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The ZigZag Questionnaire: Joran Briand

We chatted with the designer-surfer Joran Briand about art, creativity, surfing and being a "West-head"

In order to understand the work of an architect or a designer, to truly understand what he creates, we have to understand what inspires him. For Joran Briand, it’s the ocean. Best known for his urban decorative elements – he designed the huge concrete nets on both the Mucem and the Jean-Bouin stadium for Rudy Ricciotti, in collaboration with Etienne Vallet – this young designer, trained at Olivier de Serres and the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs de Paris, has his eyes on the open sea. It’s only natural, then, that most of our ZigZag Questionnaire with him had water and the ocean as its main themes.

The usual questions – where are you and what did you have to stop doing in order to answer this questionnaire? Feel free to add as much detail as you like.

I’m in my studio in Montreuil. It’s a warm day and we had a barbecue with the staff at lunch, enjoying our roof deck. At the moment I’m working on a metal chair for a young editor based in Cambodia, and I’m also checking the surf forecast for this weekend.

You mention the ocean as your main source of inspiration yet your works seem to be mostly in neutral colours and very geometric. How does the ocean factor into your work?

Living close to the sea gives you a unique sense of well-being. The ocean is constantly changing and moving. The smoothness, the colours and the composition are a true inspiration. Having a look at the forecast to go surfing or analysing the currents before a snorkel outing help me develop new methods that shape my daily work as a designer.

As a surfer, do you have a favourite ocean or sea ?

My favourite ocean for the moment that where I grew up, the Atlantic Ocean in south Brittany. When I was a kid I spent all of my holidays and weekends on the Arz Island, Quiberon or Carnac. The Arz Island was a place of freedom where we could fish and build new fishing rod systems. Carnac and Quiberon had a different feel for me, more urban, those were the places where I met my surfer and skateboarder friends. We felt like the Lords of Dogtown. The purpose of each new day was to skate in unusual spots or surf bigger waves off the wild coast. At that time, surfing wasn’t an industry like it is now in Brittany. This spot was barely open for swimming. This place continues to have a wild feel, and the summer days are still very quiet. We are lucky.



In your project West is the Best you went on a quest to capture that California je ne sais quoi that makes West Coast life so great. Did you manage to find its true soul, and if so, how would you describe it?

My mind is often somewhere else, wandering in my thoughts, in my dreams. And my friends who tease me about it saying I’m such a “west-head” are not far off the mark. It is true. My compass always points in that direction — westward — towards Brittany, where I was born, towards the ocean, with those wild beaches, still my favourite spots even though the waves there are often messy. I am a designer and, despite working in Paris, it is in Brittany that I truly create. I’m always there in my thoughts, and every chance I get, I run away there for a surfing session.
Our times have made the surfboard an icon. Its culture has become sacred, turned into a certain aesthetic of cool. After all, as sports equipment goes, a surfboard is way sexier than a squash racket, and it is all for the best if the joy of surfing is manifest to most people.
I started the West is Best project because I wanted to create a dialogue about the particular relationship with the world that is channelled by surfing. The starting point for this project had to be California because its philosophy is a testimony to the fusion between culture and creative environments. All the people we met there shared with us their visions of the ocean, their relationship with the elements, and what the immersion into and the contact with the waves bring to their creativity.
These encounters nourished my work as a designer and my project to set up a studio on the French coast. To be a “west-head” for good and without guilt! West is the best!



What’s next for you?

I’m currently designing a guitar shaped like a candy apple for the French band La Femme and a quiver surfboard for Thomas Erber’s Le cabinet de curiosités. I’m also busy creating a kids’ wooden game for Cinq points, a 3D game for budding architects, as well as working on the interior design of the Spindrift boathouse in my hometown.


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