an online conversation
about design management

Paris on one phrase a day.

The end of our second week in Paris and one phrase: "Desole, Je ne pas parle vous Françoise" (Sorry, I do not speak French) has been our entrée to all areas. It works so well, the most common response is a big smile and a reply in French that translates to "yes you do, you are speaking French now", which of course is no use to me at all ... thankfully, everyone continues the conversation in delightful, if not perfect, English, and those that don't seem happy with our miming skills.

It has been surprisingly easy to work from Paris - I recommend it thoroughly – in fact clients see the arrangement as positive because they often get changes delivered ‘overnight'. During the week I've received similar feedback from other designers – I can see I'm far from the first to think of this arrangement. (There are obvious opportunities for Australian designers working with Northern Hemisphere clients - I wonder how large the market is there? )

There’s only been one challenge and that’s when the wifi in the apartment went down, but after a quick circle of the apartment with my tshirt over my head, Greg did the old 'unplug, wait 15 seconds replug' and it was fixed in an instant. IT has never been my strong suit.

We’ll fallen into a routine. I’m at the computer from around 7-11am (which coincides with 3-7pm Australian eastern standard time.) That gives me the chance to chat online real-time with clients. After that, the day is ours. Sometimes we return around 4 when we do a little bit more work before we’re back out for aperitifs about 7pm. We have a kitchen and we’ve been exploring the markets (with 'the' phrase and a great deal of gesturing and pointing) so it’s not been difficult to stay in, cook and work a few extra hours if needed, otherwise we do a couple of hours when we return after dinner.

I'm averaging about 6-8 hours a day which is surprising because when I left Australia I didn't have any 'on-going' work, just some research to do for future projects. I don't expect that level to continue but who's to know? (A client emailed today to flag an upcoming job that she says is 'one out of the box' ...)

Some observations on Paris: we've spotted two McDonalds, no 7:11's, no Hungry Jacks, one Subway and no Thai nail bars spoiling this beautiful architecture. Perhaps they have infiltrated the suburbs but we've not seen any in any of the areas we've explored. There's not even a lot of neon on show compared to New York, London or Tokyo's Ginza.

The downside of this (supposedly) lack of progress is that supermarkets and wine shops shut at 3pm Saturday (we learnt that the hard way) and many retail outlets don't open Sunday at all. At a wine and cheese tasting course we asked the presenter why that was and she replied that Parisians value their weekend and no one wanted to work, nor shop then. The weekend is for family.

So it's mainly restaurants and bars that remain open of a weekend and that brings up the second main difference – hospitality branding. Whereas in Australia every new restaurant and bar is freshly branded from the fitout to the coasters, here it is rare to see contemporary branding. Most restaurants are signed with simple text on a hoarding, menu and blackboard and often that differs between the three, and it's far from contemporary. So do the restaurants not change hands or does the livery remain when they are sold? Perhaps there are very strong planning restrictions that restricts change? I wonder if there is any work for designers in hospitality – a sector that employs many in Australia?

It's one of the questions that we'll ask an Australian graphic designer that we're meeting later this week. I'm keen to hear what sectors he works in. We're also going to dinner with a French product designer... It will be interesting to hear her view of the design industry.

Yesterday we met with a design researcher with strong views about design education. I'll leave that for Greg to discuss but the take home point is that there are more similarities in our global village than differences.

Carol Mackay

Carol is co-founder of Mackay Branson, a design studio currently celebrating 30 years in business.
Her expertise is in the use of design to package complex content into bite-sized chunks of information that is easy to understand and digest. She does that with clients in the corporate, cultural, government and not for profit sectors. More at