Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere: Nathalie Cusson, Le Parc

By launching a design-focused offering in Le Parc, Juniper Park\TBWA provides brands with an additional, specialized service, that they can tap into for small or big projects.

Juniper Park\TBWA
Publicité/Communication intégrée
Toronto, Canada
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Le Parc Design
Toronto, Canada
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Nathalie Cusson
Creative Director of Design Le Parc

 

What did you do before becoming a Creative Director at Le Parc? What drew you to Juniper Park\TBWA? 

Before joining Juniper Park\TBWA, I lead my own design studio – Scooter Design. Prior to that, I had a non-linear career path that lead me to discover various facets of design: editorial, film, motion, illustration, photo direction, as well as a ton of branding. I worked at big agencies, small studios, and was also part of a collective of film directors/motion designers.

The agency’s focus on design thinking is what drew me to it – regardless of the discipline, at the core of Juniper Park\TBWA is its design thinking, underpinned by razor-sharp strategy. The agency’s design prowess ensures the ideas conjured are visually ownable, regardless of the message or medium.

 

Tell us a little bit about the beginnings of Le Parc. What does Le Parc offer that wasn’t possible at Juniper Park\TBWA?

Juniper Park\TBWA has always put a strong emphasis on design. The agency’s leadership team felt that there should be a specific entity designated to design, since it is a value that they’ve always embraced.

By launching a design-focused offering in Le Parc, Juniper Park\TBWA provides brands with an additional, specialized service, that they can tap into for small or big projects. It was created due to a growing demand for our design-related services.

A design studio within an agency requires a team that can be very versatile, extending design thinking from branding to application of that branding into advertising. My multi-faceted experience made me a logical choice to lead Le Parc.

 

You joined Juniper Park\TBWA in 2019. How is it different culturally to other agencies you have worked at or encountered?

When I first walked through the door of Juniper Park\TBWA, I was impressed by the diversity of its employees: a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, young and old, and a larger number of women in leadership roles. This played a major role in deciding to join the agency. Another thing that stood out to me is the human warmth and general benevolence. You spend a lot of time at work, so it’s important that it’s a pleasant and inclusive environment.

TBWA as a collective has a philosophy of courage and disruption. That idea permeates all our work and in large part, is the justification for it. It makes the creative stronger. And, when it comes to design, the agency walks the talk: design truly is a transversal value.

 

Le Parc is based in Toronto. How has that impacted the style and positioning of the studio? Can you tell us a little about the creative culture in Toronto?

Design is everywhere in Toronto. If you think beyond the typical design “specialists”, just walking down the streets of Toronto will demonstrate that design has integrated the culture and become the bedrock of its self-expression. The average Torontonian is design savvy. From salvaged vintage signs to more recent buildings and restaurant interiors, an effort has been put into rethinking the way things look and the way we interact with them. Toronto has a beauty of its own, having embraced and transformed its industrial past. It definitely has a “big city” vibe but still remains “local”, with a collection of small villages that keep it to a human scale.

Le Parc is partially a reflection of this culture but is also the sum of its team’s experience. Just like the city it resides in, it is a deliberate patchwork of expertise: illustration, motion, branding, film, etc. Most importantly, our studio is an ecosystem where talent and diversity is embraced and valued – a characteristic we share with the city itself.

 

What has been the effect of the pandemic on your business?

The pandemic has forced organization’s in every industry — including our own — to adapt and evolve, in the short-term and in the long-term. For us, this meant altering how we conduct internal processes (creative briefs, reviews, etc.) in light of the WFH lifestyle. However, overall this change has been going smoothly. We are continuously in touch, and share our work throughout the day, as we’ve always done.

In terms of the work, we’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a handful of exciting projects for both new and existing clients. Work that has challenged us to develop disruptive solutions for our clients to help them stand out through design. 

Among other things, the health crisis had an effect on the way we communicate in design and advertising. From one day to the next, a lot of illustration and motion design was used to replace costly film or photoshoots.

“Home-made style” films or photos were used for massive corporate messaging and lesser quality imagery became not only acceptable, but a standard, in a time where ostentatious splurges of money could be frown upon.

This production constrain has given rise to a new style and has shown that design can really help to communicate simply and clearly.

 

Do you have a personal ethos or guiding of principles that influence your approach to design? Where do you draw inspiration from?

My approach to design is very open. One thing I would say is to try to challenge minimalism. While part of the design process is to take away superfluous elements and to distill down to an image’s essence or a symbol, the minimalist trend of the last decade may have been taken too far or have become too ubiquitous. Brands become so pared back that they lose their distinctiveness. 

Somewhere along the way, we lost powerful tools such as colours and patterns, singular/personalized ornaments and crafted typography.

Utilitarian typefaces have replaced classical or display ones, rendering marks (notably with fashion brands) undistinguishable. This last effect is probably the most tragic one; when it comes to branding, a visual signature should be anything but conformist.

A brand should express itself culturally and visually speak about its unique qualities, all the while delighting the viewer in a sensual celebration. This can be done through an unabashed use of colour, the use of incongruous shapes, or through a visual riddle. Anything that will disrupt the landscape will most likely make a memorable imprint on the viewer. 

Inspiration can come from anywhere. While I do spend time scouring the usual sources, such as sites that aggregate images, I find that the more unique ideas come from unlikely and unplugged places: from watching a squirrel eating left over pizza in the park, to touching the texture of an unusual fabric. Classic masters, painters, sculptors and filmmakers are also a great source of inspiration for me.

 

Could you share some of the favorite works you’ve created at Le Parc so far? 

It’s been an incredible six months since we launched Le Parc. We have had the pleasure of developing disruptive design work for brands across North America, including cultural organizations (TSO), retailers (Major League Socks), and pharmaceutical companies (EPM Pharmaceutical’s launch of their synthetic cannabinoid IP platform), with more projects set to launch this summer. 

More recently, we developed a new identity for Cadillac Fairview’s app, LiVE by CF, and we have some rebranding work from Neale’s Sweet n’ Nice, a line of Caribbean recipe ice cream, that will be revealed later this summer. A delicious product with an equally wonderful family history that inspired the new design of the brand and the packaging.

Some of my favourite branding work we’ve done so far though is for TFO, (Télévision française de l’Ontario) an organization with a mission close to my heart. This work will be live later this year. Stay tuned.