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When did you define your artistic mission? In 2004, when I was studying for my master’s degree in design at the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I met Gustavo Valdés de León, a professor who changed my perspective and made me question why I studied design. He told me that if I wanted to show that we could generate our own resources in Latin America, I had to prove it and not have it just stay as an idea on paper.

In 2007, I returned to my country of Ecuador and for five years, I experimented with creating a collection of visual signs in silence. I did not show them to anyone; it was a personal project that I worked on in total freedom. In my initial experiments, I found errors that I did not want to follow. But, little by little, I created work methodologies that enabled me to reinterpret and generate thousands of graphic resources that were applicable to any physical or digital platform and did not appropriate the visual signs of the original cultures. These resources helped me generate my own graphic universe that both made the cosmovisión, or worldview, of these original cultures known and contributed to the construction of the visual identity of Latin America.

How did you discover your passion for typography? My love for typography was born when I started connecting my research for my project Visual Chronicles of the Abya Yala with typography. Most of the visual signs that I had collected from archaeological pieces belonging to the ancient cultures of Latin America have geometric visual signs, and when I started experimenting with them to illustrate each letter of the alphabet, everything clicked. I began to modulate everything. If I visited a museum and saw a piece that had potential, I would obsessively take photos and videos of it so I could later simplify the visual narrative of the piece into modules. I discovered that if I could establish a system of modules, I could generate many possibilities, and that opened up my mind to apply the modules to an infinite number of new elements. So, I realized that my area of work was modular typography.

How do you research to gain a deep understanding of the Latin American cultural patterns and illustrations you work with? If it is a culture with a different worldview than the ones I have already researched, it can take me three months to one year to research. My interest starts when I visit a museum and become enchanted with a piece, when I meet people from that community or when I hear a story that catches my attention. Once I’ve decided which piece I am going to study, I start searching for books and articles on the internet about the culture that the piece belongs to.

I read and abstract the most important information about the worldview of the culture I am studying. Then, I begin making sketches for the module system that I will develop; this stage can take me two months. When I have the sketches, I start vectoring and classifying. Between vectoring the modules, illustrating letters and generating experiments, this stage can take me three months. I also make a manual to remember how I structured the system in that moment, because if I do it later, I will not remember it.

Currently, Visual Chronicles of the Abya Yala encompasses 124 experiments. Most of them are morphological analyses of archaeological pieces from the ancient cultures of Ecuador, from which a large number of modules have been obtained. I have taken some of these projects to conferences, and I have also uploaded some projects to Behance to share with the design community.

What is the relationship between cultural history and design, and why is it important to you? As I moved forward with my research, I realized that we do not know many things about the history of our original cultures. We are taught certain parts in school and college, but these are not enough to generate questions or interest. There are many nationalities that make up my country of Ecuador, and the people who make up my country have unique ways of seeing the world, which we must respect and protect. In the search for information for my master’s thesis, I began to learn about the Andean worldview, which I had never heard about in classrooms. It would have been important to learn about this worldview as children because we would have been wiser and more responsible about taking care of nature, and we would know how to apply the law of balance to the defense of the common good.

How do your typographic experiments help your work evolve? My typographic experiments help me generate thousands of available resources to collaborate with other designers or artists. To try to create many experiments through generative design would take me months or years, but thanks to the use of processing, I can reduce time and see the results sooner, which keep me active, excited and engaged. Researching and experimenting are tasks that go hand in hand; without them, you can’t explore the skills you have as a designer.

Researching and experimenting are tasks that go hand in hand; without them, you can’t explore the skills you have as a designer.”

How do you hope designers use your typefaces? I am currently working on a pattern font to be commercialized through the Argentinian foundry Sudtipos at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. I hope to help designers save time when they’re making patterns or carrying out visual identity projects, and fashion designers when they need to generate geometric patterns to go along with the theme of their collections.

You’ve created your own product line, Rukuyaya. What draws you to working with a variety of mediums, from packaging to fashion accessories? When I discovered textile sublimation in 2014, my dream of transferring patterns to fabric became a reality, since I could now observe the patterns and illustrations of the Visual Chronicles of the Abya Yala on shoes, clothing, accessories and acrylics. Rukuyaya’s objective is to make products that are more permanent and classified by culture. And I can update them with new patterns, always telling the story behind each pattern and illustration, where it started and its subsequent visual reinterpretation.

What is the most exciting work in typography that you’ve seen recently? HOME (@home_fixture), the quarantine project that type designer Alejandro Paul started, where he invites designers and illustrators to utilize his typeface Fixture and the prompt “isolation” and interpret the four letters that form the word home. The project also shows how each creative is currently living in isolation.

Tell us why you enjoy working in Loja, Ecuador. What excites you about the creative community there? The people I love live in Loja and they are my driving force. The tranquility that a small town gives you is invaluable and enables me to concentrate on research and experimentation. Since graduating from university, I’ve been working in Loja. And since 2014, I’ve been only taking on projects that captivate or excite me. I decided to spend more of my time learning new skills in order to empower and translate my research results globally.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career? If someone gives you the opportunity to participate in something interesting, even if you don’t know how to do it and are afraid, you should do it anyway, because you will figure out how to solve it along the way.

Known as “Amuki,” Vanessa Zúñiga Tinizaray is an Ecuadorian designer. Her mission is to design, share and teach people to revalue the Latin American cultural heritage and to amplify and translate it globally. Tinizaray has been working on her research project Visual Chronicles of the Abya Yala for the past sixteen years, and some of her experimental typefaces have been selected for the Tipos Latinos, the Latin American typography biennial. Her kinetic typography work with Argentinian foundry Sudtipos has obtained a Certificate of Typographic Excellence from the Type Directors Club. She has also given workshops and talks in Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela, teaching Latin American youth the importance of research in the creative process.


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