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Are we at the dawn of a new era bringing into play the temporality of our time, asks the design agency, Paprika. In partnership with Art Souterrain – a non profit organization which aims to provide wider accessibility to contemporary art – the meaning of temporality and how we measure time is explored through the unobtrusive objects of our everyday lives. 

It seems unfamiliar to tell time without a watch or a clock on the wall. A quick jerk of the wrist, or the tap of a screen and we’re acquainted with our positioning in the day. Accustomed to these corporeal markers, we monitor time through a measure taught in the elementary years of our livelihoods, but as we become engrossed by accuracy, we lose sight of the more florid expressions that dictate a passage of time. 

Intrigued by the ephemeral relationship between time and incongruous objects that juxtapose traditional and scientific methods of timekeeping, the Paprika Agency created a campaign to illuminate the altering role of time in present society. Considering unorthodox objects as markers of temporality, The Next Hour caught up with the founder of the design agency, Joanne Lefebvre, to discuss the role of the banana and it’s progressive ripening as an assertive indicator of how object unaffiliated with horology are assuming the role as new units of measure and thus, diversifying the meaning of the ticking clock. 

TNH: It’s great to meet you and discover the ways in which Paprika is challenging the passage of time. To start, can you talk us through the foundations of Paprika and what the studio stands for?

Joanne Lefebvre: Paprika is a jack-of-all-trades, always striving to renew itself, and has relevant expertise in the creation and updating of brand images, marketing and awareness campaigns, space and exhibition design, scenography, and web and video design. It is from this fidelity and plurality that it draws its strength, that it regenerates its talent, one decompartmentalized and not constrained by rigidity.

The agency is over 25 years old, which means that it has been able to polish itself over time, while remaining faithful to the great principles of creativity, quality, integrity and rigor. Since its inception, co-founders Joanne Lefebvre and Louis Gagnon have seen graphic design as the gateway to the client’s project, a keystone to unlocking the full potential of the brand, thereby impacting its business strategy. If the agency has long-standing clients, with whom it has grown and created human business relationships, it is also happy to see growing year after year its pool of clients with the most distinct expertise from each other, ranging from cultural institutions to performing arts, hotels, concept-stores, architectural firms, retail and high-end products, and public and parapublic organizations.

The Next Hour: Furthering your roster of projects, how did the Chronometrie project start out?

Joanne Lefebvre: It was through a collaboration with Art Souterrain, a non-profit organization which aims to provide a wider accessibility to contemporary art since 2009. With the will to demystify the artistic process and artworks, the organization implements long term initiatives to cultivate an understanding and to create a bond between an artwork and its audience. To achieve its ends, Art Souterrain is based on a strong model with the main intention of getting artworks out of traditionnel exhibition places. By doing so, the organization wants to surprise everyone in its daily life and to bring a new kind of interaction, governed by questioning and emotion. 

TNH: How do you hope to capture emotion and conjure feelings through the graphics Paprika creates? 

JL: Our sources of inspiration are multiple and draw their origin from contemporary art, typography, literature and architecture and perhaps also, a certain art of living. To this, we must not minimize the influence of our clientele, which, through time, has tinted our interests and opened new perspectives. Indeed, we have collaborated on exhibitions and catalogs for the MBAM of Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler, among others, or on exhibitions dedicated to Dior and Balenciaga for the McCord Museum. Many long collaborations with the furniture industry and architectural firms have influenced our way of thinking about design. The numerous and diverse sectors of activity of our clientele represent as much potential for inspiration. 

The agency’s signature is the concept. Throughout each project, the idea generation is the key, the thread from which the design takes shape, the creativity unfolds. Paprika is not interested in trends and “the flavour of the day”. We prefer to work with emotion and graphic sensitivity. In order to maintain the highest standards of quality, Paprika makes a point of defending concepts that it believes to be fair and relevant. We avoid ready-made recipes, which ultimately do not correspond to our clients’ needs. We work according to a methodology based on listening and flexibility for a certain collaborative evolution.

TNH: So to spark this evolution, what prompted the idea of the banana?

JL: Our challenge is a quest for constant renewal, in that we must make this theme our own, appropriate it and transpose it graphically. The clientele is intelligent and made up of artists and an informed public who expect a clever campaign. The desire is to attract attention, without resorting to a commercial solution. The ripening of the banana appears as a will to capture the notion of time passing, the banana becomes a unit of measurement: its random ripening and visible by a change of colors. Moreover the use of this banal or anecdotal object questions our relationship to time and the need to consume before the expiration date. To reinforce the dichotomy of the visual, the banana is presented on a metallic silver background, evoking the scientific precision of chronometry instruments. Art Souterrain wanted to question this society that imposes ever faster productivity, devastating ecosystems. The campaign was then declined in the form of print and digital ads, video animation, social networks, derivative products in addition to the poster and the program. 


TNH:
What do you hope for viewers to take away from this installation?

JL: It is a definite paradox to relate chronometry, an exact science of time measurement, with the random, organic and arbitrary ripening of a banana. It must be said that this proposal was a surprise for the client, as well as a little jubilant moment. This paradox had a lot to say about our relationship with time in our contemporary era.

TNH: How would you describe society’s relationship with time in the modern age?

JL: Are we at the dawn of a new era bringing into play the temporality of our time? A collective reflection seems to be taking place and provokes an awareness of our limits. Could this be the reason for the multiplicity of shortcuts in our daily lives? These temporal alternatives lead us to consider fleeting or unfinished activities as a new norm.These changes then raise several questions. Has the long-term vision of time become a luxury or a weakness? Would the constant quantification of time, by its representation, and its transfer into monetary value, transform it into a tangible resource? Superfluous interactions are multiplied and time must be saved at all costs for the benefit of immediate social interactions. The result: the creation of new behavioral reflexes resulting in ephemeral relationships.Is time a new obstacle to human relationships or is it an inevitable development that we need to embrace?

TNH: How would you describe the graphic language at Paprika?

JL: A career in design unfolds primarily in a spectrum of vast potential. For design is a discipline in which not only graphic design, but also space design, architecture, publishing and object design compete. It is in this perspective that one can say that choosing a career in design is an instinctual choice; an inescapable thirst for creativity.  The agency also benefits from a skilful mix of expertise within its team of designers, made up of seniors and young talents, who learn from each other. Paprika believes in the next generation of designers. This is why the agency created the François-Leclerc/PAPRIKA scholarship, awarded each year to a graphic design graduate from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM), who joins the team for a three-month internship. In keeping with this multigenerational approach, Daniel Robitaille was appointed Creative Director in 2019. Daniel and Louis Gagnon both have course loads at UQÀM, thus contributing to the development of the discipline among the next generation of graphic designers while creating bridges with them.

TNH: What’s next for the Paprika Agency? 

JL: The last year was revealing of the fact that the borders are getting thinner and thinner and are becoming more and more obsolete. We have been solicited for mandates with companies based in in France, UK, Belize…, and other projects here and elsewhere, all of which give us the same feeling of proximity and close collaboration. The work is no longer confined to one region or one city, we have reached a momentum where our partners and clients can be from all origins, located all over the world, all giving rise to very fruitful and positive collaborations.

Nevertheless, one of the greatest satisfactions of our career is to see clients come to us with visionary ideas and a taste for risk that match our wildest ambitions. What a pleasure it is to be able to transcend the way things are done in design, and to propose a new avenue, often a precursor of new practices. Aim right and skilfully at a given mandate, causing a shake-up in our environment.

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Scarlett is a writer, editor, and creative consultant specializing in art, fashion, culture and digital strategy. Drawing on her work from previous titles including Dazed, LOVE Magazine, The Perfect Magazine, AnOther and 1 Granary, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Next Hour, Scarlett is leading the editorial vision toward new territories providing an alternative lens of social commentary to recontextualize the world of watchmaking for the next generation.