Simon Chénier-Gauvreau: Bright Cubes Await
By Brett McKenzie on Nov 10, 2021
Ahead of the YG19 party, the YG12-winning designer discusses designing this year’s Cube
We are just one week away from the awesomeness that is the Young Guns 19 Ceremony + Party, where the winners of the world-renowned, career-shaping competition are celebrated in raucous fashion. This year’s festivities are extra special, as it’s our first in-person event since the Before Times, and we can’t wait to raise a glass or three to not only the 32 newest members of the Young Guns family but also salute our YG18 winners who had to be honored via Zoom and YouTube this time last year.
One of the ongoing traditions of Young Guns is that each years’ trophy, the highly coveted Young Guns Cube, is reimagined and redesigned every single year by previous Young Guns winners. From the Young Guns 8 Cube created by YG2’s Michael Whitney and YG5’s Justin Gignac out of reclaimed wood from Coney Island’s famous boardwalk to YG9’s Jon Contino and his fittingly distressed creation for last year’s class, each year’s Cube is totally unique — which presents a challenge to the next designer hoping to stand out with their vision for the trophy.
For YG19, that challenge fell to Montreal-based designer and Young Guns 12 winner Simon Chénier-Gauvreau, who decided to impart some much-needed optimism into this year’s branding, all the way down to the Cube that our winners will receive at the party next week. Ahead of the festivities, we caught up with Simon to take a trip down memory lane to his own Young Guns win, discussing how that moment helped steer his concepts for this year’s competition.
Congratulations on your work creating the YG19 branding and Cube, but before we talk about this year, let’s hop in a time machine and go back to 2014 — the year you won Young Guns 12. What did you know about Young Guns back then, and what made you think that maybe you had a chance of winning if you entered?
2014 seems like such a long time ago! I remember always looking up at the Young Guns as one of the most coveted awards for young creatives. A couple of great designers from Montreal had already won the award — a big shout out to Alexandre Renzo (YG5) and Daniel Robitaille (YG10) — and this is what made me think I truly had a chance. I also felt that having a selection of projects that touched multiple disciplines felt like a good place to start.
What was the first thing that went through your mind when you found out that you won?
I will always remember exactly where I was when I got the news. The setting was so random; I was actually waiting for a ferry while I was on vacation. We were barely getting any network reception and I was simply roaming around trying to fetch my mail. The news was so unexpected, it was amazing! No one was around so I could yell out of pure joy without a worry! It really did mean a lot to me. I just felt that I had worked so hard for many things and having this recognition just made it all worthwhile.
The Young Guns 12 campaign and Cube were created by three Young Guns winners: Menno Kluin (YG6), Juan Carlos Pagan (YG11) and Brian Gartside (YG12) What was it like to win that particular Cube, in all of its etched glory?
Oh, that YG12 Cube was a real beauty! My immediate reaction was how rich it felt. It’s just a truly beautiful, solid, and extremely detailed piece of art. I just felt I could carry it everywhere I went. In fact, I kinda did. I drove from Montreal to New York to attend the Young Guns 12 ceremony, and had a camping trip planned right after. The Cube followed me simply everywhere, from the dashboard of my car to our campsite showers. There was no way I was losing sight of this Cube!
How did winning YG12 affect you, personally and professionally? How have you grown in the seven years since winning?
Winning YG12 gave me the determination to continue to work extremely hard. It’s sometimes very difficult when working in bigger agencies, with a lot of projects, short deadlines, and constraints. I feel that winning this Cube gave me fuel to fight for great ideas and to always keep pushing creatively. It was a great sensation to see clients coming in and feeling proud to have a Young Guns winner at the table working for them. Winning Young Guns helped build trust in some sort of way.
I have to say I’ve grown a lot in the past seven years. I’ve grown as a creative director and as a designer, I’m also a father of two now, and that alone makes you grow up a lot! But one very important part of my growth is that now I want to be the last person that’s put forward. I find great fulfillment in making sure that everyone on my team grows and shines in the way that’s best for them.
"But one very important part of my growth is that now I want to be the last person that’s put forward. I find great fulfillment in making sure that everyone on my team grows and shines in the way that’s best for them."
And now onto YG19! How did the project of designing this year’s branding and Cube come about?
I always stayed in contact with the amazing team behind Young Guns, both as part of ADC and now under the umbrella of The One Club for Creativity. That's another perk of winning this award, by the way — you forever have connections within the organization. I was so happy to hear that the team was considering me for the design of this year’s campaign and Cube. It was a total no-brainer for me to take on the challenge. I knew I just had to squeeze it in, and even though I was awaiting a second child, there was no way that I was refusing an opportunity like this. I also felt it was some sort of way to give back, and to relive the Young Guns experience even though I’m way past 30 now!
What were some of your earlier thoughts before settling on “Bright Days Await”?
I have to say that the two years have been extremely hard, creatively speaking. The effects of the pandemic completely changed the way we work. I think many of us had to rewire our brains to still be able to create happily and freely.
When we started working this, almost a year ago, my gut feeling was to create something bright and lighthearted, something that just felt happy and could carry us to brighter days.
I think everyone has their own happy place when they close their eyes and look for inspiration. I wanted to connect with some of these places, and illustrate them in a bright and vivid style. I also felt like many of the previous Young Guns campaigns were mostly abstract, spheres, shapes, and light. I felt that there could be a way to create something more figurative, while still keeping the young, colourful essence of the Young Guns’ soul.
Now the branding is beautiful, but then comes the challenge of turning that into a Cube that will join the pantheon of past designs. What were some of your thoughts on that development?
The first word that came to mind when starting the design of the Cube was solid. I thought back to my YG12 Cube and felt that there was no way I was designing something flimsy. When you walk on that Young Guns stage and you finally receive this award, you want to feel like it’s never going to give up on you.
The second word I had in mind was magical. It’s Young Guns, and it happens once in your life, if at all. You want to look at this award and feel like all the ideas, the imagination, the craft, the inspiration, the obsessions you’ve had and given away are encapsulated in there. For me, this Cube is like a little window through all the achievements of the winners.
What were some of the challenges in bringing your solid and magical vision to life?
There were many, many challenges while creating this Cube. Having two variations, being able to seal all the names, recreating the scenes in space with a limited amount of layers. All of it was challenging. Keep in mind that every Cube has six visual layers, and all of them were poured, dried, and assembled by hand. That’s 240 layers that needed to dry before the other one was laid. That's quite a time consuming task! Fortunately I called upon the expertise of Robocut Studio here in Montreal. They were very helpful in showing me how things could be done.
How do you feel they turned out?
[laughs] I would be very curious to ask the YG19 winners this question! Personally, I’m very happy, but I just hope they feel the exact same way I felt when I received my YG12 Cube.
Your creation will now be going to the 32 winners of Young Guns 19. What would you like to tell them about this moment as they prepare to receive your Cube? What professional and personal advice can you give them as a Young Guns veteran?
Enjoy every second of this special night, and appreciate all the talent that will be surrounding you, both your fellow winners and the many past Young Guns winners who will be there to cheer you on. The Young Guns ceremony and party bring together some incredibly passionate people who will never have the chance to be together in the same room again. It’s funny to see it this way as I look back.
"The Young Guns ceremony and party bring together some incredibly passionate people who will never have the chance to be together in the same room again."
After the party next week, our team will begin tasking another past Young Guns winner with reinventing the Cube once again. What would you tell the next designer ahead of that challenge?
[laughs] Make sure not to have a second child while taking on this task! Just kidding! There's nothing I need to tell you — you've got Young Guns DNA, you'll find a way.
I’d like to once again thank the amazing team behind the Young Guns and The One Club. From back in the days at the ADC Festival in Miami Beach to today, you’ve always made everything the best it could be for creatives. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
The Young Guns 19 Ceremony + Party takes place on Wednesday, November 17 at Sony Hall in New York City. Tickets are on sale, with discounts available for One Club Members