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An Interview with Ricardo Leite

During my stay in the Netherlands I decided to go on a trip to the capital to meet Ricardo Leite. Ricardo is a Portuguese graphic designer and art director based in Amsterdam. His projects range from commercial work with Pull and Bear, to cultural projects such as art exhibitions and festival catalogues. His work has a playful typographic feel, with striking compositions that have caught the eye of the French graphic design magazine Etapes on several occasions. Although Ricardo believes that it is difficult to truly create anything original these day, his riso print posters and publications are certainly intriguing and refreshing. At the moment he is working independently on several book design projects, his dream is to one day open a studio with some friends.

Ricardo’s Website

What is your favourite piece of work that you have made?

Hmm favourite? Every time I finish a project I’m not happy, I could do it again and again and again, but because you have a deadline it’s the end of the project!
My favourite, favourite? I can tell you the one I enjoyed the most… few years ago ago I collaborated with Martin Allais when I was living in Barcelona, creating 3 different styles of video for Pull and Bear. Stop motion, frame by frame animation and 3D. What I really liked was that it was a really round project, we started really nicely with the briefing and then the brainstorming, sketches, research, and then we passed to the frame, creating the scenarios. It was a fun project with a cool mood. After 2 months the project was ready. I really learned a lot, I enjoyed it a lot and the client was really happy. It was the kind of project where you evolve at the end, and feel well prepared for what comes next!

Where do you look to find inspiration?

Old books from second hand street markets, sometimes from friends’ stories, when you travel you have a lot of moments when you get inspired but you don’t know why. Luckily I don’t have to struggle that much to get an idea, sometimes I have the problem that I have too many ideas and I don’t know how to really handle it!

What is your preferred format to work on?

Probably between posters and books, but unfortunately these days these formats are disappearing faster on a daily basis.

ricardo Silkscreen for the Publishing House French Fourch Ricardo Leite

Do you have any favourite fonts?

I really like typography, since the beginning. From my time as a student I discovered that I’m a sans serif guy, I really like fonts that can simply have a lot of attitude. I am sort of classic with my grid. I have a few fonts that I work with regularly, I’m a fan of The Classic Typeface Kit, although these days I work often with Aperçu from the Colophon Foundry, Benton, Albertus, Romana, Univers, Helvetica and types from Jan Tschichold. Atlas Grotesk by Carvalho Bernau is one of my favourites.

Does Helvetica deserve the negative press it has been receiving recently?

People are probably tired of Helvetica, because all these years we’ve had Helvetica everywhere. But it’s impossible to say that Helvetica is a bad typeface because it’s not. You can see studios like Experimental Jetset from Amsterdam who work with Helvetica very often, and of course this creates a kind of style although it is a good example how Helvetica can really fulfil the challenge

Do you have a favourite country for Design?

I like the Swiss style. Although Bauhaus is part of my process, the Swiss style is impossible to ignore, if you really like the classics and the visual grid systems. I also have many Dutch references, always keeping in mind my roots.

Ricardo Leite

What is your personal style most influenced by?

I don´t think about style. I think in terms of a triangle which is between values, colours and structures. When I was a student I questioned myself a lot “how can you have a style, how can you build up a style? And I think a style is for an illustrator. I think graphic design depends more on grid, the kind of clients that you have and the approach you want to have with them. I personally am not struggling with style, I am focused on process.

How did you develop your way of working?

I like to play with types in a grid, I like to overlap type and think about different layers. If the structure is strong you can have almost anything. Typographical contrast is my focus. So I play with grids, decomposing them, trying to keep the readability. If used well common mistakes on a grid can lead to new material.

What is your work process from start to finish?

Briefing > Questions > Sketches > Ideas > Concept > Grid > Creativity > Final Result > Amends > Cigarettes > Depression > Final Version > Happiness > Doable > Corrections > the end > Probably I could do it differently? > I think I don’t like it anymore! > Next !!!

Quaderns Magazine 263 Ricardo Leite

What inspires your design concepts?

Lately I’ve been researching into onomatopoeias. But also the way we communicate these days (in all kind of formats). We have to be aware of what’s happening today.

What’s going to be the future of graphic design?

The digital is vibrating and it’s impossible to go against this. We have to be able to adapt to all formats. The way we communicate is changing radically , hash-tag #here and hash-tags #there! Print is becoming sort of a niche, these days people want something that’s fast, easy and cheap. To be honest any clue about what the future will look like.

How do you work with clients?

Each client is a a special boat trip. I have a few clients that I work with by Skype although the first introduction is by email and then we start to generate the first approach, this is the most common. Then there’s a few clients that show up personally and some friends that brings other friends.

ricardo8 Ricardo Leite

What advice would you give to young designers?

Experiment a lot. Commit failures a lot, don’t be afraid of doing things perfectly. If you like a studio just get in contact. If you want to know more about something try to get in touch again. In the beginning don’t wait for all the clients to show up at your door, just go to their site and knock on the door. If clients don’t show up, work on the kind of stuff that you would like to do with clients. If you want to work more with books then do more books on your own to build up your portfolio and your experience. Try to experiment with a wide range of formats, try the things that you are weak at to evolve. Learn to be introspective about your mistakes, instead of feeling frustrated. Accept them and don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid to destroy everything and turn up with something completely new. Don’t stop! Even if you loose the feeling, never loose the focus. Try to create and build up your own dreams because these dreams are going to help you to find what you want to do in the future. Be honest if you don’t know about something. Ask as much as you need, no problem if you ask 3 times the same issue, if you’re still doubting. I’m learning as much as I can.


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