Computer ArtsInterview

Profile: Pascal Duval

Illustration, product design, typography and brand identity all feature in the portfolio of cover artist Pascal Duval. "I want to create a language that is made to grow with its client and its surroundings," he says about his broad range of disciplines.

Pascal Duval does not give himself a job title in the conventional sense, preferring instead to describe himself as "an image-hungry individual."

The 31-year-old's work as an art director at HCM (Hollandsche Communicatie Maatschap) for clients Sony, Levi's, Microsoft and Greenpeace led him to spend five-and-a-half years at ad agency bsur concepting, where he helped to set up the interactive unit.

"The agency had a different approach towards communication and therefore offered a creative platform to experience design both on and offline," he says.

Six months ago he set up on his own and describes Studio Le Pas Cool as "a multidisciplinary international creative taskforce, delivering communication concepts with a strong differentiating visual language."

Pascal's diverse portfolio includes examples of his work for clients from surf label O'Neill to illustrations for print and online campaigns for financial company Ernst and Young, as well as product design, a print campaign and movie for Davidoff. He also took on a four-year project to work on brand creation, print, outdoor, television and online campaigns, as well as clothing designs for the charity organisation oneMen.

Client concepts
"I like to focus on concept development, which can cover all of the disciplines I've mentioned," he says. "I want to create a language that is made to grow with its client and its surroundings, a language that can communicate on any level - in graphic design, fashion, furniture and moving images. Therefore it's possible and exciting to create concepts in styles, sometimes cartoon-like, sometimes very minimal or expressive."

On some of his jobs the degree of creative flexibility Pascal is allowed can shine through and show off his mastery for displaying varying levels of visual communication - from his free-flowing, street-influenced urban style for a youth debate program to the hi-gloss imagery used for tobacco company KANE NYC.

Pascal says he likes to get involved all the way, from the concept or brand vision to the finished product.

"It is only for the final part of the process - going to print - that I use other professionals who can make sure that all elements will be printed the way the client and I saw it in the first place. I also work a lot with other agencies and freelance creatives, sometimes directly for a client and sometimes via an agency."

When he picks up a new brief, Pascal's first impulse is to communicate with the client to clarify exactly what is required: listening and working out how the client sees their problem and making sure that is clear between both of them.

"I ask how the client sees this in their own words, because what is written down could be too common to differentiate. It is about how you would characterise a brand and give things a personality."

Pascal juggles with different visual elements, from illustration to directing photography, combining these with often experimental or unconventional typefaces. He has a lot of creative freedom when working for some top corporate brands, which only reflects his versatility even more.

Pascal's illustration work always appears fresh and fashionable, but the individual elements of his collage-style designs never seem to use the common components often favoured by his contemporaries.

Street chic
There are further elements of his illustrative style in the O'Neill advertising campaign, but the overall finished product differs from some of his other work for KANE NYC, where he uses apparently snatched atmospheric images of the streets of the city by day and night to slick effect.

Pascal currently takes a lot of his inspiration from the 1960s and vintage chic as well as elements from street art.

"I always try to bring in a lot of colour and a happy warm feel to my work," explains Pascal. "I don't like clinical stuff - there should be a certain twist or fun element in there somewhere."

As he was developing his style, it was a band from the UK's Manchester scene which influenced him, and Pascal says he still surrounds himself with a few special items and tries to live by certain themes.

"I think The Stone Roses have played a big part - I've appreciated them since I was in high school. Sound and vision are very important in my daily surroundings. There is also a lyric by Notorious BIG - 'Only make moves when your heart is in it' - and I try to live to the phrase 'The sky's the limit'. The infamous Kate Moss is on the wall, and on the coffee table sits Ben Watts' book Big Up. Some good food, wine and cigars may also do the trick."

And what does he do when the creativity stops?: "I drown myself in liquor. Next day I wake up, remember shit and can start all over again, fresh."

The current huge range of creative processes which Pascal gets involved with can be traced back to the early years of his career. He says that as a youngster he was always drawing and painting and wanted to be a cartoonist, "then a painter and in a later stage I got more interested in the human aspects of the applied arts. I thought fashion was a logical step for me to take."

In 1996 he emerged from the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague with a degree in fashion design, ending his studies with a collection based on hip-hop music and its associated street culture. As part of his studies he took an internship at Dutch fashion brand G-Sus Sindustries. "While I was working on their clothing I moved into graphic design," says Pascal.

Inspirational journeys
"From hand-drawn elements, I found my way to work on the Macintosh and slowly learned to visualise my ideas digitally. After the internship, G-Sus offered me a job which reignited my interest for street culture. And from there its strong visual language became a leading element in my future work."

After a year and a half Pascal handed in his notice and co-founded Da-Bridge - a store selling a mix of skateboard, graffiti and hip-hop culture - and worked designing flyers for contacts he made at Club Life in The Hague. It was these flyer designs which impressed recruiters at HCM and took Pascal further towards where he is today.

He is now based in de Pijp in the south of Amsterdam and in being self-employed has found a more creative way of working: "I can work everywhere from my laptop; I'm not tied to a particular office space or environment.

"I live in a nice and peaceful area, but Amsterdam itself doesn't really inspire me. For me, it's just the place where I own a house. It's nice to have a place which you can call home, but it could be somewhere else too I guess."

As well as visits to his stylist girlfriend Melanie in Denmark, Pascal's work takes him across the globe - he spoke to Computer Arts Projects from a Wrangler shoot in Santa Monica, and just two weeks before was on a shoot for O'Neill in Cape Town.

"I do like to work in different locations all over the world. It inspires so much more than being at home," says Pascal. "I would much rather spend my time somewhere where there is no design, so I can get conceptual ideas."

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