Featured Illustrator

Emmanuelle Charneau

June 2018

We recently got to chat with Freelance Graphic Designer and Illustrator, Emmanuelle Charneau aka. Piece Of Paper. We discuss how to separate client work and personal projects with different processes & approaches, her new collaborative project Sale Caractère and her love and nostalgia about paper as a medium.

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?

I started skateboarding when I was 14 years old, and my brother started an association to create events for the skateboarding community. I sort of naturally became responsible for designing the posters for the competitions ... I had no idea that it was going to become my career afterwards.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I started prep school in Nantes, but then I moved to Brussels as suggested by one of my former teachers. The school I attended was very influenced by Polish art and creative techniques: posters and images that were very expressive and often representing political themes. It was a good training that helped me learn to include plastic and physical elements in my creative process, often starting with a drawing or a collage and then moving to typographic edition on the computer. Using manual techniques really helps to personalize and refine one's own style. I found a job at a small agency in Brussels right after graduating, where I stayed for 3 years before moving to Montreal, Canada.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I have the chance to do a job that I really love, in which I constantly keep learning, and that challenges me everyday on a professional and personal level. It gives me the opportunity to discover and explore new fields of expertise with every new contract. In general, I'd say that I really like working with people and making sure that they are pleased with what I come up with. I think that my job demands a certain flexibility and a selfless attitude in order to be able to make compromises. I try to keep a lighthearted approach to my work and always think of "having fun" first, while also trying to renew myself regularly. It’s quite easy to quickly feel comfortable and do the same things all the time and always use the same techniques. I try to avoid that by travelling a lot and by planning time for more artistic and personal projects. When I work on screen printing projects or collaborate with other designers on different things, I must use a very different approach than when I am simply fulfilling a contract. I feel like it stimulates your senses and reflection in a deeper way. I really want to keep the freedom of having this healthy balance between my professional and artistic practices.


I really enjoyed working in an agency for 7 years before becoming a freelancer. Even if these agencies were not the most prestigious or renowned, I was able to work with people who taught me a whole lot.


Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

I'm currently working on a coop project with a very good friend of mine. We want to create a space where designers / illustrators can work and welcome customers, but also break the usual isolation of freelancers and generate more collaboration. We will also be setting up a workshop with silkscreen printing equipment, which I think is a good medium for developing visual arts, and we hope to have enough space to also include a gallery. All we need to do now is find the right space! More information will be available on: salecaractere.ca

What advice would you give students starting out?

There are a lot of different paths that you can choose, but what I can take back from my modest experience is that I really enjoyed working in an agency for 7 years before becoming a freelancer. Even if these agencies were not the most prestigious or renowned, the teamwork was generally very constructive if the atmosphere was good, and I also was able to work with conscientious and perfectionist people who taught me a whole lot about this work. This is probably one of the reasons why I am able to keep a professional attitude and a very effective creative process even when I need to deal with my client's deadlines. I would therefore suggest experimenting with agency work to start with, and if you don't like it, you will always have the possibility to go do freelance work after. The only downside about freelancing is that you dramatically reduce the amount of time dedicated to artistic creation because of all the management stuff you have to do as well.

What role does digital design play in your studio in 2018, and how to you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age?

I am more comfortable working with prints because I really like to use paper to create, but when I need to make websites (10% of my contracts), I try to see the screen as a blank page and try to get out of the conventional web grids design. With the constant evolution of social media and apps, it is certain that most of the work will probably be centred around these areas in the near future. Although, I don't think that I'll be the one to revolutionize the digital world even if I enjoy working on such projects from time to time. I feel that they are an integral part of all these new means of communication. I remain pretty old school and very nostalgic about paper as a medium (books, posters, fanzines, etc.) I would like to give credit to my good friends Marie Tourigny and Catherine Mettayer, founders of the "Collectif Blanc", for having created an awesome reference for people who are still passionate about this kind of stuff.

Website: ema-portfolio.com

Instagram: @pieceofpapermtl

Shop: pieceofpaper.tictail.com


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