INTERVIEW: ALICE LAGARDE
Updated: Aug 25
Today I have the pleasure to interview Alice Lagarde, talented Deputy Art Director at "Les Echos WEEK-END", the weekly supplement to French daily newspaper "Les Echos", that focuses on arts, lifestyle, fashion, entertainment, business and more.
As many of you know, art directors work closely with illustrators, in order to express their vision, unfold a particular story, visualize a concept. I thought it would be of great interest to discover more about how art directors work and interact with illustrators and I hope this interview could help you to better understand these roles.
Would you like to tell us something about you and your background?
I always say that I grew up in Paris and as a result, I have always had the chance to see many beautiful cultural posters in the metro. This influenced my relationship with images and graphics.
I have a very classic background, I went to an art school in France where I studied graphic design for five years. Before that, I was already really attracted by magazines and editorial design, and when the time came to look for a job I naturally tried my luck by applying in this field. I was lucky enough to find my way in!
Can you tell us a bit what are your main and usual tasks as Deputy Art Director at Les Echos WEEK-END?
My main task is the layout of the magazine, we are a weekly magazine so there is a lot to do! Some elements need much more creativity than others: that’s what I love. For some articles, the photos that accompany the text will be the focal point and this implies a close relationship with our photo department. But for other articles (when there is no photo) we need to find a way to capture the gaze of the reader. This can happen with a creative layout, infographics or commissioning an illustration.
I am also the person in charge of commissioning the illustrations for the magazine. That implies finding artists, negotiating fees, creating a clear brief and following their work. This also means that I love to find out new talents on social media. The easiest way would be checking illustration agencies website, but where’s the fun in that?
I also work with the Art Director on the “fashion” part of the magazine like fashion shoots or still life pictures. This requires finding the right photographer and also creating mood boards for the editorial.
How do you coordinate with the rest of the Les Echos WEEK-END team?
I work really closely with the Art Director who runs the artistic department, working with several layout designers. Usually, we discuss upcoming articles with the editor-in-chief and the journalists and then that we can propose visual solutions in agreement with the photo department. For example, creating infographics to enrich a text.
What is the toughest part of being an art director?
I would say keeping up with the times! Being curious about what is done not just in your own country but around the world, always trying to be creative, innovating, never boring!
With the illustrators I pick, I really try to offer something different to our readers. I find other magazines choices super nice, but personally I always try to be different. I want the reader to find something unique in our pages.
As an illustrator, what's the best way to get noticed by an art director? Do you prefer to discover new talents or be contacted by the illustrators themselves?
I look at every portfolio I receive! But I rarely reply; this is not arrogance but as I receive so many of them it’s just not possible! Moreover, sometimes it’s not that I don’t like the portfolio but that I don't find it relevant for our publication.
I spend a "lot" of time on Instagram looking for illustrators: my main source of talent. I would say that having a good Instagram feed is a great way to get noticed, way better than an online portfolio. An Instagram profile has always more examples of what the person can do, I have the tendency to find websites too “clean” and boring, Instagram is more spontaneous and fun!
How do you usually choose the illustrators you work with for Les Echos WEEK-END?
It depends on the article! But it’s always something between artistic skills of course and ideas. Some people make beautiful illustrations but with zero concepts. We really look for people with strong imaginations and unique touch. For example, I love Bratislav Milenkovic’s work because it is the only one with that kind of complex illustration about technology.
Also, a great sense of humour is always a go-to! If you can lift a really serious paper with a super fun illustration it’s a win!
How do you usually handle the whole process of a commission with an illustrator?
First, I have to find what I want to say visually. Is it a really serious article or on the contrary do we need to make it fun or poetic? Once I have my idea, I’m going to look for the right person with the corresponding style. This can take 5 minutes or much more depending on whether I have someone in mind or not.
Then, if the illustrator is ok with the budget and deadline, I’ll send him a brief with as many indications as I can give to make the whole process easier. If I’m not clear on what’s on my mind, it’s a waste of time for both of us!
Once I received the sketches with several ideas, we always choose together how to finalize the artwork. As our budget in the press isn’t the greatest, there aren't a lot of modifications, I have to be as precise as I can be!
Every season Les Echos WEEK-END creates a series of illustrations for the new Haute Couture collections, you worked with some of the best fashion illustrators in the industry. Could you please tell us more about this project?
This idea came up because it’s really hard to photograph these pieces. The editor in chief chose to reconnect with this ancient tradition of fashion drawings to make something unique for the occasion. The illustrators that we choose usually go directly to the fashion houses to see the garments in person, sometimes they also have the chance to see a model wearing it during the fittings. They all find the experience extraordinary! But they only have a handful of days to make their final drawings so some of them sketch directly in the ateliers, others find it easier to take pictures and work later in their studio. What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an art director?
The first thing is to be patient, I’ve been layout designer, Assistant to the Art Director…You have to gain your experience in various magazines I would say! But the basic thing is to be curious! You must have an appetite for images, new ideas, illustrations, photography… Every kind of visual expression!
Merci beaucoup to Alice for taking the time to answer these questions!
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