personal smell to you?

The smell of the « poulet roti » (roasted chicken) and the groceries market, I know it’s very cliché but it’s really everywhere in Paris and each time I smell it, it makes me happy.

What is your favourite time of the day?

Very early in the morning, I like the way everything seems so quiet …and then chaos :)

If you weren’t living in Paris and could choose any city to live in where would that be, and why?

I already had my New York experience two years ago, so now I just want to discover the rest of the world. Rendez-vous in two years :)

FUTURE STUDIO - Design identity & Branding
FUTURE STUDIO - Design identity & Branding

Paris by Sarah Kahn

A selection of places in Paris - recommended by art director and graphic designer Sarah Kahn. See all of Sarah's favourite places here

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