M/M (Paris) | Designer People

Written by Amy Devers

The communication design studio of M/M is a fairly small and intimate operation, because that’s the way they like it.  But make no mistake, the work coming out of that small office has made a huge impact over the years.  The two M’s refer to collaborative partners Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag, and whether or not you know them by name, you definitely know some of their work. 

M/M (Paris)

Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak of M/M (Paris) in their studio.

As much inventors as they are composers, they traverse effortlessly between hand-made and digital techniques, 2-d and 3-d formats to utilize the language of images, signs and icons to create high-impact communications in the form of fashion ad campaigns, interiors, magazines, music videos, sculptures… you name it.

Remember that famous image of Madonna as Che Guevara?  That’s them.  Familiar with Bjork?  They created the Vespertine typeface and artwork and have collaborated with her ever since.  Heard of Calvin Klein?  Balenciaga?  Yohji Yamamoto?  I’m sure you’ve seem some of the ads M/M has created for them.

As a designer myself, I was very interested in their process, and the nature of their collaboration.  Whenever there is a dynamic duo, I want to learn the unique chemistry and combination of personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, and methods of idea exchange that make it work in the specific way that it works.  I tried to “get under the hood” so to speak, to get a look at the configuration of gears that keep this particular combo of designers in sync and yet ever-evolving.  But no dice.  They were very reluctant to talk about what either of them brings to the table individually, how they interface creatively, or any of the nuts and bolts of the mechanics of their operation.  Instead they chose to keep the conversation directed at the breadth of their projects, and their conceptual approach.  (Which, by the way, is fascinating.)  I did eventually get them to acknowledge a quote from a colleague that they felt accurately describes their partnership, “one is the muscle and one is the bone.”  But they would not divulge to me (or to you) which was which.

Now it’s certainly fair to want keep the conversation and profile of your work directed at what you feel is most important to its representation.  And if you’re just trying to cultivate a bit of mystery, well that’s also legit.  I get and respect why they may have denied me the access that I wanted.  But it’s in my nature to want to take things apart to see how they work.  So, you can’t blame me for asking.  –AD

This episode also features Cecilia Dean of VisionaireOlivier Zahm of Purple Fashion magazine, Julia Peyton-Jones of Serpentine Gallery, and architect Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee contributing to the discussion of M/M.

**This blog post was originally written for the premiere of Designer People | M/M (Paris) and published on Ovation.com, April 2010. I have made a few edits and updated the links.

Designer People airs on  Ovation in the U.S. and on 19 different networks internationally.

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E26 M-M

Designer and host Amy Devers enters the world of M-M, a graphic design firm set in Paris and named for Swedish founders and friends, Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak.  Their style evokes a dreamlike sense of collage, with smoky drawings covering and biting into pieces of photographs.  In one image, a very surreal past, present, and future is collectively represented.  M-M has most famously created graphic designs for Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney, Bjork, Madonna, and Vogue Paris.

Designer People showcases the world’s leading artists in architectural design, communication design, industrial design, interior design, and fashion.  Each episode focuses on on the creative insight of an acclaimed designer whose work shapes our lives and our surroundings.

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