The importance of action in a design process

A few years back, we were at a fact-gathering meeting with a client and some collaborators. The design problem ahead of us was complex, and it involved many audiences and stakeholders. We were not sure if we knew what we would design, exactly. The room was full of articulate, engaging people. We were soaking in the information, listening to various points of view, asking questions and trying to digest the content and the possibilities.

Toward the last portion of the meeting, when it seemed like we would need to figure out the next steps, a second round of debate emerged, with several what-ifs and further hypotheticals being brought up. The bubbling conversation spilled into various conjectured solutions—we could pursue so and so, or we could build this other thing, or perhaps we can analyze the potential merits of this separate path altogether. I felt an anxious cringe of impatience and looked over at my partner — we were the only designers in the room — and we knew we needed to wrap things up. The time had come to start figuring out how to make concrete sense of the discussion and chart a path forward. …


A display typeface designed by looking back at a high school infatuation.

EL Silencio Album Cover by Caifanes
EL Silencio Album Cover by Caifanes
“El Silencio” album cover by Caifanes

One evening, during my first semester teaching Introduction to Typography, I had a brief side conversation with a student. He was a little older and had a little more experience than most, so he was well at ease asking a teacher question. He said something to the effect of “You Seem To Be Really Into Type” (not a direct quote, as I have no record of this) and then, as a casual tangent, asked me if I had ever designed a typeface myself. I had a “Heck No!” mental reaction, akin to what you might get when asked if you had ever climbed atop a volcano. Sure, it sounds like an amazing feat, but I am certain I lack the skill, training, and stamina. …


typography cut out of wooden stencil then spray painted
typography cut out of wooden stencil then spray painted

A look back at projects centered around the physicality of type

Among the many micro aesthetic duties that come with implementing design projects, one of my favorites has always been typesetting, particularly in print. When all top-level design decisions have been made, and all big picture design approvals are in tow, shaping the columns of text and focusing on granular typographic minutiae is a gratifying task, one that brings a robust and satisfying sense of completion. It’s the stuff no one notices outside of fellow practitioners, but it makes all the difference. …


Reflecting on the evolving nature of the creative process.

I have always been terrible at brainstorming. Since I was in college, this was a latent worry I had about potential hurdles I would face once I entered the field. I was quite shy in design school, and never felt comfortable speaking in group sessions, often opting for side conversations with classmates if I had feedback to give or seek. I knew the professional world would be structured around teams. I assumed life in a design team would be full of brainstorming sessions — mythical, lively, fast-paced meetings with brilliant ideas bouncing off multiple heads until they were captured in someone’s notebook as shiny kernels of greatness. There would be roars of celebration and laughter, hugs and high-fives, uproarious chants. I feared I’d be the guy in the corner quietly admiring the scene, nervously slipping into a numb silence if someone asked me for my two cents. …

About

Julio Martínez

Creative Director, Educator, and Illustrator based in San Francisco, California. Born in México City.

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