What was your point of entry to design? When I was thirteen, the computer my parents had bought for our apartment got moved to my room since I was the one using it all the time. I was really into music, so I made a fansite for a band using Yahoo! GeoCities, a now-dead service where you could build your own website. It looked terrible, so I downloaded Photoshop and Dreamweaver and learned how to make a proper website. I started doing websites for bands in my hometown, as well as record covers and posters. I was still in high school, and as that was approaching its end, I decided to learn how to be a real graphic designer in college.
How has your experience with the punk-hardcore scene in Lisbon shaped your work? It was and still is a huge influence in my life, not only because of its ideas, politics and ethics, but also because of the creativity, zines, music and art that was part of the culture. My friends and I were pretty active in the scene, playing in bands, organizing shows, booking tours, making zines and releasing records. That taught me how to do things by myself and with friends under the DIY motto, and just go ahead and make something real instead of waiting around.
What are the lessons you took away from working at Bloomberg Businessweek? Businessweek was a special place where we had a lot of freedom to experiment. It is a weekly magazine, so every week we could try out something. If it didn’t work very well; then, well, too bad. Try again next week.
It taught me how to think and how to transform a really dry and nonvisual story into something visual. A lot of the Businessweek stories were about finance and money—lots of old white guys wearing suits—so translating that into something visual was pretty hard. We relied on humor most of the time to come up with visuals for the stories, and that set the tone for our style of art direction and design. It was about communicating something rather than designing something pretty.
When and why did you decide to go freelance? Mostly because I loved Businessweek too much, and I was starting to feel too comfortable there. I wanted to learn new things and challenge myself in other ways, so I decided to leave. I spent some time at Wieden+Kennedy as a “designer”—although I’m not sure if that really describes exactly what I did there—and then left to start my own studio, BAD Studio.
How would you characterize your arc as a designer so far? I feel like I’m slowly becoming more of an illustrator rather than a designer. Maybe not? I don’t know, really. I would define it as a confusing arc.
You often work with bands, record labels and DJs. What is the relationship between music and design, and why is it important to you? I love the idea of transforming sounds and energy or a feeling into something visual. I grew up doing this for fun and for my friends’ bands, and it’s amazing that I do it now as a full-time job. I still go to shows and clubs quite often, and it’s exciting to not just consume it, but also be a part of that scene in some way.
Do you notice a unifying theme among your favorite posters? I try not to! I get bored with doing the same things over and over again, so I’m always trying to go somewhere new.
Would you recommend developing a distinctive style to a designer who is just getting started? No. Experiment and have fun. Why stop yourself and be one thing when you can explore and learn how to do new stuff? Even if those experiments look pretty terrible in the end, it’s the journey that will make you a better designer.
Last year, you launched the fourth issue of your Graphic Interviews for Graphic Artists series, in which you ask creatives to answer questions without using any words. If you were to talk with these same graphic artists face-to-face, what are the burning questions you’d love to ask them? I started that project because I didn’t want to ask designers questions face-to-face! It’s like, OK, we all sit in front of a computer for way too many hours... at least answering boring questions with a drawing makes it more fun.
What can audience members look forward to taking away from your upcoming talk at The Design Conference in Brisbane, Australia? I’m working on a video/movie that I’ll narrate live at the conference. There’s more to it, but I’m bored of going through slides of things I did in the past, so I’m recycling that into a new thing. Hopefully it will be fun!