In a creative landscape awash with maximalism, “acid graphics,” and “ugly design”—all of which I personally love—sometimes you need something a little more classic, timeless, and understated to balance out the delicious lunacy and noise of it all. This is exactly what Paris-based graphic designer and typographer Margot Lévêque does beautifully, creating type designs that manage to look timeless while still maintaining a sense of freshness and modernity. These include the elegant typefaces Romie Regular and Kalice—both refined, stylish serifs that belie the fact that Lévêque only just graduated her with her Master’s in type design.
Even as a student, Lévêque’s professional life has been a busy one, with work for studios like Sagmeister & Walsh and &Walsh (which approached Lévêque to design a new ampersand for the studio’s launch), as well as internships with the likes of Paula Scher’s Pentagram team in New York, NBD. “I didn’t sleep a lot!” she says.
While we don’t recommend sleeplessness, things seem to have paid off for Lévêque, who has very much hit the ground running when it comes to her newfound freelance life, working with clients in fashion, music, and art. When we speak in late 2019, she’s collaborating with Parisian studio Choque Le Goff on a few projects, as well as working on a website design for a vitamin brand and a couple of editorial design pieces.
“Maybe it’s because of social media, but I think the image of a type designer is definitely more cool now.”
As her love of classic, modern type design hints, her passion lies in fashion branding—the sort of thing that needs to speak confidently, yet remain chic, calm, and very beautiful in terms of its look and feel. The other thing she’s very passionate about is the notion that each project needs not only a unique “mindset,” but the creation of a unique typeface. “It makes such difference for a brand,” she says, before musing on the recent “trendiness” of type design—something that was perhaps seen before as somewhat geeky, dominated by finicky middle-aged dudes. “Maybe it’s because of social media, but I think the image of a type designer is definitely more cool now,” she says.
Yet while Lévêque’s work can definitely be classified as “cool,” it’s resolutely avoidant of trendiness. “I love classic things like old books and type specimens,” she says, musing on how her style came to be. “My mother is in the fashion industry and has two clothing shops, and my parents are my biggest inspiration. They’ve always said that you have to pay attention to the details, and I try to do that in my work.”
The designer adds that she can only envision her career as being freelance, which is likely another parental influence. “I’m not really too good at following orders and directions, and I prefer to work on my own,” she says. “I think it’s in my blood, as all my family are independent in their work.”
Of course, it’s not easy to just leap into freelance life—especially living in an expensive city like Paris. So what tips can she offer to emerging designers? For one, it’s to do as she did, and get as much industry experience IRL as you can alongside studying. She also recommends being smart about how you approach people; with the Pentagram internship, for example, Lévêque contacted a previous intern on LinkedIn, showing him her work (which he loved, as it turned out) and asked for an introduction. Jessica Walsh, on the other hand, found Lévêque through her Instagram and Behance pages and approached her directly. After creating one of the many ampersand designs that launched Walsh’s studio, she ended up working on another exciting project with the team: an identity for Anna Wintour’s “How to Be a Boss” Masterclass.
“I design better if I know it’s okay to fail. And I’ve had a lot of failures.”
“Just put everything on the internet,” says Lévêque. “At least, that’s what works for me at the moment. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to send a lot of emails to get work, and it definitely helped to have a big name like Pentagram on my CV.”
While such placements and commissions might seem like pipe dreams for many student designers, Lévêque warns against the temptation to compare yourself to others, an increasingly tricky feat in the age of Instagram humblebrags.
Her biggest piece of advice, however, is to realize that failure can be a good thing. “Everyone is afraid of failure, but when I convince myself to just do something, I have more freedom in my work,” she says. “I design better if I know it’s okay to fail. And I’ve had a lot of failures.”