What led you into design?
I think my passion to design is related to me always having more interested in the making and planning stuff instead of using them. When I was growing up I used to feel I was different to most of my friends, they loved to play with their toys and I just couldn’t get that. I would go crazy with them because their toys simply came out of ‘nowhere’. How come they don’t have a house to live or a backstory, and where would the action taking place? Every time I’d take my toys out of the box, I would have to build their houses, their offices and headquarters, the setting where the action would take place—whether that was on top of a chair or of a table, it didn’t matter but I had to ground their world in reality. These 'places', in case you're wondering were always built with stacked up piles of VHS tapes that I borrowed from my parents shelves.
I have always wanted to be an architect, but I've got my way into the design world through an internship at a motion design studio near the house I grew up, I was only 17 when I started and I was really carried by it, a year later I got a promotion to a junior, and I had dropped out of high school on my senior year — that ended up becoming one of my biggest mistakes, but it ended leading me to where I am now, so it's hard to judge. Since I didn’t had a high school degree, years later when I decided to go to university I simply couldn’t and I didn’t wanted to take a step back and going to high school again, so I started to sneak into art theory lessons at the local university as a guest visitor, most of my knowledge of art and history came from there, I was making assignments, doing research and writing papers all on my own, so it’s safe to say that although I’m a self-taught person, it didn’t means the usual path of self-taught people with a focus on the practice, I wanted to study and learn the theory behind things, that has always been a big thing for me.
When I left that motion design studio I went to work on a small agency in my town as an art director, I was 20 at that time and I’ve met my first boss and mentor which is still today one of my dearest friends. I had left the island where I grew up and went north to Sao Paulo on my own when I was 21 to work in bigger agencies with bigger clients, that’s where I met the love of my life, my now wife, and another very important person in my life, Helio Rosas. Helio was (and still is) some sort of mentor figure to me, whenever he introduces me to people he always makes a joke about having found me on a curb, putting a fine blanked over my shoulders and giving me a stack of design books, it wasn’t exactly like that, but metaphorically it was. He took me to New York a few years back in one of our 'design trips', and introduced me to that ensemble of the minimalist scene of the 60s, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris and Serra. From gallery to gallery he fed up a lot of the repertoire that I came to have today. These so called 'design trips' are something that we came to define as our week getaways to a different city and immerse ourselves in a city's design atmosphere, everything needs to be about design, every café, restaurant, newstand, bookstore, art gallery... you name it. We meticulously craft our agendas to live and breathe that place's design heritage.
I’m definitely shortening up a lot my story but that’s a good summary of my almost 15 year relationship with the design. In the midst of that there were 3 countries and 5 cities lived, over 10 creative agencies and well over 40 clients.
What does a typical day look like?
I’m usually up around 8:30, that you can put my wife’s bill. I have always hated to wake up early, but I’ve managed to marry with an early bird who is little by little, changing my habits. After leaving the bed I brush my teeth and go downstairs to pour us over some coffee, I catch up with my e-mails, instagram messages, and a little sneak into Youtube (millennials will get me). After that it depends, either I try to plan my day or week with things that I’m left undone from the previous day or I rehearse a conversation with a client or a designer. I review the work’s done from the team members based in Los Angeles or Toronto, and take a stab at either building up a deck’s narrative, preparing a resource plan or hands-on design work, it really depends.
My afternoons are usually filled with meetings, that range from clients or other designers. Ever since I’ve became a creative director, my life's changed a lot, I used to have my afternoons free to do design work, but nowadays most of my work happen during meetings, either interviewing new designers, pitching projects, or making sure everyone is block-free and making their stuff happen.
I try my best to work with people that is likeminded and that can be independent enough to run their own stuff, that has a similar attitude and perception about design, aesthetics and function, and interestingly enough most of my more thorough conversations are with UX designers are much more regarding to usability, accessibility and structure, let’s say that I’m very picky about the visual designers working with, so I usually have a huge trust in them and they do their thing while I do the hard lifting of making sure UX is well documented for them, and that clients can approve their work with as minimum adjustments as possible, that helps a lot the morale with the team, and I (hope) everyone can see how much I care about everyone’s craft and how much I protect their designs so they can be happy with the work we’re creating as team, for me it’s all about the talent, and the people. It’s about the vision being in sync with everyone and building a safe environment for errors and learning.
I finish my day at around 20:00 with a glass of Pinot Noir — although lately I’ve been very drawn to orange wines, read a book and wind down to sleep. I’m correcting myself to go to bed always around 23:00 so I can have a good night’s sleep and start all over in the next day.
What's your workstation setup?
Where do you go to get inspired?
It’s very cliche but inspiration comes from all sorts of places, though it’s something that I’m intimately interested and invested in. I’m even preparing right now a 2-day workshop around the topic that I will hold next’s year here in Amsterdam in collaboration with Awwwards. For me inspiration comes in three different circles, there’s the 1. Overarching inspiration; 2. Craft inspiration; and 3. Project inspiration; each one impacts the next in a chain reaction. The first is all the things that surrounds you and that makes you, you. For me it’s a handful of artists, musicians, films, books and magazines that I consume.
But if you're looking for names, Ingmar Bergman and Edvard Munch are a two artists that make a big impact in who I am as a person and the way I perceive things and deal of my life, there’s a calm and yearning aspect of their work that you can relate on my designs too, especially my personal projects. There’s a level of introspection and longing that I try to convey with my compositions. The black and white, something that I came to be known for, is definitely a drawn parallel to my favourite movies, it’s never a dramatic chiaroscuro in my projects, I like to balance the black and whites in a way that are calmer and delicate, a trait that is very well presented in films like Persona or Summer with Monika. the beiges and earth tones comes from Passion of Anna another of my favourite films of Bergman. The kinetic spheres that makes up the introduction of my portfolio came from a piece I’ve seen in an exhibition of Olafur Eliasson in Oslo a few years back. A lot of what I do is a result of things that I came across in different mediums and I try to recreate in a screen with my own flavour. It can be an object described in a book like a shelf that I came across while reading a book from Joris-Karl Huysmans and is present in a project that I'll be launching next.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
I’ve recently moved to Amsterdam, and if you ask me what great design is I would probably point to one of the many Van Moof electric bikes parked in the curb in front of my flat. It’s well-built, it’s sturdy, it’s beautiful, it has so many functionalities packed inside the frame that it’s simply fantastic, I think their ethos and plan is to make electric bikes the main commuting vehicle around the world. It has everything a vehicle needs to have and it’s not just environmentally responsible but it’s much healthier than driving an (electric) car. What else would ask in a product?!
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
I have two — a personal project and a comissioned one. Let’s start by the personal and it would have to be impermanence.us which I’ve conceptualised with my wife, Erika Moreira — who wrote the poem — and with my friends Roger Mac, Luis Henrique Bizarro, Victor Costa, and Marcelo Baldin. The project started from a photograph I’ve noticed leaning against a wall in a gallery/studio in Sao Paulo. It’s was nude photograph shot my Roger Mac, and it’s title Impermanence had a lot in common with an essay I was writing at the time so I’ve contacted Roger and asked if he was interested in making a virtual exhibition with all the other photographs from that collection, he was up for it and we’ve pushed this great effort with the team, it won a few awards and it has a very close spot in my heart because Erika wrote it and it was the first—and only—project we have worked together ever since.
The other would have to be my latest website in collaboration with the talented people at Resn: Dan Mercer, Wade Cowin, Philippe Gremmel, Nicolas Loureiro, Isabel Moranta, Phil Andrews, Mike Lemanski, along with all the super development team that pulled it together, there was a lot of people involved in this project and I unfortunate won’t remember everyone names, sorry about that.
But yeah, it was a project that knocked exactly with which I wanted to build. Great client with an outstanding purpose, fantastic team, wonderful atmosphere. GOODMEAT is a cell-based meat that is creating a lot of noise and awareness grounding the topic of sustainable food, and consumption is due to have an immense impact in sustainability, in protecting rainforests and imagining a future where we share an unique health system with the planet we live, the animals, and our own well-being. W’ve managed to bring this story to life up across 4 different timezones, all relying on the talent and responsibility of each team member. The result you can check out here: goodmeat.co
What design challenges do you face at your company?
I think we tend to face something that many—if not all creatives, might share with me, even though most of the times we are hired because of what people think is our unique style, many clients tends to start adding their own flavour to it and not always it ends up well. Luckily, with a lot of talking we manage to manoeuvre out of it, and go back to what we’ve initially proposed, but design is a many hands game, and we need to consider everyone's point of view, especially if it’s a commissioned project.
Another major challenge but this is actually something that I find pretty fun, is finding talent that has the same ethos and vision as we have towards design. I’ve already said it before but to have a way of work that creatives can feel more autonomous there is a ton lot of fine-tuning and making sure we’re functioning as an organism. Team and morale building make a huge part of it, but being in sync with the same vision is the only way to upkeep this balance.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Yes, and I like practical stuff instead of inspirational, so here it goes: Go to Pinterest, search for graphic design, or typography, and start screenshooting everything that you like, paste it all in Figma, and start dissecting it — make questions to yourself such as “Why does this composition works? What is isn’t it that made it click for me? Where’s the harmony in it, where’s the balance? Where’s the visual tension?” After you analyse one by one by a good hour, start to copy them with your own flavour. Change a typeface, see if it works, change the composition, maybe take something from one and combine with something for another. Do that regularly and you will start to develop an eye for good graphic design. Don’t forget about the theory though, that is also pretty important.
Anything you want to promote or plug?
If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out my Awwwards Academy masterclass, in which I tap into a lot of the topics that I’ve brushed through in our conversation, it goes from concept all the way to production of Garoa Skincare website. Check out the course here.