étapes magazine 215: an
INTERVIEW of Erik Adigard/M-A-D by Isabelle Moisy, 2013


What is your practice of graphic design today?
From its genesis with Patricia McShane, M-A-D has been inspired and influenced by the emergence of digital, but always with a critical approach that allowed us to work both creatively and strategically. We are at the tumultuous intersection of technology, economies and emerging cultures. Whatever the medium, our role is to anticipate, participate and reinvent by design.

Where is your studio located? Where do you work most often? At home? In the studio? Are you always on the go?
M-A-D is based in Berkeley in a space that is both very physical and experimental. I was often in New York and Europe these last years. Wherever I am I telecommute but I work in pairs when possible.

You’re French but you’re living abroad, do you have a certain perspective on the professional status of French graphic design?
I wanted to practice in France but attitudes were and still are too closed. As Pierre Bernard rightly says, the advertising industry keeps us in a backward-looking culture that underestimates the design. I will add to that the impact of “grandes écoles” that produces these ignorants and arrogant leaders - our worst clients.

Paradoxically, France after Grapus continues to count some of the mosts innovative and sophisticated talents in the world.

And on the evolution of practice, media and fields in which graphic design is registered. Can you give us your vision of how you may see things change?
We are in a period of polarization between the human-qualitative-poetic creation and the mechanical-quantitative-commercial creation. There is a real conflict of interests between the erosion of humanist culture and flourishing digital economy, its liberalism and democratization.

In addition, there is an ambiguous relationship between designers, whether they are architects or graphic designers, and tool creators like Apple, Adobe, Autodesk, etc. which are becoming our competitors and predators of tomorrow.

It is clear that today the design is a key factor for the survival of companies. But what design? When, where and how? Actors and contingencies are too often conflicting.

We must re-establish the rules of our vocation: know how to choose and master our talent and culture: typography and imagery, but also interface, ergonomics, data-mining, strategy, analytics and/or user testing. But above all we need a context of partners and customers and a design, creativity and innovation economy as instituted in England and Canada. This is a beneficial investment for all and not just for designers.