agenda by The Editors

The iconic designer on his ever-changing style and process.

reading time 17 minutes

After 8 years of working in-house for some of New York’s most influential creative companies (notably Pentagram and Bloomberg Businessweek), Portuguese graphic artist Bráulio Amado recently decided to devote himself fully to his studio practice, particularly his speciality, designing music posters. Looking over his immense output, we can be very grateful for his new freedom. Amado’s posters are each delicious works of art, always fresh and cool and surprising. While some designers have a very consistent style, his work is unpredictably diverse. Below, he explains to us how he achieves this spontaneity, and why he tries his best not to settle on a trademark style.

You have an incredible output. How do you make so much work? And how does this speed affect the art?
I mostly make music posters. So while it may seem like a lot of work, these are quick jobs. I don’t spend many hours designing one poster. I work for a club, Good Room, and I have to do posters for all the events, and they appreciate the urgency and fast-paced work. I make a poster for one party, then it’s over and there’s another party. They don’t mind that I treat these posters as an experimental sketchbook, where I try fun stuff. I have more regular client work, too, where there’s a mood board, and a few phases of sketches etc., but I prefer the spontaneous stuff.

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Why do you prefer about the spontaneity? What do you get out of it?
I’m used to working that way from my time at Bloomberg Businessweek, where I would get an assignment and instantly have to react to it. I think the best ideas come when you’re under time pressure. Also, when I have so many posters to do, I don’t mind making mistakes. When you don’t have the pressure of making everything perfect, I think you get better results, because you feel more free to experiment. I feel most comfortable designing stuff if it’s more of a reaction.

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Your work has a special energy to it. It seems alive. Is that a natural outcome of this process?
I think so. I have a few different ways of working. Sometimes an idea pops into my head, which is the easiest way of making something. Other times, I just experiment with shapes and colors. But I try to set a time at which the experiment has to end. Two hours, let’s say. After two hours, whatever I’ve come up with has to be turned into the final product. It’s almost like playing pictionary: you get 20 seconds to draw something on paper and the other person has to get it. I take the same approach to these posters.

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A lot of designers have a trademark style that runs through almost everything they do. I don’t get that feeling from your work. Everything you do seems different. Is that something you aspire to do, or is just the result of constantly shifting interests and inspirations?
I’m not trying to have my own style. I’m just trying to do different things all the time. I’m easily bored with what I do. If I make something that looks too much like me, I start again and try to do something different.  Sometimes I think I’ve done something totally different, and someone will say, oh, that’s typical Braulio, and I’m like, noooo! I would love to multiply myself into seven different people, who make totally different work. This is also a product of growing up online. The internet has this mix of styles and energies that I try to recreate in my work. I don’t think there are real trends online. Everything’s a mess and I like that.

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Is that reflected in the tools that you use, also? How much of your work is analog and how much is digital?
Yeah, it’s a mix of all these things. Sometimes it’s all analogue, sometimes its analogue and digital, and sometimes its just digital. I often start by sketching something in my notebook. Sometimes I draw letters with paint or pencils. Then I scan it all. Sometimes I process it so much that it completely loses its analog quality. Sometimes I start on the computer but try to make it look really analog. It’s different every time.

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You do these graphic interviews, where you submit questions to some of your favorite graphic artists and ask them to answer in drawing. What do you hope to learn from these interviews?
I am mostly interested in how they really think. When you see someone else’s illustrations in a newspaper or magazine, they’ve been working with an art director, they’re responding to an article. There’s still some personal touches to it, of course, but they’ve reworked it many different ways. The idea with graphic interviews is to get answers from people in a very rough form. I tell them to not spend more than five minutes on any answer. I want this to be a dialogue.

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You are trying to stop them from contriving something. In some ways, you want to see their most personal work.
Exactly. I want to see how their brain works with a pen in their hands. Also, most of my friends are not designers. That’s another reason I started doing the graphic interviews. I wanted to talk about graphic design without really having to talk about it.  

To see more of Bráulio Amado’s work, visit his website

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