Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Gabriela Namie Kurata (GK) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Gabriela Namie Kurata by clicking here.
Interview with Gabriela Namie Kurata at Saturday 11th of June 2016
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
GK: When I was a kid I would be really mad because I had to go to school. All I wanted was to grow up fast and be a designer! I would think so much about it I eventually thought I'd be overwhelmed and started studying Law. But it was impossible to go on with that so I dropped Law School and went to Design school! There I've met Jun. He grew up drawing and illustration was his main passion. We were both in love with graphic design. So we would meet on weekends to brief each other for a poster or whatever and then we would meet in the next weekend to critique each others' work. We were interns together. Then we were promoted together. When he decided to go freelance, he studied illustration at University of Arts London. I went to Cooper Union to study type design. We started freelancing together and then it was just a matter of time to start our own studio.
FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
GK: When we decided it was time to officially start our own studio, we travelled for a week to a design conference outside the country so we would take time to think about our views on design in another place. We were really inspired by what we saw and came back anxious to start it. We didn't know exactly what and how it would be, but we were confident it would be a platform for our dream projects, our dream team, our dream space. And it did happen: we are focused on what we do best, which is visual identity, illustration and editorial projects. We work for big clients we would never dream of working for. And also for small clients we would too never dreamed of.
FS: What is "design" for you?
GK: It is the key to communication and also a way to make everyday easier and, not less important, beautiful.
FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
GK: We focus on visual identity, illustration and editorial projects. That's what we love to do and I think where we can offer our best. But sometimes we work on different challenges because we don't want to get stuck in a manner of doing stuff. It is important to keep moving and to be uncomfortable.
FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
GK: It was a rebrand for a professional make-up brand called Catharine Hill. While we were at design school, we had done its rebrand for a class with Cecilia Consolo. But when we started the studio, the brand actually called us to do it for real. It was an amazing opportunity. We redesigned the logo, all graphics for packaging, a video for the launch. And the project was exhibited at the Brazilian Graphic Design Biennial. We went to the launch and listened to people's reactions. It was really good and the client said sales increased more than 50% in the following months. Because their main audience are make-up artists that work for TV, cinema and theatre they are a really straight-forward company. They always promote drag shows. Last year they brought Sharon Needles, who is a really famous drag. And we are proud to work with such an open-minded brand.
FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
GK: We of course work with Adobe programs, but we do not have a favourite material or technology. Each projects has its own demands.
FS: When do you feel the most creative?
GK: When we are calm and organised. There is no creativity without organisation and schedule.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
GK: All them! We are a small studio. Everybody meets the clients and of course has empathy with their problem. We want to give them the best solution, which means we are really demanding with ourselves.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
GK: A sense of fulfilment. It is really the best feeling when clients come back and say that what we produced helped them in someway. When we design identities for brands that do not exist yet, it is really common for clients to say now they feel inspired to start it for real! A client said we've translated a dream in graphic design! That for us has no price.
FS: What makes a design successful?
GK: Each project has its own rules. But I guess it has to communicate the message within it. Design won't save the world but it needs to make people's life better in some way.
FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
GK: I think concept is as important as craftsmanship.
FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
GK: The same responsibility of anyone in the world, no matter if she or he is a designer or whatever. We try to be good people as we try to be good designers and improve everyday.
FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
GK: I think not only the design field but all fields came to realise nice things are not always material. Companies are paying a lot for research, people are getting more and more digital, intuitive and flexible. So the same happens in design. I think I'm not the best person to say what is the future of design. But if I had to guess I would say what it is not: to create untouchable brands that produce a lot of visual and material noise.
FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
GK: Our last exhibition was in Peru at LAD Fest and now it is at Mood Design Museum, in Como, Italy.`
FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
GK: Again each project has its own rules. But we take inspiration from everywhere: the streets, nature, textures we see, people we've met, art... even meditation!
FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
GK: We try not to have a style. We think it is a bit weird to have a style in design since we are trying to communicate our clients' messages. But of course it's me and Jun doing stuff and it has a lot of ourselves. I think we like to translate concepts and feelings in bold shapes with good color combinations.
FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
GK: We were born and are based in São Paulo. Brazil is a mix of everything. Anyone can be Brazilian. We have Japanese heritage, but all our friends in school were either Spanish, Italian, Korean, etc. We are not nationalists, we don't feel we have to produce "Brazilian Graphic Design", we do what fits better in each project. The pros of being a designer in Brazil is that we do have a modernist tradition but we don't feel stuck in it. The negative part... I don't know. Maybe design is a really new thing in Brazil comparing to other countries. Sometimes it is our job also to explain to a client the whys and hows. But I think it's really good and it's also the proof that we did a good job when we engage someone who would not think of graphic design before.
FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
GK: I think companies should select designers and studios that share similar views of the world. Definitely check portfolios and talk to whoever make the main decisions. If the client do not trust the designer nothing good can come out. Our best projects were the result of relationship of trust and empathy. The client has to be sure the designer is working in his best interest.
FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
GK: We usually have a kick-off meeting with the client to ask a bunch of questions. Then we meet up with the whole team to have ideas and share our views of the project. Then each project has its own rules. Sometimes we have field research, sometimes it's only desktop research. There is no rigid process, we do what fits best to each client. We've designed a logo and an identity for a holistic school in Brazil. For that client we added co-creation sessions with the kids and the school team. It was amazing. We had the opportunity to learn their views of Education and that was a key point for the project.
FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
GK: 01. Fernando Jaeger sofa. He's a great Brazilian furniture designer. 02. HAY blanket. Really warm and beautiful. 03. Muji portable hair drier. 04. Lightning by Brazilian Licht Design. 05. Wood stools my grandfather made.
FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
GK: I usually wake-up early, go to the studio by subway or bike. If I'm taking the dogs I go by car. Then I get coffee in the coffeeshop nearby, plan my day and answer e-mails. Work all day more than 8-hours. It's not rigid. I work until I feel satisfied with the day.
FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
GK: I am a young designer so I wouldn't call it pearl of wisdom! But in this short time with the studio I've learned the importance of organisation and schedule. It's basically everything you need to be happier and produce better. Also work with people who believe and respect you as a designer. I am a woman and I would never work again for clients who do mansplaining.
FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
GK: I think the designer profession gives people a lot of freedom. You can be a freelancer, work in an agency, a studio. You speak graphics so you can work anywhere. Also there are so many areas... you can be a user experience designer, work with editorial projects, illustration, visual identity, etc. The negatives I would say many places don't consciously understand the value of visual language. But everybody do. Really. It is just a matter of showing it. Visually.
FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
GK: To me curiosity. To Jun feeling.
FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
GK: Empathy. Without empathy there is no way you can visually translate anything.
FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
GK: Adobe package and anything that fits a specific project: stencil, rocks, photography, pens, etc.
FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
GK: Since we are a small studio, we do everything. So we keep administration tasks in the morning and creative tasks in the afternoon. But that's what we plan. Life is a bit messier.
FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
GK: "Where to you get inspiration from?" Creativity is often misunderstood. Everybody is born creative. And to make it easier to create all we have to do is to be organised, have a clear schedule, be curious and be calm.
FS: What was your most important job experience?
GK: I think when I went to Cooper Union to study type design my views on design changed. Every graphic design should learn a bit about type. It changed the way I see and create shapes for logos and illustration. Also my first client was a big company, Skol, and I was freelancing on my own. It was important to see that talking to whoever makes the decisions makes everything easier. Also to learn how to talk to clients. For Jun it was in the beginning of Barca when he realised how being a designer had improved his illustration work. Before that he had spent almost a year without working with design, only illustration. He had gone to Central Saint Martins and improved his work. He realised he was able to communicate better using design skills in illustration and using illustration skills in design. But for both of us working together at Barca was the most demanding and enriching experience. We demand a lot from each other. I got better in illustration, Jun got better in design. We never let each other settle.
FS: Who are some of your clients?
GK: We've worked with Google, Ambev, 99jobs, WWF, Greenpeace, Dedo de Moça, Touchwood, GED7, Megaleilões, etc. We like to work with different people and companies. From large to small sizes. The only thing in common between them is trust in our work and respect.
FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
GK: The ones that make me feel confident but still uncomfortable. Most of them give us total freedom to create which is great. We love to have absolutely no idea what to do in the first days only having a concept.
FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
GK: We want to keep on working in nice projects with nice people.
FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
GK: We work as a team, me and Jun. Some months ago we hired our first employee. So he is helping us too and contributing a lot.
FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
GK: Yes. We're really excited about this sex shop identity we've been working on. They believe in erotism without the cliché porn look and feel. They believe the erotic is a personal issue and see sex as an intimate discovery and journey. So the identity we are working on is really far from the usual "sex" and "porn" industry. It is not "violent", it is more introverted and sexy. We are also working in an identity for a holistic school for kids. We've learned a lot in this project by co-creation sessions with the kids. Jan Bajtlik says "Treat kids with respect and you'll be amazed by the results". Often children are treated in a disempowering way. That is not the case in that specific school. We've learned a lot from them.
FS: How can people contact you?
GK: By e-mail, which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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