Gradwatch 2021: Designer Clémence Bahout, Loughborough College

After a visit to Prague, designer Clémence Bahout became fascinated by the work of Austrian architect Adolf Loos, and how architecture can “dictate how people live without them realising”.

In the midst of a degree in graphic design and visual communication, Bahout began wondering how she could incorporate something similar in her own work, and developed an interest in wayfinding. This also tapped into her love of typography, which she says really got going in the Loughborough uni library, when she stumbled on a David Carson book.

“I’ve always been a big fan of typography, but the way he uses typography makes it like fine art, but it’s still graphic design. That was the big revelation for me, and I was like OK, I’m going to do graphic design because I can still have a lot of freedom with it. I always thought graphic design had to be very corporate and very set, but it turns out it wasn’t.”

Bahout’s interest in wayfinding and type are evident in her City Meadows project – a concept for community gardens that would fill in vacant spaces in Leicester, and help boost declining biodiversity in the city. Residents would be directed to these green spaces using murals and wayfinding designed by Bahout – and all in her “playful and purposeful” design style.

“Leicester is a city with a lot of potential, [which appealed to me] as a graphic designer and someone who’s interested in solving problems and projects that have a propose,” she told CR. “I looked at their urbanisation programme for the next few years, and a big problem they’re facing is the fact that a lot of people are moving into the city, and it’ll be even worse in 50 years’ time. It’s interesting to try and understand how the city is going to have to adapt to accommodate so many people.”

Bahout says the murals and wayfinding had to be designed with a hugely diverse audience in mind, able to speak to students and young people as well as parents of young children. Although the city council did express interest in her proposal, Bahout says coronavirus unfortunately put any potential progress on hold.

Currently based in Marseilles, Bahout is working on freelance projects before starting a masters in design strategy and branding in Paris next year. She says she’s still working out exactly what her long-term career goals are, but emphasises that she wants to work on projects for companies she truly believes in.

“I will most definitely stay in the creative industry, whether I will be a graphic designer or someone who works with creatives, I don’t know yet,” she explains. “I’m gaining an interest at the moment in strategy, and that’s really linked to wayfinding in a way, because a lot of brands are launching events now and things like that, and all of that has to have the strategy behind the logic of the event.”

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