Image of Pierre Bernard, one of the leaders of Grapus (Vienne).

Grapus Studios was a group of between three and 20 graphic artists who joined and left the group at different points in time. The group worked together “between 1970 and 1991, [seeking] to combine excellence of design with a social conscience (“Grapus”). Grapus was formed following the student revolts in 1968 in France against excessive consumerism, Capitalistic policies, and American imperialism. The group was made up of Communist party members, making social, political, and cultural statements with their designs (“Grapus”). They were founded by Pierre Bernard, “François Miehe, [and] Gérard Paris-Clavel” in France in 1970 (Guillermou & Graphéine). The three men studied Art Déco and received their master’s degrees at the at the Institut de l’Environnement where they met (Guillermou & Graphéine). Bernard also “studied poster art for a year at the Akademia Sztuk Pieknych in Warsaw with Henryk Tomaszewski,” a Polish poster design master (“Pierre Bernard, France (1987)”). Tomaszewski was known for his designs that had a “very strong and colorful, fight for the independence of graphics and cultural message, at the time of Stalinism and Polish socialist realism” (Guillermou & Graphéine).

The group emphasized poster design, frequently using strong bright colors, photography, child-like drawings, hand-written text, and visual symbols. This convergence of techniques is known as detournement, or “the rerouting of a message through acts of visual vandalism” (“Grapus”). One example of their provocative messages, bold colors, and combination of drawings and photography is Grapus’s poster titled “Ultimate Attempt.” The poster features a photograph of two dogs procreating, with one painted in bright primary colors in a symbolic desperate attempt for the public to willingly submit to the influence of advertisements. Bernard describes it as “a very emblematic, very voluntarist and very clownish figure of the engrossment of culture” (Guillermou & Graphéine).

Grapus received recognition in important museum exhibitions and even received the French Grand prix national des arts graphiques award in 1990. In the beginning, Grapus mainly worked with “experimental theatre groups, progressive town councils, the Communist Party itself, the Communist trade union CGT, educational causes, and social institutions,” refusing government and commercial clients (“Grapus”). As the group grew, division and tension over which projects to accept increased, leading the group to be divided into three with a double-signature system instead of signing only with “Grapus” (Guillermou & Graphéine).

The group officially split up in 1991 after the Louvre Museum asked Grapus to design their visual identity to help market the museum as just the “Louvre” instead of “Musée du Louvre” (Guillermou & Graphéine). While some members, such as Bernard, wanted to accept the job and use their designs as a tool to reach the socially and culturally deprived, many of the designers believed the Louvre was too elitist and contradicted their messages (“Grapus”). Bernard along with two other designers, Dirk Behage and Fokke Draaijer, formed an independent group known as the Atelier de Création Graphique (Vienne). The new group took the Louvre job as well as the national parks of France assignment, and Grapus largely split up. However, the logo for the museum was still signed Grapus. The group members went on to pursue individual design projects and many became teachers. Pierre Bernard died in 2015. Grapus has had a lasting impact on poster making, graphic design, and art because their topics addressed new topics in France, such as theater, poetry, art, and sports rather than just advertisements, which was the business most poster-makers were in.


“Pierre Bernard, France (1987).” AGI,

Guillermou, Tiphaine, and Graphéine. “Pierre Bernard & Grapus, ‘Graphic Design of Public Utility’, 1942/2015.” Graphéine Graphic Design, 23 Mar. 2016,

“Grapus” Grapus – The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia, 2007,

Vienne, Véronique. “Pierre Bernard.” Design Observer, 11 Nov. 2015,