Tell us about your professional journey
I have worked as a Graphic Design professional for 18 years. I graduated from the Instituto Superior de Diseño Industrial (Superior Institute of Industrial Design) in the year 2001. In my fourth year of University I started working for a company called Publicitur, first hired as a student on a contract the institute had with ONDI, and later as a graduate with a permanent position, as a Graphic Designer, a title referred to as “informacional” in Cuba. There I worked on various important projects, for example the international tourism campaign “Cuba Si”, collaborating with colleague and friend Eidhy Oria Calvo. I also created the Cuba logo along with a prestigious group of professionals recommended by ONDI, Publicitur, and famous Hispano-American designers such as Rubén Fontana, América Sánchez y Norberto Chaves. In 2004, I immigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto, where I have lived for the last 15 years. I began to work in various publishing agencies where I contributed to unique design projects in almost every branch of work of this profession, from traditional methods of printing to the then new and thriving digital world. Many of these jobs won awards in several international competitions.
What is your philosophy concerning the design profession?
Designing is communicating, simplifying, and transforming a complex idea into a precise and tangible message, creating a visual language that everyone can understand regardless of culture, nationality, preferences, or manner of thinking. It should be inclusive to all rather than exclusive.
In what branches of design have you specialized in?
Jobs involving forming a visual identity have been the most frequent encounters of my professional career, or at least the ones that I have enjoyed most, from the work of investigation and conceptualization to graphical positioning and final application of all of the branding resources. Publicity and editorial design are another key area of my design expertise. Campaigns for clients, often on popular social networks is just one example of the type of work I have done in that department. I have worked in nearly every form of editorial design including flyers, brochures, and catalogues.
Could you give us an example of one of these important projects?
Creating a visual identity for the companies Perspectives and Attractions Ontario, Development and implementation of Urbania identity, proposal of “I am Cuba” campaign for the Cuban Ministry of Tourism, and design of the digital campaign “Take Back your Winter Muskoka”, to name a few.
What has been the biggest challenge so far in you career?
The project that challenged me most was the creation of the digital campaign “Take Back your Winter Muskoka”. The goal was to create eight animations in html5 to display on the Muskoka website, providing incentive for tourists to come to Muskoka during the winter. To create this project it was necessary to enlist the help of illustrators, programmers, and animators, effectively introducing me to yet another branch of my profession, art direction.
We know that much of your work has been awarded in design competitions. Would you tell us about some of those awards?
Gold/Silver – Perspectives visual identity and stationery (Summit Creative Award)
Gold – “Take Back your Winter Muskoka” digital campaign / Attractions Ontario visual identity (Summit Creative Award)
Gold/Silver – Urbania catalogue and pocket folder (Summit Creative Award)
Gold/Silver/Bronze – Copper Run visual identity/ Urbania visual identity/ DeNure Tours visual identity (Brands of the World)
What has your profesional experience taught you about navigating this field?
I have learned through perseverance two essential lessons for those in fields of communication. The first, that design work in done as a team, rather than individually. It is important to know how to nurture and respect the opinions of others and correct one’s own work to achieve the desired results. The second, that the client needs to be a part of the creative process, they cannot be excluded, for who would know more about a company, it’s products and it’s services, than it’s very owner?
Who are your references, both in design work as well as in other areas?
I could list many creative professionals in many as reference for many different fields of design, most notably: Paula Scher (designer), Michael Beirut (designer), Jessica Walsh (designer), Stefan Sagmeister (designer), Erik Spiekerman (designer, typographer), Wally Olins (consulter), Paul Rand (designer), Carlos Segura (designer, typographer), and Christoph Niemann (illustrator). Poetry has also been a means of inspiration to me, it functions on the same logic as design, with a few elements communicating a captivating idea or concept. It also has the power to tell stories, which is essential to visual communication, and for that reason I will also reference Joaquín Sabina (visionary).
Could you reccomend another designer’s project that has caught your attention or inspired you?
Identity for the Jewish museum in New York and for the company Fugue, created by Sagmeister & Walsh.
How long have you lived outside of Cuba? What experiences, positive or negative, have caused you to remain here?
Fifteen years have passed since I moved from Cuba, and it has been an interesting journey in my professional life with more positive experiences than negative. You come to live in a country with a different language and culture, a different socio-political system, and most importantly—in the case of moving to Canada—a climate that is entirely opposite to the warm weather of Cuba. You need to plunge into learning all about this new lifestyle to be able to push yourself into succeeding in your field. Learning enriches your visual memory and consequently your creative abilities. Your mind is growing and you start to tackle your designs in a different way, in essence, you break out of your comfort zone. On the negative side, this process takes time, but the results are incredible.
Do your Cuban roots in some way determine a different focus in your work?
Just being Cuban and therefore coming from another culture makes a big difference, and for that reason my visual identity includes the letter “ñ”—which only exists in the Spanish language—as a tribute to my heritage. The way that we are raised and interact with the visual elements in our home becomes part of a database that we have been building upon since childhood. It is moulded by our experiences, culture and idiosyncrasies, and varies greatly based on upbringing. This database, so to speak, is put to use in influencing our work when we begin design school.
You participated in the project #yotireuncabo, and you told us that your design is a best seller on the site. What motivated you to participate in this project when you knew you wouldnt be paid?
After this terrible disaster, one of the most severely affected areas in La Habana was the neighbourhood where I was born, Luyano, which has a very special place in my heart, so this movement is very personal to me. Luckily my family did not suffer significant losses. Added to that is the knowledge of the shortages in Cuba that are worsened by these kinds of events. A friend told me about #yotireuncabo and how I could contribute, so I did. The rest was just my desire to help those in need and that of the people who bought the designs. Designing is much more than just a job, it’s an attitude toward life.
What project are you currently working on?
I’m working on a brochure for the Greek cruise ship chain Celestyal, which will be published in eight different languages and distributed worldwide. I’m also in charge of developing the corporate identity and website for a Canadian construction company, along with a handful of personal projects that include digital illustration and animation.
What will be your next projects?
Whatever destiny brings. At the moment I’d like to continue working in digital and traditional illustration, as well as visual identity projects; but most important for me is to keep enjoying my work and doing my part in making this cold world we live in just a little bit brighter.