We asked designer & director Alejandro Paul what makes him tick and sets him up for a better day at work. Here’s what he told us.
What is your role and title?
I’m one of the founders and the director of Sudtipos, a collective of graphic designers who really like to play with type and lettering.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I think the sun and getting older. The older I get, the less I can sleep! And my work, of course.
How did you get into this field?
When I was a student of graphic design I didn’t quite get it until I understood that typography was essential for making something different. So I started to study more and more about that. At the beginning I was designing packages for supermarket products, and I found a noticeable lack of good fonts for that particular market. That prompted me to start working on fonts specifically for packaging.
What did your mom or dad teach you that you still think about?
My dad taught me how to love crafty things. He was very skillful. He could disassemble an entire car engine and put it back together in one weekend. My mom went back to school to study law when she was 60 years old, so she taught me that age doesn’t really mean much if you’re interested in something and are willing to put in the effort.
What are you fascinated by?
Travel, food, soccer and old calligraphy books. I’m very lucky to be invited to lectures or workshops all over the world, which allows me to try different foods and experience different cultures. That kind of stuff fascinates me. I try to go to see my favourite “futbol” team every other week. I’ve also been collecting type-related books for a long time now and I find myself reading and learning from them almost every day.
What’s challenged your way of thinking about design?
People who live in South America in general, and Argentina in particular, always have the fluctuating economy on their minds. It’s our biggest insecurity. Growing up in such an environment makes you want to be prepared for the unexpected, in everything. So I have to constantly reconsider how I look at the things I make. In a sense, I’m always redesigning my own thinking about design.
What kind of tools do you use daily and why do you love them?
Basically my iMac. I also have a Cintiq drawing tablet, and lot of notebooks, brushes and pens. I’m still not crazy about drawing on tablets, because it doesn’t give me the same feeling and flexibility I get from real brushes, pens or other tools with real ink.
What kinds of workflow or methodologies do you use?
I think the best approach is to just sit at the desk and start working. Then everything happens. I don’t always do that, though. I usually start the day listening radio while I take a shower, read news online, then I read design news in some blogs, check my social media and if there’s some time left in the day, I do some work.
What common mistake do you see designers make in their projects?
I see a lot of designers jumping on trends, copying ideas and styles without giving a thought to what they’re doing. But it’s always been like this in design. We have as many butchers as you have coiffeurs.
What do you think the field of design will look like in five years?
Design in general is constantly changing, and not always in a predictable way. This dynamic of change will always there, and we need to get used to it and adopt it as part of of our daily flow. Computers and the internet brought some radical changes to graphic design, but overall in design education we’re still not caught up with the entire scope of what’s happened over the past 30 years. We need to work on that. Five years may be too short to accomplish anything meaningful, but I think in the long run, design can become better if different disciplines manage to interact more fluidly.
What or who puts you to sleep at night?
A good red wine, and some boring movies.
How do you do that work/life balance thing (or don’t you)? Be specific.
I’m a workaholic. I usually work 10 to 12 hours a day. Travel gives me some escape from routine. I try to leave computers behind when I travel. I’m pretty bad a finding time for myself. I usually play some kind of sport every week, but not as much as I would really like. One thing I consider important is meeting with friends and family on a regular basis—that also provides a nice break in the routine.
What annoys you about this industry? What needs to change?
Like the design industry in general, the type industry is always changing. But over the last few years, the change has been greatly accelerated by the internet, which made it possible for anyone to make fonts and sell them.
The majority of fonts being made now are intended to make money, with very little passion and almost no care for design and production quality. When something like that happens, the only metric that matters in the market becomes money, and the entire field becomes a race to the bottom. Fonts become very cheap, and quality designers find it hard to justify investing their time in producing good fonts. It becomes hard for many people to do what they love to do, and they end up seeking other venues for their talents.
The majority of fonts being made now are intended to make money, with very little passion and almost no care for design and production quality. When something like that happens, the only metric that matters in the market becomes money, and the entire field becomes a race to the bottom.
On the other hand, we’re living in a time when more fonts than ever are being sold, and that’s good—regular type users are starting to understand the value of typefaces. We’ll need to find balance between these extremes if we want to keep the type industry interesting to type designers, while keeping graphic designers happy with quality fonts.
What would you do if you could be/do anything?
I think I could be a good shrink, but I may be wrong.