Big Steps to Success, by Gilles & Cecilie Studio

Mural for Red Cross Head Quarter in Oslo, Norway

Gilles & Cecilie is an award-winning studio based in London, working internationally providing illustration and graphic art.

Gilles & Cecilie teach at universities and colleges about studio practice, both developing the creative and business side. Recently Cecilie has been running a series of talks about the importance of planning your own success, and in this article she’ll present 10 things the studio has learned through their own experience and taking a Masters in Business Management.

Interior mural for Red Cross Head Quarter in Oslo, Norway.

Making an Ambitious Plan

I did a Masters degree in Business Management a few years after starting our studio to gain more insight on how to run a business. We wanted to start a studio to have creative freedom, collaborate and make our own work. After a few years working together, it made sense for me to develop skills and knowledge to make our business more successful and sustainable. The module I chose was Project Management, and it opened up a whole new world on how to organise ourselves professionally. Most of the examples in business literature are more relevant to large corporations, but we still applied them to our small venture to make ambitious plans. We learnt to list what we wanted to achieve within a year, 3 years,10 years… and ultimately this proved a very powerful exercise that made us focus more on reaching our goals.

Selected editorial illustration for M Le magazine du Monde, for a weekly column reviewing restaurants in Paris.

Working in different fields

Since we graduated from Central Saint Martins we have always been searching for new challenges and new types of work. We did not want to specialise in one technique or style but to always develop ourselves and to be creative. We wanted to be a team that could solve problems, come up with ideas and concepts as well as visuals. Over the last ten years we have provided illustrations for a list of very diverse commissioners, for both the private and public sectors. The positive side of this is that, for example, we can do editorial illustrations very quickly while we work on large scale murals that naturally demand more time. It’s this diversity that challenges and inspires us to move forward personally, and financially.

Mural for Munch Brygge in Oslo, Norway.

3D Installation for Oslo Design Fair as par t of Wayfinding Design

Visual Identity for 100%Norway exhibition 2016, London Design Fair.

Finding new Opportunities

Creativity is a great skill to have when running a business, and it’s useful to have an analytical mind. We compliment each other well in our studio and discuss where new opportunities lie ahead. We believe planning and strategic thinking has to be a part of every business and life in general. Once we make a list of what we want to achieve we make spider diagrams to map out how to get there, and who could be our future commissioners. Last year we started to allocate time to search for opportunities available for artists and illustrators (residencies, open calls, grants, competitions). This has given us new directions and also the opportunity to showcase ourselves, thus gaining more new work.

Still from Nissan Magic Tunnel Ad.

Being international

We consider our business a global one – after all, we are Norwegian, French and our website is in English. One of our goals when starting our studio was to work and travel, and to work for international clients. We realised we only needed a laptop, a phone, a sketchbook and of course internet connection. It’s been 12 years since we founded our studio and we are still spending extensive amount of days per year working on different territories. Not only this has been a good thing professionally, but also creatively – We’ve gotten inspired, challenged and motivated by working with many different cultures.

Still from Unicef Animation Unfair y Tales (Made by  Bubba’s Chop Shop and illustrated by Gilles & Cecilie Studio)

Designing For Good

We believe in using our creativity and skills to help communicate about important issues. Design for Good is a way for us to give back and take part in something bigger. Being part of the team making illustrations for Unicef UnfairyTale Campaign was an honour.

Children’s stories feature imaginative places with fantastical characters. While these worlds of wonder can bring delight to young audiences, there are some stories never meant for children. That’s the message in UNICEF’s Unfairy Tales, an animated series conceived and creative directed by 1801LA, that chronicles the true stories of Syrian child refugees and the horrors they leave behind.

The Travelling Drawing Club established in 2011.

COLLABORATION & COMMUNITY

In 2011 we started The Travelling Drawing Club. Although we were drawing all the time at work we felt the need of drawing just for joy of it, and to meet other like minded people with the same need. The idea was simple: set a date, a location and a time restriction with the only purpose of spending 2 hours observing and drawing. Our first club was in The Lounge Lovers Bar out of their opening hours to draw their spectacular and extravagant interiors and collections of objects. Since then we have had more than 40 events all over the world including Tokyo, New York, Oslo, Paris, Rome and Barcelona. With every event we meet new people and old friends, and we also seed new business opportunities.

Fanzine Workshop for Gol de Letra Foundation in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Sharing Knowledge

Since we graduated we have been involved in many educational projects. We have been teaching art and design for BA and MA students as well as running workshops for businesses. It is exciting to research, collaborate, and to create programs that are challenging and that make the audience think. Every time we meet a new group of students or professionals we have to analyse how we are doing things. What are our procedures? What is creativity? How do we run our studio? How do we get ideas across? Going through all these questions regularly help us to make potential changes within our practice as well as discuss with others how they work. I always learn as much as I teach.

Walls and installation for Harestad School and Randaberg Culture House.

Say YES

One thing we’ve learnt as graduates was to say yes, even to things we were not familiar with. We always have requests which include something new, and that is one of the best parts of being creative. Last year we were invited to a competition creating artwork for a Culture House and School in the south of Norway. We were 1 out of 3 to submit a proposal, which we won and installed during the summer. This proposal included many things we hadn’t made before like seating, digital learning tools and signage, so when we got awarded the project we had to quickly make a plan on how to construct everything. We ultimately decided to hire a team of professional subcontractors like architects, iron workers, upholsters and sign makers to create everything in the piece.

You can read more about the Alphabet project here.

Walls and installation for Harestad School and Randaberg Culture House.

Walls and installation for Harestad School and Randaberg Culture House.

Gilles & Cecilie Studio in Shoreditch.

Check List

In general having a check list of what we want to do is essential. This helps us to stay focused and help to answer requests when in doubt. Does this new request fulfill what we want to achieve?

Some things you might have on your list: Matching your goals, designing for good, getting good fees, challenging yourself, becoming world famous… you can include anything!

Advertising billboard for the California Tobacco Control Program.

Building a Niche

Even if we operate in many fields we have also developed a few niches like creating installations, art pieces for ads and large scale murals. During the last few years we have done a few collaborations with director Luc Janin for Nissan and the California Tobacco Control Program. You can check the project to see how we made a billboard graphic using more than 15000 used cigarette butts.

Gilles & Cecilie with one of their Migrating Bird painted in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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26th January 2018
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