The second life

Minimalerie Interview Olivier Guillard, Norway

Interview mit Olivier Guillard, Webdesigner.
Olivier ist der Geburtshelfer dieser Website. Klar, dass er mein erster Interviewgast ist. Wir sprechen über seinen bewegten Lebensweg, die Parallelen zwischen Musik und Design und natürlich über mein Lieblingsthema: Kreativität. Das Interview wurde auf Englisch geführt und wird hier ebenso veröffentlicht. Viel Spaß beim Lesen!


Olivier Guillard, born near Paris, has lived with his family in Berlin since 2012, where he works as a freelance web designer and developer for his international clientele. He also teaches UI/UX design at L’Institut Supérieur des Arts Appliqués (LISAA) in Strasbourg since 2021.


Anne Hi Olivier, I’m very happy to welcome you today as my first guest in the Minimalerie interview series.
Olivier, your CV already reads like a story of creativity. Apparently, your parents already encouraged your artistic expression, because you started learning to play different instruments at the age of five. You played in various orchestras, did your master’s degree in musicology and worked in this field in many ways.

Olivier So first, thank you for the invite. It is a great honor and pleasure to be here with you.
As you say, I started playing music when I was very young and I learned to read music before I learned to read the alphabet. I grew up in a small village where my father ran the music school. It was only natural that I wanted to know what he was doing there and wanted to go to orchestra rehearsals. I sat in the corner, observing, but very quickly I showed my interest by tapping the rhythm with my feet and hands, so much so that it was thought that I could be useful on percussion. From then on, I spent almost 20 years studying at bigger and bigger music schools, ending up studying Musicology at university.


Anne So you could say: music was your life. Yet, at the age of 30, you made a total change of direction: from music to design.
How did that come about? Was there a particular occasion?

Olivier Switching from music to design was not due to a problem with the media. It was a problem of balance of life. The life of a musician, particularly in so-called ‚modern‘ music, is an exhausting one. You spend a lot of time away from home, especially doing concerts. By the time I was 30, I was exhausted and suddenly realised that I was going to end up with health problems if I continued down this path. I consulted an occupational psychologist who advised me to explore my other creative voices. So I remembered that music had not been my only passion in life. History, literature, art … I spent my childhood and adolescence devouring books, drawing and painting. At the age of 14, after the secondary school, I had asked myself, what can I do with maybe music or graphic design?

Anne So then, at the age of 30, in a sense, you faced the same question for the second time?

Olivier Yes! The psychologist suggested, you know, perhaps you chose one path when you were 14, and now you might consider taking the other one. It’s never too late. I followed his advice and enrolled in a school to study graphic design and web development. I completed bachelor’s degrees in both disciplines and began working as a graphic designer.

Anne So in a way, to save your life, you had to say goodbye to the love of your life.

Olivier Exactly. I managed to accept the idea that it was not the end of the road or a failure. Because in the beginning it was in my mind that it was a failure stopping to be a professional musician. But over time, I recognized it was a fresh opportunity in my life, a new beginning. That’s why I often say I’m now living my second life.

I managed to accept the idea that it was not the end of the road or a failure. (…)
Over time, I recognized it was a fresh opportunity in my life, a new beginning.


Anne Can principles from the music field be applied to the design field?
Do you observe similar approaches in your creative process?

Olivier When I went back to school I was very surprised to see how music and design were similar. Rhythm, structure, balance, consistency, tone colors, mood … musicians and designers are using the same vocabulary. And they use the same way to structure their work.

Anne So it didn’t feel strange to you, but even a bit like coming home?

Olivier Yeah. And most important was the fact that both have a technical background on which you put a creative layer.

Anne In both, music and design, after mastering the fundamentals, you can start to become virtuosic.

Olivier Exactly. I had a real wow effect when I started coding things in web design. Because coding to me was just like writing music. It’s like handing your musical notes to a musician, and you can hear the melody come to life, or you input your code into a web browser, and you can see the results. It’s essentially the same process! When I found out I was very happy.


I had a real wow effect when I started coding things in web design.
Because coding to me was just like writing music.

Anne What parallels do you see between your work as a musician and your current work as a web designer and developer?

Olivier These are two jobs that require a great deal of discipline. Development, like music, requires daily practice and monitoring. They are both professions that combine technical expertise and creativity.

Anne A propos creativity and development of ideas, do you know the fear of „white paper“? If so, how do you overcome it?

Olivier No, I am not afraid of the white paper. My twelve years of experience as a designer gives me a lot of little tricks to avoid that fear and to give me the initial impulse to a project.
On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I’m at the foot of a mountain to climb and I wonder how I’m going to get to the top. Which path should I take? Will I have the energy or the strength to go all the way? Especially with solo projects. I always wonder how I’ll cope if I have an accident on the way up.
I have to admit that Chat GPT has helped me feel a lot less alone over the last 6 months.

Anne When you work creatively and want to work out a new idea, do you have rituals, a special environment or preparation that helps you to get into flow?

Olivier While some think they get ideas from a divine or uncontrollable source, like an epiphany on a mountain top, I personally don’t subscribe to this romanticized notion of creativity. For me, it is not something that just comes out of nowhere.


Anne I have to admit, sometimes it really does feel a bit magical when an idea „suddenly“ appears.
But I am aware that this is the outcome of a recurring process I follow: I begin by posing questions to my clients and immerse myself in the subject matter through reading and research. I absorb it intensely. Afterward I step back, allowing myself to take a walk or to sleep on the task. During these moments, I believe, my subconscious is also at work, enabling me to perceive new connections and generate innovative ideas.

Olivier Yes. I also see it as a process. This process can be defined as a collection of habits, things you do every time you start a project. This could include, for example, a walk, as you just said. With these methods and habits you define the framework in which creativity unfolds.

The process of creativity can be defined as a collection of habits, things you do every time you start a project. (…) With these methods and habits you define the framework in which creativity unfolds.

In terms of my work environment, I typically require a tranquil and organized space to maintain optimal focus on a task. Interestingly, some of my best ideas tend to occur when I’m away from the office, perhaps at the supermarket or on a train. Then it’s important that I capture them quickly, usually by taking notes on my smartphone.
After all, it is generally proven: If you’re stuck with a problem, take a brief break, do something else for 5 minutes. And then come back to the solution.

Anne Undoubtedly, these are valuable tips and approaches that you can also share with your students … Because today, alongside your freelance work, you are also engaged in teaching.
In your work as a teacher, what is particularly important to you besides teaching technical know-how? What are the essential principles or values you aim to pass on to your students?

Olivier I work with young adults who are very anxious about the future. I’d like to help them deal with their lack of self-confidence.
Primarily, I aim to share my professional experience with them. In class, we talk a lot about empathy and curiosity. I tell them: „Remember, you are talking to real people. Express genuine interest in the life they live. Then you will learn something very important for your project.“

Anne Yes, that’s precisely my perspective. Being capable of stepping into the users‘ shoes and comprehending their requirements forms the foundation for innovative ideas. You truly have to understand and to connect.


Olivier You need to know their needs and also their frustrations. So curiosity and empathy are the keywords I use the most.
Every time I start a project, I start to study the cultural ground and also the interaction between people. And interview people. That’s where my creativity comes from – from people. Additionally, like any designer, I frequent exhibitions, museums, and avidly read books. Ultimately, my primary source of inspiration is connecting with people.

my primary source of inspiration is connecting with people.



Anne What else inspires you and why?

Olivier I think you can find inspiration in everything. In a good dish, in a scientific article, in the shape of a tree … inspiration comes to those who remain curious.


Anne Do you still take time to experiment today?
How do you create the space to play?

Olivier Not as much as I’d like, but I made a significant change a year ago in August: I decided to work only 4 days a week and to reserve all my Mondays for personal learning and experimentation. This one day a week serves as my ‚playground‘, which I find essential. The best way to do it for me was to block out one day of the week, as otherwise, I struggle to find the time to do it.

Anne You really take this seriously, that’s great. It’s evident that you don’t just ‚allow‘ yourself to do it; you ‚must‘ do it!

Olivier Yes, I take it very seriously. I begin my workday in the morning at the office and I stop at six in the evening. Perhaps this disciplined dedication stems from my background as a musician, where daily practice is integral.

Anne I get the impression that you truly love what you do.

Olivier I often observe many people who lack enthusiasm for their work in general. As for me, I consider myself incredibly fortunate because I still have a genuine passion for what I do. My „second life“ is great. And that’s initially because I maintain this space for experimentation in my life.

Every day I learn something new is a good day.

And it never gets boring! It remains constantly fresh, because I’m continually working with new clients, learning new technologies and engaging with people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Every day I learn something new is a good day. I’m looking forward to seeing what opportunities the future holds. Life is full of surprises. You never truly know what’s on the horizon.

Anne Olivier, those are some fantastic final words. I’m grateful for our conversation. Thank you!

Olivier Thank you.


As a web designer, Olivier accompanied the creation of this website and made it possible. And so it is only logical that he had to be my first interview guest. At the beginning of our collaboration, I naturally already had ideas for the visual appearance of my studio. So Olivier took ideas from me, structured them, added his own brilliant approaches and wove everything together in a virtuoso way to create a wonderful and pure result. Olivier captured my visual style perfectly and I am so happy to be able to show the world my new website.
Zu Beginn unserer Zusammenarbeit hatte ich natürlich bereits Vorstellungen für das visuelle Erscheinungsbild meines Ateliers. Olivier nahm diese Entwürfe und Ideen von mir auf, strukturierte sie, fügte seine eigenen brillanten Ansätze hinzu und verwob alles auf virtuose Weise zu einem wunderbaren und reinen Ergebnis. Olivier hat meinen visuellen Stil perfekt eingefangen, und ich bin so glücklich, der Welt meine neue Website zeigen zu können.