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Reynald Philippe of Be-poles: “Time is something that is equally given to everyone”

“Time is something that is equally given to everyone” from be-poles founder Antoine Ricardou — he gave us this piece of advice a couple of years ago, when we organized a collective creative retreat in the South of France. Time is a precious gift. People often think of money as their most valuable resource, but unlike money, […]

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“Time is something that is equally given to everyone” from be-poles founder Antoine Ricardou — he gave us this piece of advice a couple of years ago, when we organized a collective creative retreat in the South of France. Time is a precious gift. People often think of money as their most valuable resource, but unlike money, time is something you can never get back.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Reynald Philippe.

After obtaining a Master’s in critical graphic design from the Ecole Supérieure d’Art et Design in Valence (France), Reynald started his career as a designer within the bespoke team of Wallpaper* Magazine in London. Reynald moved to New York in 2010, working as an Art Director before becoming a partner as be-poles opened its New York studio in 2012. 
The studio gained notoriety in the US by working with the most talented actors of the hospitality industry. Be-poles is behind the visual identities for Eleven Madison Park in New York, all NoMad Hotels, Park MGM in Las Vegas, The Surf Club Four Seasons in Miami, etc.

“I am always looking at building timeless visual identities with the aim to give clarity, concept and meaning. That is at the core of the be-poles philosophy”.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was born and raised in the northeast of France, not far from the Champagne region, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, on my parents’ farm. I have fond memories of my childhood — driving tractors, helping with cattle breeding, riding my bike in the forest. It was true freedom. But I always dreamed of Paris, and other large cities.

While I didn’t really grow up being surrounded by Art and Design, I’ve always been attracted to the power of images. I could stare at CD and book covers for hours, trying to redraw them by hand. I eventually left home to pursue art, obtaining a Master’s in critical graphic design from the Ecole Supérieure d’Art et Design in Valence (France). I then started my career as a designer within the bespoke team of Wallpaper* magazine in London. From then, my appetite for design never stopped growing and to this day, I’m always looking forward to the next opportunity.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I sometimes feel that I’m going in the opposite direction, going against the flow. Let me explain. We are all aware of design trends, in fashion, visual arts, and photography. The recent development of image sharing platforms such as Pinterest, Tumblr and of course Instagram, allowed trends to spread faster, to a larger audience.

Trends are something I’m trying to avoid in my work. Of course I’m influenced by people I admire, don’t get me wrong, but I’m more attentive to the notion of “content”. My design work is not trying to impress, to make a splash, but to express the right narrative.

Working at be-poles as an Art Director for the last 10 years, I was able to learn how to give clarity, concept and meaning to design. This is the philosophy of the studio. We always prioritize function over form. We don’t want to create something that simply looks good, we want it to also make sense and tell a larger story, one that engages and inspires.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Not sure how funny this is, but when I first started in New York, I was not very fluent in English. It was sometimes a real struggle for me to keep up with communication. I remember being stuck in a meeting one day, with a client giving me feedback on my work for about 30 minutes, and I simply couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying, but I had to remain professional and agree with everything. I went back to the office after the meeting was over and kept wondering what kind of changes I would have to make to my presentation to make the client happy. I had no clue what he had approved or asked me to keep working on. It worked out in the end and my English has significantly improved over the years, but looking back, it’s funny that I was embarrassed by the language barrier. I’ve learned to always ask people to repeat themselves or clarify if I have a hard time understanding, just to make sure I can successfully follow through on the project.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

First and foremost, my parents. They have a strong work ethic and they value ‘being proactive”. They always pushed me to be the best at what I do, and they gave me the freedom to choose my career. I’m very grateful for that.

Then, moving on into the design world, I have always admired designers like Paula Sher and Stefan Sagmeister. Having worked for The Rolling Stones, Jay Z, Lou Reed, The Public Theatre or MoMa, they are an integral part of New York City’s vibrant culture; they shape the visual language of the city. I also admire them for blurring the lines between design and fine art. I had the chance to meet them both when I started design school in France, about 15 years ago now. Time flies. It was such a great honor to be able to exchange with them, talk about culture and design. I was not even thinking about living in New York at the time but now that I have been a New Yorker for over a decade, I feel like I understand the city on a new level and would be eager to meet them again and continue the conversation.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Of course being disruptive is a positive thing — I’m talking here about disruption in my field of expertise: design. Pushing ideas and concepts, doing things in a different way, exploring methods of production & materials, helping the creative field question itself and evolve. Look at the Fauvism movement in the early 20th century; the radical use of unnatural colors was audacious and disruptive. While the work of these artists (Matisse, Derain, etc.) caused a scandal in the Art world, it was a touchstone for future modes of abstraction, leading to Cubism and Expressionism. This is the exact same thing today. Look at fashion for example, and how street style has been influencing haute couture, giving birth to “luxury streetwear”. Look at how Virgil Abloh can take over a brand like Vuitton. Disruption can be incredibly interesting.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Time is something that is equally given to everyone” from be-poles founder Antoine Ricardou — he gave us this piece of advice a couple of years ago, when we organized a collective creative retreat in the South of France. Time is a precious gift. People often think of money as their most valuable resource, but unlike money, time is something you can never get back.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Studio be-poles’ original founder Antoine Ricardou is a registered architect, which could seem a little surprising, for a studio specialized in brand identities. However, when you think about it, architecture, graphic design, and other design disciplines share comparable principles. Applications are different but the creative process remains similar. For a couple of years now, our Paris office has developed an architecture department. Architects, art curators, strategists, art directors and graphic designers work together as one creative team, to build relevant & lasting narratives used as the starting point for each of our projects. This allows us to offer our clients pertinent and cohesive brand experiences, applied the same way for an interior design concept, a look-book, a website, a matchbox, etc. There are no negligible applications, and each touchpoint should be able to reveal something of the brand story. Today, our studio be-poles is moving in a really interesting creative direction. We’re getting more and more opportunities to approach branding from a 360 degree angle. That’s how we envision continuing to shake things up. This tendency is already discernable in Europe, and we are eager to develop a second architecture department in New York so we can offer more and dive even deeper into each project in the American market as well.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I highly recommend the podcast Take Away Only, by journalist Howie Kahn. This podcast was born during the onset of COVID in NYC and beyond. Restaurants, bars and hotels suddenly had to shut down for an undetermined period and since then, everybody has been wondering what will happen next. The daily podcast is about the world of hospitality in crisis. Howie is opening up a dialogue with Chefs, restaurant owners, industry leaders, and giving them an opportunity to speak about their personal stories, and their approach to survive and save their businesses. Howie is a friend, he is part of the extended be-poles family. He came to us with his ideas for Take Away Only, and it immediately resonated with us. We helped come up with the design of the podcast, creating a playful and vibrant color system to accompany each episode, giving each person, their experience and perspective, their own identity, so to speak. Creating these artworks, every week was like therapy for me during these unprecedented times. Like a “one drawing a day” kind of thing; it felt reassuring to have this daily creative task . Beyond that, it was inspiring to hear these stories. It felt like a way to keep the industry connected and engaged during a time when we were all physically disconnected.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never give up before it’s too late” which could sound like a motivational quote from Equinox or Nike but it’s actually a poem written by the German artist Martin Kippenberger several days before he succumbed to his illness. Pursue your dreams no matter what, keep putting in the effort, because life is too short and there’s no way back. Similarly, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think people should stop comparing themselves to each other. Online and offline. I grew up in a small town where everybody watches over everybody’s shoulder. This is not just born with social media, even if today, we are all about representing and showcasing ourselves online. We emphasize the best versions of ourselves instead of the real versions. I think we should re-establish our level of confidence, believe in ourselves, push forward and focus on things that really matter.

How can our readers follow you online?

I use Instagram as a platform to showcase my photography work. Most of the photos are 35mm film documenting my travels and city explorations. As for my design work, I invite you to follow studio be-poles’ account, where you can discover our latest projects, book releases, events, and more.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you for having me!

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