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Interview with Gonzalo Alatorre

Home > Designer Interviews > Gonzalo Alatorre

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Gonzalo Alatorre (GA) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Gonzalo Alatorre by clicking here.

Interview with Gonzalo Alatorre at Saturday 14th of May 2022
Gonzalo Alatorre
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?
GA: I studied Graphic Design at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, but actually, I started working in graphic design during high school for a local design firm doing newspaper ads. I did not grow up wanting to become a designer, but it is something I discovered late in high school. However, I come from a family of architects and art collectors. So art and design were always a topic of conversation in our house.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
GA: We are an award-winning creative agency for brands committed to standing out in a market saturated with sameness. We are composed of a culturally-diverse team with an unstinting commitment to our client's vision and an unwavering commitment to do the right thing the first time around.

FS: What is "design" for you?
GA: Many things. Design, to me, is the oldest profession in humankind. Hammers have been around for at least 3.3 million years, but someone had to design them! The discipline of design as we know it looks above all to solve a problem, yet what differentiates it from engineering is the pillar of aesthetics. Without having the aesthetic philosophy behind it, then it is just engineering. However, without the problem-solving foundation, it is just art as it would lose its purpose, its essence. So, in summary, design is that intersection between science and art that elevates human existence.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
GA: I like working on the brand strategy and understanding the difference that exists between how our clients position themselves and what position they actually hold in their customers' minds. From that position of actionable intelligence, I love working on building the different components that make a brand identity and pushing my design team to produce work that makes our clients proud.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
GA: In 2003 I was lucky enough to win the national competition in Canada for the 2010 Olympic Games logo. Over 1800 designers from Canada entered the contest. My logo submission (and winning logo) represents my experience as an immigrant to Canada, whereas a 25-year-old Canada welcomed me with open arms. The 2010 Vancouver Olympic logo project is my favourite, not because of the outcome of the logo itself or because my logo won the competition, but because of everything that resulted from it. It allowed me to meet other designers from around the world, Olympic athletes, and seeing your work change the look of a nation is exhilarating. Even more than 12 years later, I still see people wearing clothes with the emblem. However, the greatest sense of pride I got from the design was inspired by the inukshuk (a man-made stone landmark or cairn built for use by the Inuit), representing a person with open arms. At the time, these inukshuks were somewhat known. However, I felt they did not have the recognition they deserved. After the Olympic logo was unveiled, people took an interest in these, and you could see inukshuks everywhere, from beaches to hiking trails, rivers, and on top of mountains. This was the most rewarding aspect of this project: people paid attention and learned about the Inuit culture from Northern Canada.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
GA: The brand identity for a local charcuterie, Oyama Sausage, in Vancouver. It is inspired by the flags used in the Palio Di Sienna horse race and pays homage to the Iberico pigs from Spain.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
GA: It is still the good old-fashioned brain and a pencil and piece of paper. The material, platform, or technology are just tools, but the great ideas still come from thinking and hard work, not from the tools used.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
GA: Anytime during the deep explorations we have with our clients. Great conversations can be exhilarating and accelerate the creative process.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
GA: On the bigger picture: What does it all mean? What does our target audience leave thinking about?

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
GA: Everything! I've always described my design process following the same sequence of events as any Tom Cruise movie: Arrogance: I come in thinking I am a superstar. Crisis. I crash and burn; I can't live up to my self-imposed expectations and standards. Humility and lack of confidence: Maybe I am not as good as I think, and I should quit. I find my muse and obsess: I find that one perfect idea. And I obsess about it until I get to the solution. The exhilaration when I see the solution. I ride a motorcycle to the sunset with my muse.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
GA: A lot of pride, but I also see the last 10% that could be better, and if given the opportunity, how I would improve it. I also become obsessed with understanding the change and impact we have brought to our client's organizations.

FS: What makes a design successful?
GA: Success in our field is measured by many different metrics. However, to make it simple to understand, I consider a project successful if it allows our clients to stand out in a market full of sameness. If our client's brand becomes meaningful to consumers and different from its competitors.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
GA: I only judge designs where I know the context of how it was created and what problems it was trying to solve. Otherwise, I find it disrespectful to other design professionals. If I do know the context and problems it is trying to solve, I ask myself: Does it work? Does it elevate the world of design? Does it challenge the status quo? Does it propose something new? In 2005 I gave a TEDx talk in Mexico about how design should be like a liquid quesadilla. In this talk, I mention these points above.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
GA: We have an ethical responsibility to inform and not deceive. To guide our clients to adopt more environmentally-friendly solutions and more inclusive practices. To support each other as design professionals, rather than attack each other. We should all work to elevate the design discipline!

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
GA: There seems to be an intense fight between those who want to commoditize design and those fighting against that. In my opinion, this will create a big divide between great design and the rest. I don't believe design as a discipline is in danger from artificial intelligence, yet some design jobs may be in danger. However, I think the roles of some designers as production designers may change from a position of utility to a place of intelligence. Those that understand how to get there will survive the threat of being replaced by computers.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
GA: I am not an artist, so I don't have exhibitions. However, our work represents our client's brands every day in over 45 countries, and I consider these our exhibitions. Every day, prospective clients judge our work, compare it to the alternatives, and decide positively or negatively. We are successful in our work if we have communicated the brand attributes clearly and tip the balance in favour of our clients.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
GA: Our ideas always come from a position of actionable intelligence, and our inspiration comes from learning everything about our clients, competitors, and markets.

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?
GA: I don't believe I have a style, as I don't design alone. We design as a team at Etude Digital. So it is impossible to have a defined style as it combines everyone's input. My hiring philosophy is to only hire people that are better designers than me and design with a universal sense of aesthetic. As a Creative Director, I am often faced with the reality that I may not like what our designers present as the solution for a project. However, I believe that if I don't like it purely because it is a matter of taste, then I need to let the designer's work see the light of day. Having many styles can only enrich the work that comes out of a design agency. For example, at the moment, our design team is composed of people from Canada, China, and Iran. They all bring in their own sense of aesthetics, yet we all pursue the universal truth of beauty.

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?
GA: I live in Vancouver, Canada. Yes, I believe Canadian design and culture play a vital influential role in our design; however, I also have a strong influence from growing up in Mexico. Yet it seems to me that Vancouver being a multicultural city, we are immersed in many cultures at the same time. It is impossible to not be influenced by the cultures that thrive in this beautiful city.

FS: How do you work with companies?
GA: We believe we should be considered as part of our client's teams. We need to make sure our clients think of us as part of their organization and that we have their best interests in mind.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
GA: Work with designers who understand that you, the client, are the expert in your business and understand your needs better than the designers. If the designers are not humble enough to acknowledge this, they are not worth working with.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
GA: 100% committed to our client's success. We don't believe in doing things quickly, and we believe in doing things right the first time around. Regardless of how long it will take, it will not have to be redone later on if it gets done right.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
GA: A pocket knife. The keyless lock. The sprinkler system in the garden (which I designed myself), Yeti coffee mugs, the Jura coffee machine.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
GA: Every day is different, but every day is a blessing. We are trusted by our clients to represent their brand. My day is spent pushing my team to be better and making sure they thrive, collaborating with our clients by understanding their business objectives, and finding a way to meet their needs.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
GA: You are much better than you think you are. Just work hard, and learn from others. Pay attention, and don't be jealous of other designers' work. Appreciate what other designers come up with and how different they solved the problem. Also, this is a critical message to younger generations: Creativity does not come from technology. Creativity is found between your ears and eyes, in your brain. Grab a pencil, and learn to use it. Get out, experience art, life, nature and cultures; pay attention to the world around you. Learn about all your client's businesses and their needs. Stop staring at screens.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
GA: I believe everything is positive. It is up to us to educate clients and society that what we do is important.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
GA: That design is not heart surgery. Be creative. Take risks.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
GA: The ability to see the big picture, as much as be obsessive about the details. The rest can be learned.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
GA: My brain. Pencil, paper. Adobe Creative Suite. HBR. Music.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
GA: Time mastery has to be part of the toolbox of any great designer. In the role of a creative director, my time is dictated by the needs of my clients and staff. I need to support both sides.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
GA: The necessary time to make it outstanding. You cannot take shortcuts: a project can take one hour or 300 hours, but it will be done when it perfectly represents the objectives set forth.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
GA: Can you help me?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
GA: The most important job experience was working for the worst designer and human being I had ever worked for. She was dishonest with staff and clients alike, and though she could fool the world. She taught me everything to not do in life.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
GA: We have multiple clients across many sectors. Too difficult to name some and leave others out. But we believe in not specializing in any particular industry, we believe in the richness that comes from cross-pollination.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
GA: Being involved in all aspects of the design process. From the initial strategy sessions to seeing the projects take life and impact our client's organizations. I also genuinely enjoy the long-standing relationships we have built with these clients, as the more work we do for a client, the better the work becomes.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
GA: Growth, professionally and personally. Take Etude.Digital to its full potential and vision we have for it. Support and grow young designers into professionals that elevate the discipline of design.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
GA: We always work as a team. We have a fundamental belief in Etude.Digital: We all win and fail together. When we succeed, we always talk in the "we. We own our mistakes, and we share our successes.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
GA: We have about 100 projects on the go. All of our work is confidential until it becomes public as it represents a competitive advantage for our clients, so we are never in a position to talk about what we are working on.

FS: How can people contact you?
GA: I can be reached at my email: gonzalo@etude.digital or phone number +1 (604) 739-1915.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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