Gradwatch 2021: Designer Louise Julien, Glasgow School of Art

French designer Louise Julien is one of ten creatives we’ve selected to feature in our annual Gradwatch showcase, where we spotlight the art and design grads who we feel are producing brilliant creative work

In her work, graphic designer and visual artist Louise Julien wants to create a universe people can escape to. From personal pieces to commissioned projects, she feels everything has a story to tell. With a colourful and dreamy yet bold aesthetic, Julien often takes inspiration from pop and internet culture. 

Three years ago, Julien finished her first two years in a graphic design degree in Paris, her home city, and she was keen to continue her studies at another institution. “I really wanted to travel abroad, practice my English and see something different, but I honestly can’t remember what made me think of Scotland at first,” she reflects.

Magical Marsh. All images: Louise Julien 

Simply following her instincts, Julien embarked on the three-year communication design BA at Glasgow School of Art. “I would say the most important thing is learning to value your work and your practice to the level it deserves,” she says of her time at university. “And to learn not to define yourself by your work. I’m not sure university taught me that or rather it was the people I met throughout the years.”  

One of her standout projects is Magical Marsh, a fictitious place superimposed on reality that Julien has tried to visualise through a series of animated music videos along with concept art for the ‘album’. The project epitomises the designer’s dreamy aesthetic.

Magical Marsh music video

“During the first lockdown, I used to spend quite a lot of time on my building’s rooftop, in the sun, napping and reading and thinking. That’s when I imagined the Magical Marsh, and began to write the series of texts,” explains Julien.

“It would have stayed in my computer forever if I hadn’t started to imagine what the place could actually look like. I then thought about doing that crazy ‘reverse process album’, starting from the lyrics to the visual and finishing with the music. I didn’t think I would actually go through with it.” 

Magical Marsh music video

Another standout project is the identity she created for her degree exhibition with fellow designers Natalia Witwicka, Rachel Kate MacLeod and Maria Pelosi. The identity is based on a bespoke typeface and was driven by feelings of restlessness and movement. Julien was in charge of developing the animated content that helped promote the show on social media.

“We did the project during the lockdown in midwinter in Scotland, not the best time psychologically. Collaborating, even just through Zoom, offered me more motivation to keep on working,” says Julien. “Collaboration is definitely something I want to do more of, I feel like it unlocks ideas I can’t access when I’m working on my own.” 

WIP show identity

In terms of what’s coming next, rather than feeling the pressure of finding a job, Julien is trying to feel excited about the uncertainty, though she is conscious of the passing of time.

“I really want to find something quickly to not fall off the wagon. I’d hate to lose the momentum I managed to create with school and everything,” she says. “I’ve also spent three years away from my home in Paris and now it feels like coming back for a long time without a professional reason to be there would be weird.”  

Blue Haired Legends

Going forward, Julien hopes to do more animation and video work and is looking at how to incorporate that into her practice more. Personal projects are also another focus, especially as the feedback she has received from these has helped her develop.

“For Magical Marsh for instance, I’ve been really moved hearing people telling me they found the videos and the texts really moving and strong,” she says. “This project is a very personal one so I find myself more fragile when it comes to feedback I get, but the satisfaction is all the greater.”  

Click here to see all of our 2021 Gradwatch picks;