Interview: Ana Gómez Bernaus

Ana Gomez Bernaus

Name: Ana Gómez Bernaus

Where do you live: Los Angeles, California (USA)

Known for: Illustration and Lettering

Currently working on:
I’m currently working on two illustration and lettering projects for 2 documentaries.

When did you realize that you were going to work with this:
I’ve been inclined towards illustration for as long as I can remember. As a kid, drawing was one of my favorite activities and the one that stuck with me. I’ve always known I wanted to work on something visual and with an element of creative expression and when it came the time to choose a career, my gut instinct pointed me towards graphic design. A job focused on communication and expression through visuals seemed extremely attractive back then. And it keeps getting better with the years.

If you could choose one place only to live, where would that be and why?
Living in different cities has shown me that where I am based is important, but how I use the city where I live at that time is primordial in order for me to have a good experience. When I was in NYC, I couldn’t get enough of it. The city is exciting, there’s events every day of the week and it’s a place that’s easy to navigate. Everything feels close. The rhythm is quick and there’s plenty of people working on interesting projects, so inspiration is in the air.

In Los Angeles I don’t sense that strong contagious energy coming from having people around all the time, but instead from the empowerment that comes from living in a spread out city and driving everywhere. The feeling here is of expansion. Everything is open and bright and the environment changes drastically from one neighborhood to the next and even more if you take a quick drive to the mountains or the desert. That diverse scenario gives creativity a nice way to flow. Other than Barcelona, I haven’t lived anywhere else and I can’t predict how I would feel in a different city because life experiences aren’t only related to urban design. And if you ask me now, I can’t decide if I like New York better than LA or vice versa. Both cities have posed challenges and given rewards. At this point in my life I’d love to be able to go back and forth between them. Until I try something new that I like more!

How would you describe your design:
For every project, I always start with a concept. From it a story emerges that defines what the graphic language will be. I like working on pieces with visual richness and detail profusion, but at the same time I like my work to feel uncomplicated as a whole. I want to create the balance in which one can get lost in the little elements of the composition but appreciate it as a compact and coordinated image.

How and when did you start to work with this in a serious manner?
I started working as a graphic designer back in 2001. My studio in Barcelona worked in a variety of projects including branding, interactive and web design, and illustration. The move to NY marked a pivotal point in my career. I started to work more with type that merged with my passion for illustration, and I developed the style in which I work nowadays. It’s been an interesting evolution.

Each city I lived in has influenced my work in a specific way. Barcelona and its modernist style got me to enjoy an intricate illustrative style, New York refined it making it more rational and focused towards typography and lettering. In LA aside from editorial and advertising I get broadcast projects, both for films and commercials, and these kind of visual products have particular requirements for how the type works and interacts with image. It has been, and still is, very interesting to move from one area of graphic design to another and get involved in different kinds of projects. The rewards are not only financial, artistic or professional, the way I see it there’s a big part that relates to learning new techniques and mediums that makes this profession so enchanting. It never gets old.

What do you do at the moment?
I started my own studio last spring and I my projects have touched different areas. From illustration and lettering for advertising to documentary film titles, movie posters, infographics. At the moment I’m working on a branding project and on two lettering pieces for two documentary titles.

A recommendation for those who think about starting and running a creative business?
I’d recommend anyone who has an interest in pursuing a creative career to go ahead and do it. Be ready to work. It’s not easy but it’s very satisfying. Being able to make a living through design requires constant improvement and evolution. Designers create visual communication at the commercial level, responding to a client demand to create a solution for a problem. Although the hand of the designer is evident in their work and we can recognize treats of one’s style, client projects revolve around a scenario that was created before the designer job stars. For this reason, a designer should be able to tackle a project and offer a good creative outcome for a wide variety of products and services.

Tell us how it all started.
My first design job was on my last year of University. I started working at a small design shop in Barcelona and just after I graduated, my boss decided to take a sabbatical year and asked us if we wanted to start something new and keep his clients. I was 23 years old. I teamed up with the Albert Mata, the programmer at the studio and my friend Eva Guash who I met at Elisava, the design school. We started a company that we called “PrincipiActiu”, as in the element in medicaments that makes them work.

Looking back I am amazed that we decided to take such an endeavor with so little experience, but I learned a lot from it. The next big change came in 2009 when I decided to move to New York. In a way it meant starting from scratch, but it was the right thing to do. New York is the kind of city where people intentionally go with a plan to make something happen. Living there I felt everyone was there for a reason. And there’s so much focus on creativity and design that the synergy of the city pushes people to get better and better. It’s thrilling. The LA stage has been more about positioning and establishing myself. More than anything, becoming a permanent resident has allowed me to work on my own for a variety of clients and projects.

What is the most important thing in a workplace/studio for you?
My work place is comfortable, organized and neat. I like having everything handy and being able to find references fast. I’ve just reorganized my books by color, from white to black and it makes it so much easier to find what I’m looking for, just because I remember the color of the cover. And I like how it looks! Having an uncluttered desk and computer desktop helps me focus as well. And I also need natural light. I’m very lucky to live by the beach and I go almost every day after lunch for a quick bike ride. It helps me break from the morning session and get back refreshed. I also feel it’s a good moment to brainstorm because while doing a mechanical activity like pedaling, my mind wanders and makes connections that don’t usually happen in front of the computer.

What is your favorite film?
I can’t name one that has made such a greater impact on me that has made it my favorite, but at the top of my list I have classics like Dr. Strangelove, North by Northwest or Breakfast at Tiffany’s and more recent films like Donnie Darko, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Nine Queens, Memento or Amelie. As far as films I’ve seen in the last year I really liked Her and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Who would you like to invite for a dinner and why?
A few weeks ago I listened to an episode of Design Matters in which Debbie Millman interviewed Doyald Young. He is one of my favorite designers of all time, but listening to the interview made me admire him even more. He talked about his work from a craftsman perspective without any prepotencies despite of the fact that his lettering style is exquisite and flawless. The humbleness with which he spoke is the one of someone who loves and respects what he does and doesn’t take it for granted or as a show off tool. He mentioned that in order for someone to be a good designer and letterer, it is important to draw. Use your hands and practice, practice and practice. Designers don’t draw or work by hand as much anymore but, in my opinion, Doyald Young’s suggestion is still valid an applicable to digital image creation.

How do you like to spoil yourself?
It depends on the mood. But it goes from buying good design books, taking a random day off and enjoying the sun, or spending the day driving to Malibu or the desert to get out of the city. It’s not easy because working on my own requires me to be flexible on the weekends, but I do it whenever I can. I also really like traveling.

What is luxury for you?
Doing what I like whenever I see it fit, personally and professionally. In that sense, becoming my own boss has made everything better. Now I take care both of the client and the creative side of projects, and even though the workload is bigger, the sense of fulfillment is also greater.

What is the nicest compliment you’ve received for your design, and from whom?
I was recently in a meeting with my collaborators and the director of a film we are working on. I had done some sketches to get the conversation started and we were discussing what needed to be done. At one point, the director pointed out how much he liked the custom lettering I had done, and even though it was a first pass, he said it was just what he wanted for the piece. That nothing had to be changed. We are now developing the complete alphabet to use it on the lower thirds. I really like moments like these, in which the client is happy not only because he likes what he seems, but also because I was able to capture his idea and translate it into a lettering piece that communicates what he wants it to communicate. That, together with the fact that I had a lot of fun working on that piece, makes it a bright moment.

What do you fear most?
I’m pretty comfortable doing what I do and days go by smoothly, but if I had to point out what concerns me from time to time is being aware that working on my own means that I have to create my luck. Which is an exciting challenge as well. At the end of the day, everything happens on a progressive manner, and I find myself dealing with a greater responsibility after I’ve gone thought the steps that prepared me to take that responsibility on.

What is a happy life to you?
Well, I’m pretty happy right now and if I can keep exploring my creative side, working on interesting projects and producing results of which I am proud I think I’ll continue to be.

What does a regular day look like for you?
I wake up at 7am and I’m working by 8am so I am ready when my East Coast clients are also starting the day. I work until noon and I get a quick bite to eat. I work again until 2 or 3 and, if the day’s workload permits it, I ride my bike on the beach for an hour or so. I get back to my studio and I work until the day ends. Sometimes I’m done by 7, sometimes it’s midnight.

Tell us about your dream project.
I really like it when in a project I get to illustrate and design a lettering piece. It’s really fun to work on a composition that integrates a number of elements looking for ways to connect, balance and make them work together. I also enjoy working on mew media. I’ve recently worked with Mindbomb Films for Polk Audio on three commercials. I had to design three music inspired lettering pieces that had some illustrative elements and then they were used on a live action piece. I had a blast working on it and I am really happy with how all the pieces came together.

Who is your favorite designer?
As I mentioned before, I really admire Doyal Young’s work, especially his script and very flourished pieces. I also really like Takenobu Igarashi’s work. He has a very dimensional and playful approach to lettering. He also works on product and environmental design projects as well as sculpture, so he has a very good understanding of space. I think he translates this understanding of the third dimension into the 2d format in a very sophisticated way using geometry a lot which bestows simplicity upon the complexity of his works.

How would you describe your style?
My style is detail oriented towards internal complexity that creates a simple whole. For example, on my project TextAppeal, each word is created by a mesh of lines that conform each letter, but each piece is black only and set on white. So the design is rich in detail but not busy.

Which is the one thing you can’t live without?
Aside from life sustaining needs and the great community of friends and family around me, which are the basic keepers, given the circumstance guess I could do with very little. There are many things I love doing and I’m passionate about aside from my job and moving from city to city to get new experiences. But we live in a comfortable bubble in which we have everything we need, and most of what we want. At least, if not right now, we can work towards achieving it if we are determined. So I can’t say what I couldn’t live without because, honestly, there’s nothing in the material world which importance would be comparable to life.

What inspires you?
Inspiration comes in different shapes. A comic book can be a source of inspiration for patterns or eye guiding compositions for example. Conversations with fellow creatives are usually inspiring. Visiting a museum, reading a magazine or a trip somewhere different. Last year a friend of mine and I went to Bombay Beach, a community located on the Salton Sea in California. It’s around 200 feet below the sea level and half of it is abandoned. The look of that place is so different from what I’m used to, that walking on its streets I had my eyes open like oranges, despite the sun.

Experiences like that one are sources of creative flow. Sometimes I see something that triggers a project in a very literal way, but sometimes, like with the visit to Bombay Beach, it’s not so much that I wanted to do a project inspired on it but the place was so special that it put me in a creative mode.

A book that has changed/made the most impression in your life?
Of the top of my head, there are three titles that started reading and couldn’t put down: “El últimoCatón”, by MatildeAsensi, “Cienaños de soledad”, by Gabriel GarcíaMárquez and “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not that any of them has changed my life, but I really got hooked on the story and I love it when a book is able to do that. I think design can do that as well. When something is so well designed it just effortlessly works. I believe it’s important to keep working towards achieving that goal.

Follow Ana on Twitter & Instagram
Visit her website 
Check out her profile on Behance & Ello

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