- This interview is the fourth in a monthly series, where we explore the mission of Sopra Banking Software (SBS) team members, and how their work contributes to the company.
At Sopra Banking Software (SBS), the Head of Design is in charge of the graphics department, a team that uses visual elements to communicate ideas, messages, and information attractively and effectively – essential for a company that regularly makes announcements to present a new identity, positioning, event, etc.
In October 2023, we’re hosting the third annual SBS Summit, an event that brings together a host of experts to discuss and decode key industry trends. For this iteration, the design team has created a new visual identity to highlight the Summit’s human dimension.
How did this new visual identity come about? When it comes to design, what goes on behind the scenes? What challenges face the team? In this interview, Head of Design Thibaut Bauer answers those questions and unveils his role.
Thibaut joined SBS as a Graphic Designer in 2016, and now heads up the design team. He looks back on his career, from the moment he realized he’d joined “the right company” to his role preparing for the 2023 Summit.
You’ve worked at SBS since 2016. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the years?
Thibaut Bauer: To stay creative and regularly come up with ideas. You also need to be curious about trends and try new things.
It’s easy to set templates up and repeat the same designs over and over again in line with the graphic charter, but at SBS, that’s not the way it’s done. Instead, we have the chance to be free and innovate. I think that’s great, because creativity is the essence of our work. If we didn’t have that, we could quickly fall into the easy way out, negatively impacting our comfort and personal fulfillment.
You have a creative profile, so why join the finance industry?
Thibaut Bauer: Haha! That’s a very good question. By chance, I’d say!
Before joining SBS, I was a freelancer; one of my clients was SSG, and I was working on their annual financial report. In 2016, I was told about a job opening at one of their subsidiaries: SBS.
I interviewed with Virginie Legoupil, the Communications Director at the time, and fell in love with both the person and the project. The idea of implementing a new visual identity was very exciting and something new for me.
In fact, I decided to join a project and a team, rather than the financial industry itself.
You were recently appointed Head of Design. How will your job evolve?
Thibaut Bauer: My job will mainly evolve toward management.
In September 2023, the team grew from three to four people. I’ll continue to design, but my role as Head of Design will also involve coordinating everyone’s work as effectively as possible. The aim is to maintain our efficiency, despite the ever-increasing demands.
Over the last few months, we’ve put processes in place with various teams, improving our efficiency and making it easier to manage our workload.
You’re based in Tours, while most of the team’s in Paris. How do you approach remote management?
Thibaut Bauer: It’s not something I’m apprehensive about, because we’ve been working efficiently for several years now from a distance. Benoît’s in Annecy, Barbara, Débora and Svetlana are in Paris, and I’m in Tours. We have daily meetings and tools to help us organize our work, so location isn’t a concern. It’d be more complicated if we worked in different time zones!
Since Covid, remote working and managing are no longer an issue. We talk to each other every day – similar to the office. And we get together from time to time in Paris, which works well.
What’s your main objective as SBS’s Head of Design?
Thibaut Bauer: My primary goal is conveying SBS’s visual identity.
Our visuals need to be eye-catching, at first glance. If an image isn’t good, the person in front of the screen won’t want to read a single word of text or be interested in SBS and our products.
That means we have to innovate to develop our visual identity.
As part of that, we need to keep abreast of the latest trends. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a perfect example: Applications like Midjourney generate images from a text description – it’s amazing!
Even if AI doesn’t appeal to me beyond that, because I prefer real photos to virtual ones, we’ll explore it as an option.
With that in mind, another objective is avoiding being replaced by artificial intelligence – haha!
What goes on behind the scenes in the design department?
Thibaut Bauer: The team works across the board at Sopra Banking Software. We support communications, marketing, HR, and management, designing the graphic elements they need, while respecting the brand’s visual identity and guaranteeing total harmony.
The requests are varied: social network posts, brochures, white papers, event stands, goodies, videos, PowerPoints, recruitment campaigns, advertisements, creating visual identities for events, and so on.
In short, there’s never a dull moment! But it’s great, because every day is different.
You’re preparing the third annual SBS Summit. What role does the design team play?
Thibaut Bauer: After the success of the first two Summits, we’ve introduced a new visual identity for the third one, injecting a breath of fresh air.
We started by modernizing the logo. We wanted something impactful and uncluttered, so we set dark silhouettes against punchy pink and green backgrounds, highlighting the human dimension of the Summit.
Next, the team needed to apply the visual identity to the the website, emails, mobile application, social networks, video teaser and paper invitations.
But our mission doesn’t stop there, because we still have lots of elements to work on, like the recording studio for the sessions, PowerPoint presentation materials, and designing the venues where our guests are staying. We even have to create menus and table names for a dinner party!
What are the key dates (deadlines, launches, etc.) for the Summit project?
Thibaut Bauer: One of the big deadlines was July 17th – ensuring 60 or so visuals were created to feed our social networks and internet advertising spaces. Other important dates were between the end of August and the beginning of September.
On top of that, there will be poster campaigns at our flagship office on avenue Kléber in Paris, as well as at Roissy Airport, including print and video animations. That’s when everything will heat up – an intense but exciting time!
Talking of intensity, what challenges do you and your team face on a regular basis?
Thibaut Bauer: There are many! The first is meeting the expectations of the person or team we are supporting, and ensuring we strike the right balance between creativity and high standards.
Second, we have to respond proactively to the various requests we receive, all while facing increasingly tight deadlines.
Sometimes, we experience creative blocks, making it hard to come up with new ideas. To overcome those moments, the design team tries to find inspiration elsewhere, exchanging thoughts with fellow graphic designers or other members of the communications team. Good ideas often come after brainstorming with my colleagues!
Of all the projects you’ve worked on, which fascinated you the most?
Thibaut Bauer: Without a doubt, the 2017 roadshow!
SBS’s management team toured our offices for the event’s kick-off. Every week, it was a different city: Paris, Brussels, Rodez, Tours, Stuttgart, Casablanca, and so on. Members of the communications team were lucky enough to accompany them on that adventure.
The design department created the visual identity, presentation slides, and goodies for the roadshow. Above all, it was the beginning of street art at SBS. There were live painting performances by artists in almost every city; the canvases were preserved and are now in our offices and on our communication media.
For the first time, I discovered what event management was all about: tight deadlines, logistics, last-minute unforeseen events… It was intense, but so interesting. And I experienced a team that stuck together despite the pressure.
Do you have a memorable anecdote about your work or a particular project?
Thibaut Bauer: Of course! It was during a recruitment poster campaign in 2017.
On the RER platform at La Défense in Paris, a giant SBS advert showed a guy in swimming trunks hanging onto his boat with the words: “Don’t get stuck, join us!”
When Virginie Legoupil, my partner in crime and Communications Director at the time, and I saw the fifty-meter-long, four-by-three-meter billboards along the platform, I knew I was in the right company!
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