Pierre Bernard and The Grapus Collective

French graphic artist and designer, Pierre Bernard born in Paris in 1942 was a very prominent figure in both the artistic and political world. In the year 1970 Pierre Bernard founded the Grapus Collective, for which he is most well-known for. (“Pierre Bernard Atelier de Création Graphique”) in the year 1964 after graduating from the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, Bernard received a scholarship to Warsaw to study with  Henryk Tomaszewski. It was through the teachings of Tomaszewski that Gropus ultimately stemmed. Through philosophy and emphasizing his exemplary works, Tomaszewski was able to instill both Bernard and his future partner Gerard Paris-Clavel with his upbeat and radical approach to graphic design. Years later ruing a riot at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in 1968, Bernard ran into Gerard Paris-Clavel. They soon met Francois Miehe, who was one of the student leaders and soon began to create “revolutionary posters.” The three, who shared the same political views, became fast friends, and due to their concern with political images and mindset they eventually joined the French Communist Party. (Bernard)


The three soon decided to become one sole ‘collective artist’ and they coined a single signature for their works. The name Grapus has no identifiable reference, but Bernard liked it because he claimed that it was functional-sounding, had vulgar overtones, and also had a “whiff of history to it,” referring to French revolutionary Gracchus Babuef. The group had Marxist aims, and created Grapus because they wanted to organize, design, and create signs that could help the capitalism-exploited social classes to resist and take part in the concrete construction of a democratic alternative. (Bernard)

Grapus had a highly distinctive style. They provided inspiration to graphic design students all over the world through their idealistic principles. They often used bright colors, sensual forms, handwritten text, high-spirited visual pranks, and also very extensive symbolic vocabulary. The technique they used was known as detournement, which is the rerouting of a message through acts of visual vandalism.(“Grapus”)


Pierre Bernard had once stated, “Doing graphic design meant defining oneself as a sincere indicator-amplifier of communication. We were in charge of communication and strove to spin it into images. This attitude implied mutual respect between graphic designer and client, and also required a critical outlook, ever on the alert, in order to tackle the objectives that we would outline together. These were the values we adopted.” I really feel that this attitude highly reflected upon the work the Grapus Collective created. (Bernard)

In the year 1990, Grapus collective was much larger and was faced with a decision that ultimately leads to a three way division of their group. They were given the opportunity to design the visual identity of the Louvre Museum. Errand was in favor of taking on the assignment because he believed that designing for a cultural institution could be a tool for social change. His partners however, wanted to design exclusively for social causes. They found the Louvre to be elitist, and felt that taking the job would compromise their convictions. It was in January 1991, that the collective was officially divided. Pierre, Bernard along with Dirk Behage and Fokke Draaijer took the job for the Louvre, and also designed identities for other places, such as the national parks of France, and signage for the Centre Pompidou. Although Bernard claims that the Grapus Collective did not meet any of their revolutionary goals, her stated that they did manage to explore the pathway to progress and pinpoint intricacies of the creative process, through hundreds of fruitful conflicts and inspired collaborations. (Poynor)



I feel that the work of the Grapus Collective is quite admirable. They all contributed pieces of their own work towers what they believe in, and left the credit of the work to the group as a whole. I find their work to be genuine and real because they are making it to fight for what they believe. They were trying to speak to people on a real level, ad get them to see what is going on in the world. Rather than trying to fight for themselves, they were attempting to fight for everyone, and be the voice of our country.


Bernard, Pierre. “Signé Grapus Pierre Bernard.” Nashan Magazine. Nashan Magazine, n.d. Web. 3 Apr 2014. <http://www.neshanmagazine.com/articles.asp?id=115>.

“Grapus.” Social Design Notes. N.p., 15 September 2002. Web. 3 Apr 2014. <http://backspace.com/notes/2002/09/grapus.php>.

“Pierre Bernard Atelier de Création Graphique.” Participative Design. Participative Design, 4 Mar 2011. Web. 3 Apr 2014. <http://www.participativedesign.com/interview-with-pierre-bernard/>.

Poynor, Rick. “Reputations: Pierre Bernard.” Eye Magazine. Eye Magazine, n.d. Web. 3 Apr 2014. <http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/reputations-pierre-bernard>.


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