Every story has an introduction, a starting point. So we began by asking which moment in their story led them to the path of Design instead of another. The answers vary in age. For the STUDIO’s female designers, it appeared early in childhood or adolescence, and for our male designer as a young adult.

Ever since I can remember, the visual and creative universe has fascinated me. The crayons and the doodles and… the desire to be a painter when I grew up. – I used to say, at the age of 5.

Later on, the visual care in school work. That is, I always wanted to be the one to finish the work, adjust the colors, the fonts, and make the cover. All these characteristics led me to the world of visual arts, where I felt like a fish in water.

What a joy it was to be able to paint and be creatively free, so the next path made perfect sense: choosing a Design course. Being a designer allowed me to communicate visually with others and that stimulates my mind. And after studying and training, puff! I’m a designer!!!

What? Do I get paid to do this? – I couldn’t believe I could do what I enjoyed so much and was so excited about as a professional focus. What a lucky girl, I thought.

Tânia Forreta
Illustrations by Tânia Forreta at the age of 15

My desire to be a designer started when I was in high school. I already had the idea that I wanted to be a graphic designer, more specifically an editorial designer. I wanted to work in a magazine or for a publishing agency, I wanted to do the layout of books and create their covers. Basically anything connected to the Irma Boom [1] universe. 

I always had a great fascination for books and the whole process of their composition, from the decision of the grids, the colors, the typography, and the images. The way to graphically design a book can be so distinctive that, even today, I look for books that have different pagination grid features to inspire me and include them in my collection. I like to think that behind every book there is an unknown untold story. Like a timeless object that well preserved lasts a lifetime and passes between generations.

For me, as a designer, the most important thing is the book covers, because that’s what stays in our memory. For example, I have engraved in my memory the covers of the RTP Books from the “Biblioteca Básica Verbo” collection that I inherited from my grandfather. Funny to remember this! My grandfather always collected good books from Portuguese publishers without knowing the author of their covers, curiously most of his collections are renowned Portuguese designers, like Sebastião Rodrigues and João da Câmara Leme.

Ana Lisboa
Cover by Sebastião Rodrigues, “The Player” by Fedor Dostoievski. Livros RTP, collection Biblioteca Básica Verbo, n.º3. Editorial Verbo. 1970. 2. Cover by João da Câmara Leme “O Mistério da Tapeçaria” by Nigremont, G., Biblioteca dos Rapazes, no. 53. Lisbon: Portugália Editora. 1963. Photograph by Ana Lisboa.

I discovered design without even realizing it. Ever since I was a child, I had a very strong creative and imaginative side that manifested itself both in the drawings and sketches of childhood and in the reflections and sketches of adolescence.

These, like daydreaming, accompany me to this day. Without me realizing it, these moments disconnect me from the outside world and allow me to express myself in an infinite and controlled world where imagination manifests itself.

It would not be right to speak of this escapist side without mentioning the roots: an analytical mind that latches onto small details documents them and stimulates the imagination.

The two sides led me to study architecture but I soon realized that communicating the projects and explaining them to the outside world was a much more interesting challenge than the relationship of people with cities.

The task of setting the tone of voice, directing who I wanted to communicate to, and the arrangement and shape of the elements, became a captivating exercise without me realizing it, and with this I discovered design.

Jorge Silva

What does it mean to you to be a designer?

Being a designer for me is having a responsibility to the world and to others. We are the ones who fill the streets and minds with visual information. We are the ones who also act as educators in society.

Being a designer is waking up early. Sometimes without will and energy, until suddenly we remember: Wait a minute! I have that super complicated brief to do, how can I solve it? I have to do something spectacular! And we get up like the world can’t wait for us any longer. There’s so much to do!

Being a designer is also having frustrating days, when we doubt our skills… if we are good enough or if our client really insists on not seeing the universe with our eyes.

Being a designer is 20% of the time having existential crises. The creativity that sometimes flows like a waterfall stops flowing… it is in these moments that designers join forces with other designers and, in a community, save each other. Mainly because we think alike.

Tânia Forreta

Although I was sure I wanted to be a designer, as my career progressed I ended up moving into other areas of design. Partly due to the professional opportunities I’ve had over the years. I’ve spent a lot of my time working on branding, corporate and visual identities, and, in recent years, on web design and UI/UX design.

I realized that being a designer is about design; it’s about being methodical; it’s about knowing how to distinguish companies or products from their competitors in the market by innovative approaches; it’s about meeting deadlines and listening to the client’s wishes in order to make them possible; it’s about demystifying and interpreting messages by simplifying them; it’s about promoting experiences and constantly solving problems, but above all, being proactive.

To be a Designer is to have an active attitude.

In design we must have an active attitude, we must be ethical, social, and ecological once it is increasingly imminent to have a greater awareness of environmental issues.

When I read the book “Design as an Attitude”, by Alice Rawsthorn, I considered it to be one of the best references on design nowadays. The book exemplifies different projects that apply sustainable, environmental, and social design practices. The author makes an excellent explanation of design through the vision of László Moholy-Nagy when he says that “design is not a profession, but an attitude”. For Alice Rawsthorn, whatever form design takes, good design should be ethically conscious and aspire to be a positive agent of change. Even though the design discipline may be going through a challenging period and its impact on our lives is changing rapidly.

Throughout this time the discipline of design has adopted different meanings in different times and contexts. Design has always been a major element as an agent in the way it interprets any social, political, economic, technological, cultural, or ecological issue as it ensures what can affect us positively rather than negatively.

Ana Lisboa

Being a designer is about planning to build a system or process to solve a problem, through a creative process that has the audience/user in mind so that the solution is as intuitive as it is effective. This process does not always run as smoothly. There are several challenges to overcome and if on one hand, we are miraculously placed on top of the mountain where we easily spot the solution, on the other we have to explore the jungle hoping to get closer to the source.

In fact, in one form or another, design has always been present in human civilization. The human species is intelligent and creative. From cave paintings to the latest digital products, it has always had the desire to create and design solutions. And the basis of design is this – the creative process of planning the construction of an object, system, or process to solve a problem.

This fascinating side led me to study this discipline to master it. I discovered the purpose, history, and methods to come up with solutions that are as functional as they are appealing. I discovered various tools, and techniques and developed skills to create them – researching, sketching, prototyping, and testing, so that the final solution respects who will use them, market trends, and limitations.

I should also mention that design is an act of telling a story, just like a good film, painting, or book (which makes up for not being very good at doing it verbally). Each element – color, typography, and shapes – has the ability to evoke emotions and the designer’s role is to choose the best ingredients for an engaging and captivating narrative. I’ll give an example: I don’t visualize a poster for a jazz event with dark tones, a certain grid (base where the elements are placed), or a flowery typographic choice. A typographic composition, color, and layout capable of expressing its lively and restless spirit would be more appropriate! This is one of the reasons I continue to do design: when well executed, it can make the audience fly to another world, awaken various senses or take action. Just as writers use words, designers create elements and concepts.

Like a story, the end product of the design has to be coherent. Otherwise, it will be a house with doors stuck to the ceiling, a city with a single road, or a fork with a T-point. Unless that is the intention, they strike me as solutions that are fragile in their design and very unhelpful. The world is full of examples of bad design: indecipherable signage, posters promoting events that raise doubts, advertising that in no way reflects the product, or tragedies in elections.

Design is present in everyday life and reflects our culture, values, and beliefs in society and is also capable of shaping it, influencing the way people interact and perceive their surroundings. This happens on an individual and collective level: take architecture, interior and fashion design, editorial, web, or graphic design through time. Furthermore, it has the power to create bridges between cultures when it understands the diversity of the target audience: age, ethnicity, accessibility, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. This is why I believe it has a crucial role in educating the public and promoting cultural and social exchanges.

Jorge Silva
Florida State Voting Report Card (USA, 2000)

Do you still feel in love with your profession?

Yes, I love doing design and exploring the various areas of design that make me evolve in the profession and gain more technical skills.

In recent years, returning to studying the discipline of Graphic Design, has given me a different perception about my profession and has stimulated me to reinvent myself as a designer. I believe that in our profession, we should be constantly educating ourselves and looking for different ways to develop our skills, as they are fundamental to keeping us up to date in this field. Also, as the person in charge of a design team, sometimes I end up dedicating myself more to teaching and people, as well as the management and strategy part of the design, and not so much to the practice of the discipline.

It’s all new knowledge and I like it! Especially the mentoring part, the feeling that I can influence and guide the team to go together in the same direction.

Ana Lisboa

I still feel in love. I went through several phases until I became the designer I am today and when I look back at the beginning of my journey I see what I have evolved, and what I have learned and I wonder what I still have to learn.

As long as I feel the excitement and adrenaline of a new project it is because I am still on the right path as a designer.

Tânia Forreta

I see Design as a powerful tool to be used to grab the audience and communicate a message in a clear way while solving a real-world problem. I tell a story and provide a solution. From interaction design to editorial design, the creative process involved suggests new perspectives capable of getting me thinking and reflecting. And it is this possibility of creating innovative, aesthetically appealing, and functional solutions that makes it so rewarding. This may be a romantic view of the thing but I don’t think it’s any less true for that.

Jorge Silva

[1] Irma Boom (15 December 1960) is a Dutch graphic designer specializing in book production. The experimental and daring approach of her projects often challenges the conventions of traditional books, both in terms of physical design and printed content.