Zim and Zou are a French graphic design studio, and they like paper a lot. Their recent project Back to Basics sees them replicating vintage technologies like the Polaroid camera and floppy disk in 3D paper form with some jazzy 80s colours to boot. We spoke to Thibault Zimmerman, one half of Zim and Zou, about their paper-loving and whether they’ll be making any workable paper objects in the future.
So what’s the ethos behind your company Zim & Zou?
Zim & Zou is a French graphic design studio based in Nancy, composed of Lucie Thomas and myself, Thibault Zimmermann. We studied graphic design in art school and the studio proposes a contemporary approach to design thanks to a mix of different fields such as paper sculpture, installation, graphic design, illustration, web design etc. We try to promote ‘real’ art in graphic design and advertising, highlighting the aspect of craftsmanship.
What do you think makes your partnership work so well?
Our strength is to be a complementary and polyvalent (Ed - Wow, Chemistry GCSE flashback) duo. At art school we worked on projects separately but when we started to work as freelancers it became more evident. I think it works pretty well because graphic design is more than our job, it’s our passion. As we’ve worked together over the years, we both know our strength and weakness.
What is it about paper that makes you feature it so heavily within your work?
We decided to use paper in many of our projects because not only is it a basic material, accessible for everyone, but because it's a way to show the balance of power between digital and paper production. When today you can read a book on a screen, we needed to create ‘real’ things. The aspect of craftsmanship is really important for us and paper gives us an infinite amount of possibilities.
What inspires your work, and in particular the Back to Basics project?
We've made those papercrafts for several reasons. We tried not to influence people too much by giving keys to this project. A way to let people appropriate our work. Back to Basics has different aspects, at first sight it's a tribute to vintage technologies which marked the technological evolution of the last years, and all the nostalgia of the memories that each have with them. By bringing those ‘dead’ objects back to life, we tried to highlight the very fast evolution of our everyday objects. The devices we use nowadays will, in a few years, be considered as relics too. We wanted to ask a question as well: where will this evolution lead us to?
What inspired us personally for this project are the original objects themselves. Every day we use some of those objects, such as the Polaroid camera and we often play Tetris on the original grey Gameboy.
Your Back to Basics series reminds us of forgotten technologies in bold 80s colours, is there a link between this nostalgia and the fact that it’s all made out of paper?
Paper is very important in this project. Nowadays, the use of paper for communication is less important than a few years ago. We are in a transition phase between print culture and electronic/digital culture. We wanted to confront those two medias.
You both must have a lot of patience, how long does it take to complete one object, for instance the Polaroid camera? What’s your process?
The whole project took about a year between client’s works. It's pretty hard to say because sometimes we had to put this project on standby in order to work for commissions. For example the Polaroid camera was one of the hardest patterns to create because of its particular shape. We took about two full days without the details. Considering the whole object I think it took about two full weeks. About our process we've made a making of video ('Behind the Scene') with close-up shots on the creation process. We did everything by hand, limiting use of computers to the minimum.
Will you be adding to the series? Or are you starting a new project now?
We planned to create new objects for the Back to Basics series. But as we don't want to lock ourselves in one particular project, we'll continue to experiment other things before finishing this series totally. Our next objects will be slightly bigger.
Would you ever consider trying to make a workable paper object?
We’ve thought about it, but we found that paper is so fragile that it can't be manipulated without being damaged. For example we did a USB tape. And to be honest we found it more interesting the fact that the objects are not working, it places the user into a spectator position, a way to see the object out of its function.
Have you ever thought of selling kits and nets of your pieces for people to make at home?
As all the objects here are only made once we can't sell them for the moment. And as we tried to use the computer as little as we could, we don't have any papercraft kit. We wanted to turn an industrial object into a unique handmade craft. We took pictures before finalizing the objects, so it may help a bit if you want to create some homemade papercraft!
You use sustainable paper to make your creations, is this an important part of your business? What happens to the scraps of paper that are not used?
Of course, it's very important for us when using paper to be very careful about recycling and waste. That's why since we started to work together we decided to keep all the scraps so later we’ll make an installation using all those different random shapes. A way to transform waste into art.
For more of Zim and Zou's paper wonders, visit their website here