Interview with Tom Uferas

République Studio is an award-winning creative direction and graphic design practice based in Paris. They work with local and international clients across a diverse range of platforms and disciplines, designing brand identities, signage, publications, magazines, posters and websites. We caught up with Tom Uferas, founder and creative director of République Studio to talk about design, creativity, and living and working in Paris.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m the founder of République Studio, a Paris based creative direction and graphic design practice. We work with art, culture and commerce industries, with people we love and collaborators who understand our way of doing graphic design: minimalist, straightforward with strong concept, simple, font oriented and humble. 

In no particular order, I love design, typography, black and white, having long dinner with my old-time friends, watching my kids growing, wasting time on Instagram, organized spaces, mökki life and sauna, minimal architecture, cooking with my wife, collecting music tracks, go to the beach in Bretagne, playing tennis, silly jokes, family time...

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Paris. When I was born, my parents used to live in Pigalle. I have some really good memories there, especially at the Love Burger (doesn’t exist anymore) where we often ate with my mum. French fries with ketchup is a real pleasure when you are a kid :)

After I turned 5, we moved to a little city in the suburbs of Paris, to enjoy bigger spaces and green atmosphere. This was the perfect spot for fulfilling childhood. 

When I became a teenager, we came back to Paris, in Le Marais, which was quite different than now. I met there a lot of my friends that are still very close to me. We spent time skating in Bastille, chilling in the hood or hanging out in rue des Rosiers, where one of my best friend used to live. 

After I graduated, I took a flat by myself in the north of Paris, in the 18th arrondissement. Just up Château Rouge station, above the hairdressers street. This area of Paris was just perfect for beginning my life away from my parents. Lots of bars and a very active nightlife. 

I’m now living with my wife and kids in the East of the city, near Buttes Chaumont parc, which is a quiet and very family-friendly neighborhood. Perfect for our lifestyle. 

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in graphic design?

My father is a photographer and totally crazy about art and culture. Every week-end, we spent a lot of time visiting museums and exhibitions, with him and my sister, in Paris or wherever we were. I think that art education brought me naturally to graphic design. When I finished college, I remember my parents pushing me in that artistic path, so it was quite natural and obvious. 

How would you describe your creative process?

Because we are doing a lot of different kind of projects, the creative process is not necessarily the same each time. We don’t have any secret recipe. It might begin with a font, with an intuition, or with a concept. But most of the time, we work on the big idea and then we go in the details. We try to define the big picture, what kind of stories we want to tell, and then pick the right tools and fonts to tell it.  When we are confident enough in our concept and the way it looks, we share it with the clients and make them participate. 

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

Paris is quite animated and hectic so I think it has obviously an influence on your mood and so, on our way of practising our work. We are very active and work quite fast. Any project we do never takes more than 6 months. It’s nothing compared to architecture for example. 

Because we always work a lot during the week, it’s important for me to go outside Paris as much as we can during the weekends or holidays and breathe some fresh air and relax. 

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

Working: Not sure if it’s about Paris but maybe more about French mentality: Sometimes, people are really into doing long-time meetings when a short email could say the same thing.  Living: Because I’m impatient, I hate traffic jam and unfortunately that’s something you can’t avoid in Paris, except maybe on a Sunday morning in August :) 

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?

We can’t complain, Paris is really focused on art, design, fashion and culture! The city has plenty of cultural institutions which are organizing amazing exhibitions and events. Also, there are a lot of different communities which participate to that effervescence. Paris is known for this and that’s really true. Living here is a blast for someone interested in culture. 

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the artist/creative to improve the quality of people's lives in their city?

I’m not sure that we, as graphic designers, can really improve the quality of people’s living. But we can participate to more clear and comprehensive messages in the city, designing good signage and signs all around us. We can try to make life easier and help people to focus on other things than finding their way in the metro or at an art fair for example.

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

We just finished the signage system of an upcoming exhibition which will take place in Musée Maillol. It’s all about big fonts and bold message so we are quite excited with this one. Especially because we are using a new typeface which is not released yet and because the museum team have great trust in our skills so they just let us do what we like. It’s very pleasant for someone who loves fonts to see them live on a very big scale!

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

Fewer cars, more fresh air, more parks…

Describe the perfect day for you in Paris.

Going to the Sunday market in Place des Fêtes with my family, smoking salmon in the courtyard, having a good lunch with friends and then spend time outside on a sunny afternoon. 

What do you do to switch off?

I go to Britain to my grandmas' house. 

What does home mean to you?

I’m not a really possessive person so I would say anywhere I can rest, feel safe with my family and empower batteries. 

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?

We live just behind a bakery so every morning I smell the odour of freshly baked bread. 

What is your favourite time of the day?

For professional stuff, I would say around 9am when I am alone at the office. Quiet and no rush yet. For personal stuff, let’s say 9pm when kids are in bed and we are going to have dinner. 

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

It would probably be Helsinki for many reasons. The main one is that my wife is from Finland so we go there very often. Also, I really appreciate the quietness of the country, the respect between people and the enormous amount of nature. And Scandinavian design is close to our approach. Simple, elegant and strong. 

PARIS BY Tom Uferas 

A selection of places in Paris - recommended by creative director and graphic designer Tom Uferas . See all of Tom's favourite places here

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