There’s a beautiful sense of quiet confidence that underpins the work of Switzerland-based graphic designer and teacher Alice Franchetti. It’s all terribly, characteristically Swiss, of course: her lines are neat, her colors are impactful yet tasteful, her grids are proudly present. It’s little surprise that as well as teaching at ECAL, Franchetti studied there, having graduated in 2014; and her work in helping others become designers has intrinsically informed her own practice.
ECAL is a “unique learning environment,” she says. “So many events are organized so that everybody can build a very strong network that will be useful in the professional world. ECAL knows how to advertise and promote its students.”
Within and without the institution, she sees Switzerland as a pretty great place to be a graphic designer; not just thanks to its rich heritage in the field, but because such heritage has meant that “culture holds a very important place” in the wee country. As such, she attests that there are an unusual number of residencies and grants available—a boon for students and grads in giving them that all-important leg-up when striking out on their own. “You meet people of your field in the places where you go out, you create links and these people become your friends because the country is so small and so the circles of people are, too.”
Much of Franchetti’s work takes the form of designing publications for the likes of Montalba Architects, the Department of Education Youth and Culture, Le Musée de Elysée, and Swiss Federal Design Award, Momentum. What unites the work is the understated use of type, tasteful flashes of color, and deft use of patterning.
Despite her admission that projects with cultural clients aren’t exactly the best paid, Franchetti finds that it’s an area “where you can be the most creative and free.” While, of course, all designers have the odd bread and butter project that they might not show off in their portfolios, Franchetti has proven that it is possible to build a freelance career working with clients you’re passionate about.
Her work with architects has been especially valuable, thanks to the range of scales her work is applied on: her type treatments can stride off the page and onto applications like signage and environmental graphics. “Architects are people who have a lot in common with graphic designers—they work with clients, technique, and visuals,” she adds. Whatever the client though, Franchetti sees the best ones just as any designer would: someone passionate, and who respects and trusts the work you do. “The most important and interesting thing is collaboration,” she says. “No matter the project, it’s always amazing to immerse yourself in a completely foreign world and to get to know new people.”
Her type treatments can stride off the page and onto applications like signage and environmental graphics.
Now four years into a blossoming professional career, and heavily involved in helping future designers achieve the same, what does Franchetti feel is the most important thing her students should know? “That there is a huge difference between the school world and the world of work.” Indeed, she points out that the big bad world outside design school isn’t neceessarily what people assume it is. “You’re not used to the fact that people are not familiar with your world and interests,” she says. “You’re faced with clients who have very specific requests and don’t trust you. I really think graphic design is a social job and you must find collaboration interesting, even if sometimes you can be a little discouraged, you can always find solutions and do something good.
“All this takes time to set up, you have to be patient, Rome wasn’t built in a day.” And neither, of course, was Switzerland.