From graphic design to Human-Machine Interface
The variety of Florian Branchet’s experiences shows the range of career opportunities open to graphic designers.
An interview with this young designer who graduated in 2013 and is now working as an HMI designer at Renault
You’re now working as an HMI designer in the Renault group and yet you graduated from the school with a master’s degree in New Eating Habits. Can you tell us a bit about the route you’ve taken?
Florian Branchet: I was lucky enough to grow up in a creative environment thanks to my grandfather, a multi-disciplinary artist (painting, sculpture, 3D modelling and animation, music, etc.), and my mother who works for Antalis (a company producing and distributing high-quality creative paper). After high school, I joined L’École de design to learn more about and understand the creative professions, and graphic design in particular. So I began my studies with a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design at the school, which had only just opened. Naturally, I chose to specialize with a master’s program New Eating Habits to gain more experience of the print environment which I was most interested in. The various projects organized by the school aroused my curiosity; it’s a real asset for me today to have tackled such a diversity of topics in order to see problems from different perspectives. The multi-disciplinary course I followed took a sensitive approach to graphic design (both print and digital, including packaging, websites, creating corporate/brand identity and animation), which today gives me much greater scope.
Was your curiosity satisfied by your work placements?
Florian Branchet: The work placements I did in the Netherlands at MisterWilson and Studio Kluif were a really unique opportunity to acquire a design culture and awareness that are very different from back home. These agencies are one step ahead of us; it’s really rewarding to see different working methodologies but also the profession of designer is of great interest to the public and – more importantly – the political sphere. These work placements really taught me a lot both personally and professionally; I sincerely regret that all design schools don’t offer their students this experience, encouraging them to travel the world to sharpen their perception and widen their horizons.
Can you tell us about your first job after graduating?
Florian Branchet: After completing my degree, I gained my first experience as a graphic designer at Studio MNID, a small 360° design agency. I soon saw the benefit of my five years’ training and I found that the school’s teaching was perfectly in line with market expectations. This first job was for me a real creative stepping stone which I found extremely rewarding. Being part of a small team – less than five people – was extremely formative as you have to be independent and be able to come up with creative solutions: that’s what companies expect of young graduates today. Beginning your career in this type of structure means you can work on many different projects and have a real understanding of all the aspects of a company, from accounting to management, customer relations, the commercial aspect, etc. I have great memories of this experience which allowed me to hone my skills and put together a really good book covering practically all the areas of graphic design.
Can you tell us about your daily routine today? What kind of projects are you working on?
Florian Branchet: I work at the Renault technocentre in Guyancourt, a huge building with around 12 000 people, but ‘only’ 450 in the design department. What I find particularly rewarding is having the chance to mix with a wide range of different professions: designers, model-makers, ergonomists, developers, etc. but also a wide range of nationalities – speaking English is essential! It’s rare to be able to work in such a rich and stimulating environment. Every day is a learning curve! We are a small team of around ten people specialized in UX Design, and we divide the various projects between us: meters, media screens, lighting effects, etc. We work with the group’s three brands: Renault, Dacia and, most recently, Alpine. As for me, I’m working on the future generation of interfaces which will be launched in 2018, primarily on touchpads in cars (the central media screen), but I also do a lot of work with colleagues on other projects. It’s a bit like working in a small creative studio inside a really big company. So basically, I have the best of both worlds! The organization is somewhat different: regular contact with the other professions, a process for validating and sharing information, different levels of validation, etc. – it’s a whole new set of procedures to learn!
What do you see yourself doing in the future? Do you have any ambitions, goals or dreams?
Florian Branchet: I’d like to see the projects I’m working on currently grow and develop, and obviously be part of the next automobile ‘revolution’. Future projects involving connected and autonomous vehicles will be even more ambitious and the challenges even more complex. All these aspects are exciting and this is what I want to be working on tomorrow. There are so many things still to do and so little time… And who knows, maybe one day I’ll end up working on flying cars!