Posted on January 12, 2011



Thomas Girard is a Shanghai-based Agency Art Director, born in Canada in 1980.

After being educated in Industrial Design and Communication Design at the prestigious Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Canada, he relocated to Shanghai to be a university lecturer in design, later becoming an ambassador of the Art Directors Club and contributor to TEDx.


His clients work for Wired Magazine, Microsoft, Electronic Arts and he has garnered awards from Typecon Alphabet City, In Process Conference, Coroflot All-Stars and Butterfly Zone.

Q.  You have experience in artistic design, interactive design and industrial design.
      What would you consider your speciality?
A.  I come from an artistic background. My dad is an art world photographer who used to shoot for Time, Newsweek and Fortune, but now mainly does gallery showing and photography books and some stuff for National Geographic. I often struggle with injecting beauty into my work and having that play balance with functionality. Frankly, I am drawn to beautiful things, but I’m not proud of that. I never liked the word artistic.

Q.  Do you have a different mindset for these different disciplines or do you approach them with the same philosophy?
A.  My educational background is a hybrid of industrial design and visual design. I feel I almost need not talk about the cross over between design disciplines, it’s so ubiquitous. But at the risk of over-clarifying I would say you can approach one type of design with any method you desire and have some sort of outcome. I reserve philosophy for my spare time.

Q.  What inspires your work?
A.  Nature. Women. Beauty.

Q.  You are currently working in Shanghai, China.
      What advantages and challenges does this present you with?
A.  Shanghai is a melting pot of dilapidated buildings, ultra stealth phase empty shopping malls, cheap Coca Cola and migrant workers. To answer your question, it offers an admirable lifestyle to anyone who relocates there and has a little bit of tact, which I would say is both an advantage and a challenge.

Q.  Can you tell us about the work you have done with the Olympics and Paralympics?
A.  A tiny pitch for a boutique agency to win the Vancouver Olympics 2010 Account.

Q.  Since 2010 you have been an ambassador for the Art Directors Club of China.
      Can you tell us about your work with them?
A.  Short-lived. I was honored to be recognized as an Ambassador of ADC China for a time.

Q.  Which project are you most proud of and why?
A.  My thesis project at Emily Carr – I designed the typeface “Sarah” based on John Baskerville’s housekeeper’s first name. Foundry Emigre has a font, called Mrs. Eaves, which is Sarah’s last name. It’s very popular. But I thought Sarah could be more casual and lyrical than Mrs. Eaves, as well as working well on screen mainly because the bigger x-height and the counters are more open. The x-height is so small on Mrs. Eaves, it looks squished.
I emailed Zuzanna Licko (co-founder of Emigre) about it and got a kind of grumpy email back.

Q.  Which project has been the most difficult and why?
A.  Same project. I always went back and forth between if I should release it or not.
      I never did.

Q.  What are your plans for 2011?
A.  On my desk now I have some work for Sochi 2014 Olympics.
      I’ll probably do a trip to Paris with my wife, and continue research in Russia.

Q.  You teach extensively. What are your impressions of the next generation of designers?
A.  I would divide them. The next generation of first world designers vs those of the developing world. First world designers have a sense of ambivalence to the world around them. No real need or opportunity to improve things at that certain scale, that sort of monstrous scale that exists in some places. The developing world makes all of the changes that can be made, but perhaps struggles to realise those changes. But they have hope.


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