By Leahnora Azad
The following is an interview with Marie-Andrée Pelletier-Cyr who was instrumental in bringing to life Minori’s brand aesthetics and visual identity. In our conversation, we discuss how she first fell in love with art and graphic design as a teenager, her philosophy around Design and her creative process.
Marie-Andrée reminds us that beauty is never far from our reach. With eyes that see pockets of joy in each corner of the world, she harmonizes work and play within design, expanding a reservoir of creation that anchors fulfillment in the present moment. As the co-founder of Hey Leonardo, a Montreal-based art and graphic designer agency, Marie-Andrée pursues amplifying quiet joys to the forefront of our daily experiences in a manner that is functional, inspiring, and encourages deep connections.
Embracing the ebbs and flow of life, Marie-Andrée exemplifies the notion of life's challenges initiating personal expansion. Through many of her creative works, it is evident she transforms lead into gold. In this article we dive into her processes of wonder and hues of fulfillment within her world of design.
Leahnora Azad (LA): How did your journey in design begin?
Marie-Andrée Pelletier-Cyr (MPC): I always knew I had this artistic feel inside. I was led to and influenced by art at an early age. In my family, everyone is good at numbers besides me, so art has always been at the center of my life for expression. My father always gave my family and me opportunities to be involved in extracurricular activities aside from school. I always immersed myself in drawing, oil painting, illustrations and took courses that introduced new artistic techniques. It was really in high school where I struggled with finding what I'd do in life. My father played a substantial role in giving me the confidence to pursue art as a career.
Marie-Andrée recalls early memories with her father, "He pointed out that everything we see in life came from someone's imagination. He used realistic examples like how a chair could be created by an Industrial Designer. He introduced me to a new perspective that I never had in mind before. I remember him taking a piece of bread and telling me, "you can see someone created this. From that point on I thought: 'Oh yes! How can I create something like that?"
Success is never linear but a continual process dependent on our perseverance
LA: It is incredibly beautiful how your father guided you to continue your passion. How was this new perspective propelled into adulthood and career choices considering the emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields as promising paths?
MPC: I recognized that emphasis, especially in high school when I struggled with maintaining the relevance of art into my adulthood. It made me worry about how the arts would follow in my life. Following my father's earlier guidance I applied for Graphic Design at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). My academic career and successes was not a linear process by any means.
Full Circle: Challenges Foster Expansion, Soar Higher
LA: Speak on that. What were some challenges you faced?
MPC: I was denied upon my first application at UQAM. That was really tough for me, but I took it as an opportunity to dive into the labor market and traveled for a year which brought me valuable insights. I reapplied a year later, got in, and made the transition to live in Montreal. During college, there was more emphasis within the curriculum on the communicative aspect of images. I wanted to explore deeper the creation aspect.
I studied Graphic Design in California for a semester. I enjoyed seeing how people from another country with different life experiences interpret Graphic Design. It was a refreshing point of view to experience; the Southernmost culture of California expanded perception within my practice.
I enjoyed this portion of my life immensely. I really found my passion for Graphic Design during college.
After my semester in California, I was awarded the Sid Lee Scholarship towards the completion of my Bachelor's Degree at UQAM. So my journey started with being declined from the program, and ended with an award.
LA: Wow, that is incredibly inspiring. This was really a full circle moment!
MPC: Yes exactly! If you put forth the effort, you will find you can do anything. From then on, I always put goals in my mind to achieve. My struggles taught me to remain goal-oriented, to keep striving towards my passions.
Something Like Destiny
MPC reflects on how the Sid Lee internship rewarded her the opportunity to gain hands-on experience within an agency, and the fulfillment of bringing ideas to life. With appreciation, she credits this experience in propelling her expansion in Graphic Design to a space likened to Destiny. The ebbs and flow of life presented her with the chance to become a freelancer.
She details the enjoyment and freedom that comes with being a freelancer: "It's that bond I cherish. I've always had the chance to work within an agency but I love the teamwork that facilitates the realization of a project. I don't know if it was destiny to do this but I enjoyed cultivating a direct connection with a client".
LA: Touching back on your father's perspective on design essentially being everywhere, I think there is a growing appreciation of creators as a whole these days. I believe maybe up until a decade ago the idea of pursuing art has been discouraged. It's refreshing to witness this full-circle moment as we usually see success portrayed as a linear process. I appreciate your transparency in that respect. On Hey Leonardo's website, you have a mantra "Y’a d’la joie partout y’a d’la joie!" translating to "There is joy everywhere that there is joy!" What does this Quebecois saying mean to you?
MPC: As designers, we have a saying "we don't save lives as doctors, but we contribute to the happiness of the world". We don't realize the joys of every tiny detail in life. We can't quantify it but all the elements we come across through our daily experience have the potential to bring joy. I believe in that. If everything was gray, we'd be really sad. For example, if you choose a Minori product, you open it every morning and for some reason, it brings you joy. Even through a trip to your local coffee shop... we may not realize it, but everything we engage with accompanies us energetically.
Through Marie-Andrée's perspective, the heart becomes an eye through which beauty is found in all things. She recounts her travels in Nashville, Tennessee describing a collective identity found through its landscapes and city life: "This city has a look and feel of a strong personality, as if it was branded by the same designer."
LA: This is all so profound to me. I sometimes contemplate the reason behind our love or even indulgence with materiality. It is as though objects and things are our essence externalized. With each thing we come across, it seems that we can actually feel the creator's intent beyond the thing itself. In many ways, Design impresses our memory. Do you do this consciously in your work?
MPC: I think it is more subconscious for me. I try to put all of my effort into what I create. Every small detail receives my focus, but the overall impact is never consciously intended.
LA: The more I get to know you through this conversation, the more I see how your life perspective aligns with the philosophies of Minori, especially mindfulness and the appreciation of minimalism. What was your experience like branding for Minori?
MPC: It was the longest project I've done, about three years in the making. Usually, projects take a few months or so, but over the years you gain a lot of perspectives. Some parts of it were hard because there are moments when you're hands-on in the process, and then there is a long pause. This experience required a different approach, yet it gave me a confirmation that I was on the right path. Each time we re-opened the project, I was proud of the work I've done a few months later. It granted me a sense of self-approval. I was proud of what I did."
In the beginning, Anastasia discussed the goals of the brand. She gave me the necessary ingredients for this project and I think we've done well with linking her ideas with how we [Hey Leonardo] create visuals that reflect these ideas. It is important for me to always be on-brand, linking visual work that accurately reflects the values and the essence of their ideas. The first conversation we had was centered on giving confidence to women -- to feel our beauty and face the day ahead. I connected with Minori's ethos of minimal application and feeling confident in one's skin. For Anastasia, the brand needed to invoke the essence of "perfectly imperfect" acknowledging our "imperfections" are beautiful. That is where the illustration as seen on the packaging came. To make this illustration imperfect was important to me. Because I am right-handed, I did the illustration with my left hand instead to be sure it isn't perfect due to the trained reflex in my right hand. It was nice exploring the possibilities from this experiment. Inclusivity was integral for us as well. We wanted to ensure all persons are represented, seen and felt. Our goal was to invoke that through the art direction of the photoshoots and Minori colorways.
LA: I am so impressed and appreciative of learning all the intent behind Minori down to the packaging. We are presented with and conditioned to receive a sense of perfection, especially in the beauty industry. That is what intrigues and maybe negatively persuades consumers, this packaged idea of perfection on the surface.
MPC: Yes. I don't think these ideas changed over the years for Minori either. This idea of embracing imperfection remains consistent and I'm inspired by that.
LA: What would you say is your favorite aspect of designing?
MPC: I would say the packaging. There is a great pleasure in seeing my projects come to life. For example, when Anastasia brought me the finalized boxes we printed and I held it in my hands— to see my project live, it brought so much satisfaction to me. To have these ideas in a tangible form, considering the effort and the process of iteration is my favorite moment. I don’t think I could have this feeling if I did something else in life. It is really having all of these efforts in a tangible form that brings me such satisfaction.
LA: While speaking with you I receive so much optimism and joy from your personality and outlook. How do you prioritize or invoke these elements of mindfulness in your life?
MPC: I think it is a challenge to do that at any stage in someone's life regardless of age or circumstance. I have a great entourage. People around me are very strong and I think that is what helps me. Being close to my family and friends helps me to readjust my perspective when things are challenging. Sometimes when you over-prioritize work first — when you do anything too much in life, it doesn't have to only be work but you can lose the balance of exercise, having great conversations with friends, time with family, etc. For me, since I own my own company, it is a reflex to be productive. For a creative person, it is especially important to preserve this balance, or be as close to it as you can. Spending time with nature, being with my family and friends, traveling...all these things are important to remain inspired in life. This is the challenge of life, just as it is with cultivating self-confidence.
LA: This is a wise frame. When we think of overindulgence we typically think of the things we consume, but it can also be what we exert too much of. I think your words serve as a good reminder to slow down and process life lightly especially as we tend to have this false correlation of productivity equating to value and happiness.
MPC: Self-confidence is similar to the rollercoaster of our work life. Sometimes we feel we aren't productive enough, sometimes we don't make time for ourselves. It is important to remain inspired, to rest, and find quiet joys in life.
LA: I truly enjoyed this conversation. Your viewpoint speaks largely to the sixth sense that connects us all. The transfer of mental ideas into visual and tangible artworks comes from the constant exchange between humanity. There is a world within your creative process to the extent that what you do doesn't seem like work but pure art. What are some thoughts on design you'd like to conclude with?
MPC: Design is everywhere. Drawing from Minori's ethos on minimalism, I think it's nice to link that in design. In the field of Design we have a saying, "less is more" which aligns with our consumption habits. If you are more minimalist, you choose things more intentionally that bring joy to yourself.
The idea of "less but better" allows us to feel the joys of life deeply. All of the small details can bring joy.
Marie-Andrée’s reverence towards human relationships, mindfulness, mental discipline, and perseverance is evidenced through the precision and vividness of her creative work. It is as though Pelletier-Cyr breathes the fullness of life and illustrates the human senses into pieces that typically receive the connotation of mundane or lifeless. By tuning into the present, Marie-Andrée teaches us one may find elements of beauty, love, and joy in simplistic foundations.