Judging by the volume and polish of his work, it’s easy to forget that the talented French designer Maxime Francout is still a student. A senior at the Université du Québéc in Montréal, Canada studying graphic design, Francout’s portfolio already swells with work for such companies as Herman Miller, Toyota, Threadless, and Urban Outfitters.
Francout’s first commission was a dream job of sorts. At 17, he was hired as a professional illustrator by EMI Music to work on the songbook for the French rock singer Mathieu Chedid. “It couldn’t have started better for me because I was a big fan of his music,” says Francout. The commission was soon followed by a project to create artwork for the book Skate & Street Graphics, which led to more editorial illustration work.
Playing with simple graphic shapes, a limited color palette, a lively medley of patterns, and various collage techniques, Francout’s stylistic range is wide. His illustration work recalls delightful graphics from the mid-century modern era, specifically that of Alexander Girard’s work for Herman Miller, and his latest experiments in photography and 3D objects present an updated take on Memphis-style graphics while also showcasing his growing interest in hand lettering and typography.
Influenced by the work of French commercial graphic artist Raymond Savignac, Francout’s exudes similar wit, cheer, and humor.
“It turns out that humor has always been a good way to get by in life and I think it shows in my work too,” Francout says, adding, “I don’t think you should take yourself too seriously.”
At times Francout uses his lighthearted touch to tackle serious topics like climate change, an issue he’s particularly keen about. To draw attention to environmental degradation in Canada, he created a set of postage stamps with sober vignettes of air pollution, denuded forests, and melting polar ice caps.
Francout is a frequent contributor to Anorak, the wonderfully illustrated “happy mag for kids,” where he gets free reign to experiment with designing games or illustrating stories. “I love the spirit of the magazine,” says Francout. “They trust me and I only have my imagination as the limit,” he says.
He has also since contributed illustrations for the Canadian children’s magazine Grilled Cheese, where he churned out groovy characters in all modes of music-making.
Despite a thriving career as a freelance illustrator, like many design school graduates Francout is set on finding that perfect first studio job. “My dream project would be to set up my own design studio,” he says. “But first I want to work in an agency to get more familiar with the business and benefit from the greatest possible experiences.” If the body of work on his website is any indication of what he’s capable of, to say nothing of his obvious work ethic, we expect studios will be knocking on his door post-graduation, not the other way around.