From Riso-printed calendars, book cover designs, and plant-inspired typography to silkscreened posters, it’s clear that designer Élise Rigollet’s is in love with the process. The recent grad may have settled in Paris to work after studying at Atelier de Sèvres and École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, but there’s a sense of the globetrotter about her work; the colorful pieces that make up her portfolio freely flit between various modes of design and numerous stylistic concerns, yet there’s a coherence, thanks to a predilection for playfulness and a sunny design disposition. Still, Rigollet insists she hasn’t found her style yet.
“Someone once told me that in graphic design, it’s not good to have a strong visual identity. You’re supposed to give shape to the client’s idea, not your idea of it,” she says.
“But it’s quite the opposite with illustrations; people recognize you for your particular style. I don’t have enough perspective to know if that’s true, but for now I focus on the thing I love: printed matter, whatever form it takes.”
This love of print has taken her around the world, from a printmaking course at Parsons in New York to working at Riso printing studio Risotto in Glasgow. “Working at Risotto was the best. Glasgow isn’t a big city, but the creative energy there is incredible,” Rigollet says. “Gabriella [Di Tano, Risotto’s founder] trusted me with the Riso printer, and I spent two months printing non-stop (with one or two big mistakes). Riso is one of those things that seems easy at first, and then as you print problems start appearing out of nowhere. By the end of it, as I learned each little trick, it almost felt like a ritual.
“I’ve been obsessed with Risograph printing since my exchange at Parsons in New York. They have a Riso printer with amazing colors. I love the imperfections and the texture of the colors; it makes the technique as poetic and unique as silkscreen printing, and yet it’s so much faster and costs less. It’s a treasure for anyone who loves independent publishing. Plus, it’s eco-friendly!”
Among the progeny of Rigollet’s passion for Riso is Under the Sea, a pair of zines printed in a calm yet striking palette of teal, blue, and black. Elswhere, her love of analog process manifests through silkscreen, like in the beautiful poster Lost time is never found again, and Sunset Park lithographic illustrations. Her combined portfolio of client work, self-initiated design publications, and illustrations form an impressive body of work for a designer who only completed her thesis about six months ago.
Her thoughtful yet bold approach to type design is shown in Typorello, a 2016 project in which Rigollet drew inspiration from conceptual artist Sol Lewitt. As well as drawing an entire alphabet, she also spelled out the words from a touching 1960s letter from Lewitt to his friend Eva Hess, and expanded the typeface into booklet printed using Risograph and silkscreen techniques. Another charming typographic project is The Plant, “an organic and funky font,” inspired by the magazine of the same name, created in collaboration with Joséphine Ohl.
It seems fitting that Rigollet’s thesis project was about a sense of place, or rather a sense of displacement. Élise in Wanderlust is the product of a return to Paris after five months in New York, only to find it “grayer” than she remembered. “I wanted to keep up the energy I had while I was away,” she says. “I was super interested in those nomadic designers who managed to mix their creative practice and movement, so that’s the subject I chose for my thesis. It allowed me to explore this idea of mobility for myself.”
A drive for discovery underpins Rigollet’s joyful and restless approach to creativity, one that ideally involves total immersion in a project or process. “I love that graphic design allows me to work across all those things—book covers, type design, lithography, Riso printing, murals—but I feel most comfortable with printed matter,” she says. “I’d say I’m most happy when a project requires me to really get involved and get my hands dirty, as opposed to creating behind a screen from start to finish. I still think that being present and engaging your mind and body is important.”