Questioning What We See



What if the houses made by some of the most famous architects would have been projected inside of a cube?

The idea here was to deform and stretch houses projected by some of the most well-known architects, to put them inside a cube and with that to reveal what makes them so singular starting by the choice these architects made concerning the proportion of their houses, but also all the decisions they took to make these houses so unique and famous.


What are the possibilities to draw a 2 dimensional cube using each of its edges?

511 is this number. But the number of solutions matters little.

This study aims to question and illustrate the spaces that could be produced by a cube in all its forms. Studying the cube in 2 dimensions is a way to explore the infinite possibilities that this volume can offer, and then to perceive the infinity of 3 dimensional combinations that could appear when finally utilizing the volume in architectural applications. This experience is also deeply based on an exploration of language using symbols, signs, lines and marks…

in a time where words and communications are questioned. The final illustration invites the viewers to explore their understanding of a simple form by looking into the logic of its composition and expression. This work aims to invite people to question again things they believe they already know or understand.


What are the possibilities to draw a 3 dimensional cube composed of 8 cubes?

255 is this number. But the number of solutions matters little. This work is based on the desire to discover the cube with a spatial point of view. As the previous project N°01, this study aim to question language through signs, forms, lines, cubes… In fact, it asks the question of what is hidden behind everything we take for granted. This simple cube composed of 8 cubes might have a secret. We can take as it appears to our eyes, or try to dig into it to find something. Which leads us to the question – is the process more important or the outcome?

The famous house made of an uninterrupted line.

Why not interrupt it, for instance. This work continues to explore language. The research starts with a simple form. It tries to decompose & simplify, inviting people to discover and understand it too. These studies are an allegory, a way to understand this complicated world where everything adds up to create complexities. It attempts to find an escape through the exploration of new languages that could be simpler, easier, helping us to communicate better.  When trying to understand one simple element like this 8 line house, we are invited to learn how difficult it is to see something clearly through this mass of information we call our world. Maybe it’s time for us to start creating and learning a new language to understand each others again somehow.


The cube is declined in order to continue exploring the question of the language.  We are looking for the possible and various configurations hidden in this form. This research invites the spectator to question the cube itself. But the cube is a starting point, a pretext to ask the question of what could be discovered when we look beyond the obvious. As Louis Kahn used the square as a starting point to think and make architecture projects, I use the cube as a basis of my research on language. The understandings of the problems present in communications are the main questions asked in my work. These communication problems are inevitable considering the diversity of languages, we then have the responsibility to be very careful, curious, and open to the potentialities, always in a state of questioning and exploration. Looking for possibilities is the responsibility we have, for better communication and understanding of the world surrounding us.


The exploration of the cube was once a pretext to use a wonderful and mysterious form. Because I liked it but more than all because I knew that there was a secret hidden into it, a way to maybe speak the same language. It then became the context for this language exploration.

All the languages in the world are different. Nobody understands each other really and fully, because we are different, because our culture is different, our life, experiences and because we speak different languages. The letter ‘A’ for example doesn’t exist in some countries, but forms like cube, circle, triangle are known by everybody. I am convince that these forms could be a starting point to create a new language even more easy to learn and understand than the one we already know. I believe that a day everybody could speak to each other without barrier and misunderstanding. More I use this volume and spatiality, more I feel that there is a simple complexity that could be understood by everybody somehow and that could create an international way of communicating and understanding each other.

The cube was once a pretext. It now became a context.


Every time I start a new language exploration based on this 3 dimensional cube, I am not sure where it will bring me, if it’s worse it, how difficult it will be. I always try to challenge and push further these experimentations. I don’t know how fare I can go and how much my little brain can handle. I guess it’s like learning a new language. At the beginning it’s really hard, with many unknown. Afterward, I find new cues helping me to progress and understanding what is hidden and implied in these complex structures and vocabulary. It’s fascinating how a simple form can become so complex, revealing news boundaries and potentialities. More I dig into forms and more I feel there is something bigger than what I could have expected at first. A real language is here hidden deep inside cubes, and there are so many forms with so many potentialities to discover in order to free their captivating power.


The buildings we live in are all the same and yet details, lines, decorations – all of these differentiate them. These elements aside, our constructions are pretty much all the same, chiseled out of a volume similar to a cube. The question is, how do we know what to do within this volume if we want to make a unique structure? It’s a play of construction, deconstruction, assembly and deformation, to mold the volume given to us. The result is an architectural language of form, void and combination related to buildings, places to live.


I am fascinated by architecture, and I alwa­ys wanted architecture to be more understood or create curiosity. For me, making things simpler, in term of form, space, volume, geometry is a way to create a window to invite people to understand more about architecture. A point, a line, a corner, a curve… little moves bring big differences. I believe that we all can build these spatial differences. We can modulate the spaces we evolve in and with almost nothing we can change a spatiality. I am declining little volumes in order to invite people to do it as well.


The places we live in are configurations of the void. It’s a game between the full and the empty and an attempt to celebrate gravity. The results are forms being all very similar. Our cities are pretty much all the same. We all end up in boxes with windows and if we are lucky with a view. All these forms create a language made of lines, angles and holes. In a way, we can say that whatever the place we live in the world, we all speak the same language.


Who influences you graphically?

I am influenced by architecture, the way people live, the construction of our houses and cities. Every form, structure or configuration intrigues me, from the ones we can find in nature to the one created by humans.

I think about some architects like Louis Kahn and some artists like Arne Quinze for example.

How and to what extent has your architectural background influenced your work as a graphic designer? 

I can’t detach architecture from my graphical practice. It’s always there somehow. Architecture teaches us how to see and to question what we see. It taught me to forget what I though I knew about everything and to always try to see things like as if it were for the first time. I like the idea of questioning things again and again, the idea of always being ready to change our minds and our ideas on what we build as certitudes.

So in my graphic design, I question configurations, architecture, houses, the way we live and the places we live in. I then decline these forms to create symbols, a kind of alphabet, that invite the viewer to read into what we may otherwise take for granted. I believe that declinations are the first step to question again what we think we already know.

You talk about wanting to see things through the eyes of child as a means of challenging what we already know - could you expand on this a bit more? How did this lead you to exploring the challenging the cube and notions of language? 

A child will always be curious and surprised to what its eyes meet. It gives her an extraordinary power. Without effort she can see things that adults will not see anymore. It will help the child to dream and escape the world of conflict we live in but will also give her the potential to challenge the world she evolves into.

Keeping the eyes open, being ready to always be surprised and to question the point of view we have is, for me, a solution against misunderstanding and conflicts. It’s a question of language, communication, being aware of differences.
I believe that everybody can understand a cube. It is, in appearance, a simple form, in rupture with nature and in relation with human.

I think that the cube can somehow help people to speak the same language. Declining the cube refers to all the possibilities and options that exist and that we don’t see.

Do you ever see yourself moving away from the cube into researching other volumes? 

Of course. The cube is a pretext, a starting point. I need to start somewhere. As Louis Kahn used a square to begin any of his projects, I am starting with a cube, but soon I may give up this form. Sometimes I get to a point where I don’t even see the cube anymore. Cubes are just the surface of my explorations. It’s a way to help people entering the exploration I am doing that will then bring to the structural and architectural questions placed into it. It’s also an invitation for both of us to see beyond the surface.

Isn't architecture itself a very precise language? 

Yes it is, but at the same time it’s like all languages, it’s in constant evolution, with new words and expressions being created.

The language of architecture depends on its time. For example, this language was indeed not the same during Antiquity than it is now. It’s the responsibility of architects to continue questioning it. Good architecture arrives sometime to synthetize in the same time the languages from the past and the ones to come. This is how for example the pyramids are still very contemporary. Today, not just the materials but also the new technologies and climates changes are preparing the architecture of tomorrow. The architectural language is in movement.

How does this work on language sit in relation to the various commissions you also do? Do these feed of each other or are they detached?  

They are of course related. Each of them bring new ideas to each other, but they also try to push further the perceptions and questions implied into the projects they serve. For example, my commission for the Indian wellness company, Ayca, attempts to represent a contemporary India, with a vision for the product to make its way into the world. The idea was to make a clean and modern design with a sense of handmade and Indian tradition, thereby marrying two languages. I think that simple forms have the potentiality to do that.

In addition to exploring the static drawing you also use the GIF, why so? In this sense have you ever thought of pushing this further into an animation? 

I actually really don’t see my graphics as static.

I think they already imply movement in the compositions and explorations they propose the spectator to have. Using GIF is then for me a normal continuity bringing even more dynamism into my graphics. It continues to explore this process of de-composition and re-composition. Making animation could of course be a possibility in the future.

I think that these GIFs also refer to my past as a filmmaker, which I had been doing for 6 years at the same time as WHA-T for our film company called 51prod. The last music video we shot was in India for ‘ Partir ou Rester ’ (to stay or to leave), the song of the two reknown artists Brigitte Fontaine and Philippe Katerine, after which I decided to commit to design full-time.

What role does colour play in your explorations?

Colour helps break the volumes, at the same time adding a certain complexity to the language. Just like children use primary colours when they start, or the Bauhaus movement did to go back to the basics, I mainly use primary colours too. The forms I create and colours I use can then together serve the same interest – to go back to basics, to re-discover, and to keep this exploration readable.


Yannick Martin was born in Gap, FRANCE. He graduated in architecture and is now an architect & araphic Designer. In 2009, along with Jonathan CACCHIA, Gordon WOURMS & Jonathan MONIER they won 1st Prize for the National Steel Competition Imagine your future office, prize delivered by Anne Lacaton, Architect at the Cité de L’Architecture et du Patrimoine de PARIS.

He then worked for Yvann Pluskwa Architect in Marseille, and for Conran & Partners in London, but has been always developing independents graphical projects beside that with WHA-T. In parallel, he realises films with his brother, both independent filmmakers at 51Prod. In 2010, he produces his first graphical book called ‘THE BOX’. After that, he travelled 2 years between Asia and South America where he made several graphical projects and films. He now works as Graphic Designer between Paris and Mumbai.