The sophisticated design world created by Loriane Montaner and Fanny Durand of French graphic design collective YAY is built as much on a deep love of the absurd and an appreciation for the power of surprise as it is on grid systems with vivid color, energetic composition, and playful typography.

Montaner and Durand, who both graduated from design school in 2011, cite the work of French studios Helmo, Brest Brest Brest, Appelle moi Papa, and Les Graphiquants as design influences, and also find inspiration from comic strips and otters. Otters? Durand’s answer comes back with a practically audible shoulder shrug: “Most of the time, we don’t take ourselves seriously. We love nonsensical situations. Otters are cute and clumsy. We like the way they move and eat.” This explains little about the collective’s design approach but illuminates the lighthearted world view that informs it.

The pair first met two years ago and formed YAY in February 2014. They decided to strike out on their own while working on an identity project for the Franco Folies La Rochelle music festival, which came together in one night. Montaner says, “We were playing loud music, Fanny was drawing, I was designing, and we realized it was time to sing loudly and stand on our own feet instead of working for others.”

After a 2014 summer road trip through eight Eastern European countries, Montaner and Durand sought in vain for a nice-looking world map to write and pin things on to create a tangible record of their travels. Not finding any maps designed to their liking, they made one themselves—a limited-edition adventurer’s world map screen-printed in blue and gold that they now sell along with a set of pins to track your travels. Though it references pulldown elementary school maps from decades past, it manages to look completely modern and fresh.

They continued to explore the world of printed matter, and produced an edition of 50 handmade pop-up books that interior designer Julie Teulé uses as a portfolio, of sorts, to supplement her website and social media digital presence. The labor-intensive project unexpectedly required the (cheerful and willing) client’s help in scoring, trimming, folding, and binding.

YAY’s comprehensive graphic identity for the RTT Workshops, a contemporary art exhibition featuring experimental designers Chloë DuPuy, Daym Ben Hamidi, and Anne Laure Desflaches, showcases Montaner and Durand’s skillful modular typography. Representing each of the three designers both collectively and as individuals, the system is multi-functional, adaptable and customizable.

Upcoming work on YAY’s horizon includes designing a video game app for the iPhone, expanding their online shop, and launching a micro-publishing house called KA—YAY (which sounds like cahier, or notebook, in French) that will produce posters, limited-edition books, and other printed matter. Happily for the rest of the design world, the YAY universe continues to expand.