Dutch graphic design graduate student Patrick Rijks got in touch with Blank for an interview about the creative practice and the design scene in Portugal. He asked pertinent questions and the Blank answers follow:
Can you give us a small introduction of yourself?
I’m a designer and art director at Blank, working for private clients and collaborating with design studios. Blank independent design consultancy focuses on making tailored projects, approaching each one individually, with a concept oriented, analytical thinking mind. By filling the blanks with fresh, provocative ideas, Blank intends to bring content into the table and create messages that will resonate.
In general, there are too many designers and agencies. What makes your studio successful and what has been the biggest challenge?
The main challenge when you start out has to do with creating a good client portfolio. In the beginning, self-initiated projects can build up a bridge to create a solid client base. Creating work that answers the client’s needs and is also relevant in the wider design context can make you an asset and a reliable reference. Drive, good work ethics and maintaining sustainable relationships with clients and collaborators are imperative in a practice that is directed to the people.
Who are your typical clients?
I’ve been working in a variety of projects for a variety of clients, from smaller to bigger structures. That’s what keeps it interesting for me, as every project is a new challenge.
Which client or project has been the most successful or enjoyable?
Behind every project there’s a story. Whenever I look into a project, I always remember the creative process, the project development, its little idiosyncrasies, the collaboration with client/partners, the circumstances that unfold during the course of the project and the solutions you find along the way to try to make it work. I enjoy all stages of the creative process when developing a project and never only see the outcome result. Recently, the Blank projects for which I’ve developed a custom typeface have been very well received and a pleasure to create.
Are there differences in working for international or Portuguese clients?
There are obvious differences between clients which have to do with social, economical & cultural background. This said, every client and every project is unique. Portugal, having a small market place, can be confining at times. Once the general audience gets more informed and visually educated, it will appreciate more the value of the practice and recognize the need for communication design.
Is there something like typical “Portuguese Graphic Design”?
I don’t recognize a Portuguese graphic design movement as I do, for example, in the Scandinavian design scene. I believe Portugal is in the exploration stage of that journey of trying to find a communal voice, still having a lot to grow and evolve in the future in comparison to other market places. At this time there’s a creative flow going and there are many design projects approaching the work at different levels of expression.
Can you tell about your use of typography?
I love subtle, simple, eloquent lines. I enjoy defining the right use of typography for each project. Typefaces, of all graphical elements, are the ones adding character and individuality to a project. The choice of typeface is the first big mark to hit whenever I start designing a project. From there I visualize everything unfolding. At times, when I have difficulty finding the right typeface to communicate my intention with a project I design it myself – hence resulted the published typefaces Licht Punt and Rosetta.
Does Portuguese culture influence your projects?
I work under a global conscience and approach each project single-mindedly. So, what influences a particular project has to do with the dynamics it conveys. I find the design projects I must appreciate have an international appeal, regardless if they are concentrating in a local audience or are made to a global scale.
Very often in graphic design, there’s a balance between art and practical design. What is your philosophy on this? What’s your ideology of graphic design?
I believe graphic design is a practice directed to the people, as it translates society and its lifestyles. I see it as tool to communicate. So, the main goal is to get a point across and be able to reach people with the messages you’re delivering. For me, it all goes back to language. I get excited about ideas and about expressing them. Beautifully crafted ideas shape society, add value and signal change. I make my aim to communicate! This is Blank’s number one motto to the creative process. Check all of Blank Mottoes online.
What places/magazines/blogs/sites do you visit to find your inspiration to work?
Inspiration is all around, from daily life, people and places I encounter, subjects I’m curious about. I keep my eyes open, clicking mind-frames and making connections. The key is how you filter that information and make your own. There’s also a lot of information around, from print to online material, where you can gather knowledge and keep current of the industry. I enjoy Slanted Magazine, September Industry, Self Service Magazine, Bench, Collate, I Love Type Series …
Which designers inspired you when you start getting into design?
Early on I discovered the love for the visual arts, simultaneously with the love for the written word. This was a natural process to me, very personal and intrinsic. In my school years I studied sciences, having interest in philosophy and psychology. Ended up applying to art college, looking forward to explore disciplines like photography and video. I got to graphic design by a detour route. So, I didn’t had design heroes or mentors in the beginning other then my own drive to create and communicate. Creating narratives and the storytelling process is the common link to these disciplines and that’s really what keeps me interested. Along the way, I keep on finding inspiration in older references and new talent from all over the globe.
Are there any agencies that make you jealous? For example they produced work that you wish you’ve made instead of them?
There’s a lot of talent around, from the world’s biggest capitals, to Mexico and Singapore. It’s wonderful to find projects that are relevant, well constructed and great fun to watch. In the motherland, I enjoy the work of This is Pacifica, Musa, Alva and Atelier Martino-Jana.
Do you have any tips for unexperienced designers or students?
Go around and experience the world, gathering knowledge of different market places, how they operate and inspire you. Develop a set of skills that will make you dependable and reliable, not only at a formal level but also on a human level. Establish sustainable relationships with clients and partners, that defines the practice. Communicate!
And at last, which 3 books should you have in your studio?
To a graduate student starting out I would reference How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul by Adrian Shaughnessy, Studio Culture by United Editions and Work for Money, Design for Love by David Airey.