Meet Design Duo Julien Martin
Julien Martin (@julienmartin) is the Alter Ego of Julien Arts and Martin Lorenz. The Dutch-French-German-Spanish duo create artwork, live performances, installations, exhibitions and publications.
Interviewer Todd Berger (@todd) is Ello's Co-Founder & CEO, an explorer of mountains, forests and streams and the Berger of Berger & Föhr.
Todd: I love how you explain the beginnings of Julien Martin as, “a fun game, a visual version of Chinese whispers played with smartphones…” Can you explain in more detail how the project and body of work came to be?
Martin: When TwoPoints.Net wasn’t yet a design studio, but a platform for collaborative art projects, I developed with my friend Joachim Müller an online game we called “chinese whispers” and it worked exactly like the children's game “chinese whispers,” but visually. One could download an image from TwoPoints.Net, change it, and upload it again. The site showed then how the story evolved. Very entertaining. This must have been around 2001. I just had graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague and started to work as a creative director. This is when the project really took off. Everyone at the office started playing it on a daily basis. Then, for some reason I do not remember, we stopped. Probably because we had concentrate on making money again. Ten years later, Julien and I revived the game and had visual conversations through illustrations we drew on our smartphones.
Todd: How did the two of first meet? Was it like love at first sight? What does Lupi think of your collaboration?
Martin: You should ask Lupi. Hahaha. Looking back, I think it was love at first sight. Julien and I met in 2006 at a workshop I gave at the Willem de Koning Academie Rotterdam. A year later Julien was sitting at one of our desks at our office in Barcelona. When he went back to the Netherlands, it was clear that we had to find a way to keep on working together. In 2011 Julien Martin was born.
Lupi: I was not in Rotterdam in 2006 but I remember a very cool final (of the workshop) project, printed black on different papers and bound with matching colors of different rubber bands, which I kept to show my students.
Then in September of 2008 Julien came with Melanie (another very talented ex-intern, check out stillsandstrokes.com) and it was continuous fun. I remember so well the date because we moved to a nice bureau alone and Julien (a big and funny boy) helped with the moving... he even got caught in the new building without a key for one hour! Julien will be always our "chaval" (Spanish for young boy). I remember how he danced to crazy songs, our bureau hit was Lokomia, a crazy song from the 90s in Spain.
Later on, when he was not anymore with us, he sent Martin a t-shirt (handmade) and chocolate to me (you can see here how very clever he is, hehe).
Martin and Julien have in common that graphic is their job but also their hobby. If we go alone to a café I will be reading but Martin will do typefaces or just doodle in a notebook. So they start this funny game (since Julien does not have kids he dedicate more time to it) and I'm impressed (but not surprised) at the cool things they do with such restrictions. Afterwards the idea came up to create a fake character and undersign each job in his name and well... they got to involve a lot of creative crazy people like Leo Ureña (ex-student of ours), Cesar Segarra and others in their game.
Todd: You kicked Julien Martin off in such a simple and brilliant fashion. The playful, carefree approach to minimal graphic design totally appealed to me. Yet, from the beginning it all felt so considered. Did you consciously settle on your current style - was it intentional? Or, was it an evolution? More specifically, did one of you say, “OK... I’ve got it, chubby, squiggly vectors, gradients, patterns, material masks and photos…” that’s it, let’s party!” Or, what? How did it come about?
Martin: Hahaha, no, there is nothing planned about JM, except of course the limitations we gave ourselves, just to use the iPhone or iPad. Our style just naturally evolved. We inspire and motivate each other a lot. It really is surprising to see when Julien comes up with something I didn’t know was possible with the (sometimes) crappy apps we use, and this then motivates me to try something new myself, which would surprise Julien.
Having fun with what we do with JM is essential to us. We have our daily jobs, which are fun too, but far more rational and considered. JM is the opposite. JM doesn’t think, he does things. He is much more emotional, intuitive and impulsive than we are allowed to be at our daily jobs. We even signed an agreement, saying “Julien Martin is about fun, creative exploration and the synergy between Julien Arts and Martin Lorenz.” The day that JM feels like job we quit.
Todd: Where did you think Julien Martin was going when you got started? Where do you believe it’s going now? And is it going “there” on its’ own, or are you moving it “there?”
Martin: As I said earlier, we do not want to plan our future, but there are lots of things we would love to do, but do not have the money or contacts to be able to do so right now. We would love to work more with fashion, interior and industrial designers to apply our graphics to objects or spaces. We see a lot of potential in this direction. Who knows, maybe the mighty Ello network will help us to find the right people to work with.
Where do we come from? I don’t know, and I am not sure I want to know. Our motivation comes from the things we haven’t done yet.
Todd: Both of you are incredibly productive. How do you split your time between your studios and JM?
Martin: We do not think about what we do when. If we would, JM would become a job. We just work on JM when we have the time and feel like it. The good thing about being two is that the other can take over if one is too busy.
Todd: Whose work do you find intriguing today? Why?
Martin: I really like Na Kim’s work, which makes me want to mention Karel Martens too, who makes me want to mention John Baldessari, who makes me want to mention Sophie Täuber-Arp, who makes me want to mention … There are many more whose work I love. I guess it is the transition from reality to fiction that interests me.
Julien: I really like Stephan Ormandy's work, which makes me want to mention Maarten Baas too, who makes me want to mention Sterling Ruby, who makes me want to mention Raf Simons, who makes me want to mention … There are many more whose work I love. I guess it is the transition from art to fashion that interests me.
Todd: As fellow graphic designers, what do you think of Ello? What do you love about it? What don’t you love? If we gave you Ello for a day or a week and said you can do anything you want to it, and you had the resources to do it, what would you do?
Martin: Ello is our most important social network. No other network has been that supportive. The crowd you were able to gather at Ello is great. There is nothing other than love coming from Ello. Apart from that, the way the content is displayed is great. Huge images and a pretty design which helps the works to shine.
What I would change if Ello would be mine for a week? Nothing...but I might revive “Chinese Whisper 2.0” as a side-page of Ello for everyone who loves a visual battle. ;)
Todd: I hope Lucian and I can collaborate with you one day in the future on something crazy and conceptual. What do you think?
Martin: Anytime! That would be awesome!