Isabel Lucena

We chat with Tutor and Graphic Designer Isabel Lucena about all things education and the handmade. Isabel jumped from city to city studying design and art before finally settling in Lisbon to teach graphic design at ETIC Escola de Tecnologias, Inovação e Criação and flourish as a freelance designer.

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?

In 1992, when I was 10, my family moved from Lisbon to Palo Alto, California. I remember being very excited with the number of materials and art supplies. Things like magic pens, fluorescent crayons, glitter glue, special scissors and many kinds of papers and stickers. In 1992, graphic design was much more playful, colorful and figurative in California than back home in Portugal. I spent a lot of time doing cards, folders, notepads and in school they took this very seriously. The following year my sister, my cousin and I started selling some drawings and cards to (kind) members of our family so we created a logo to mark our drawings. It read MIM (the I stands for Isabel). The logo was a great exercise in synthesis but it looks more like a logo for a metal workers union than an Art collective. This was all before touching a computer.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I studied graphic design at the Lisbon Design Institute, IADE, where they focus teaching the more commercial side of design. Later, I joined the University of Applied Arts of Vienna (Universität für Angewandte Kunst), Austria, for one year, where the practice was the absolute opposite. And I did the Master Course of the Design Department of the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, which is two years. I remained three more years in Amsterdam where I freelanced. I developed projects for NIMK Netherlands Media Art Institute and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. I worked briefly at the studio Thonik and learned a lot there. All very good experiences.

Design work by Isabel Lucena The Design Kids interviews Isabel Lucena work-2

What role does digital design play in your studio in 2017, and how do you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age?

My work usually has a lot of handmade graphics. Either it is drawings, writings, collages, or some rough scans. And I like to mix them with the regular digital typography and computer-generated graphics. This mixture gives an imperfect or misplaced look that I enjoy. It also helps from keeping the process too mental and too stiff. I like to be a bit limited with possibilities (using real materials and textures around me) and also be surprised by accidentally finding an odd mixture that works. Many times what is used is the sketches the client did or some part of the research I did for the job. But I am still looking for what I like and what makes sense each time, so it's not a recipe, just a tendency.

Tell us a bit about yourself and the studio that you work for.

I work as an independent designer. I have worked briefly for some studios (, Atelier Pedro Falcão, NADA design e.g.) but mostly in isolated projects while keeping my own practice. Today I work by myself but have a shared workplace with other designers and I collaborate with great designers and friends like Marco Balesteros and Ana Freitas. I also teach Graphic Design at ETIC Escola de Tecnologias, Inovação e Criação in Lisbon.

Design work by Isabel Lucena The Design Kids interviews Isabel Lucena work-4
Design work by Isabel Lucena The Design Kids interviews Isabel Lucena work-4

It's always great to see your work in odd places… Designing sailboat sails is a bit of a fantasy. It would be amazing to see my design meters high at sea.

Any passion projects you would like to share?

I use my sketches and print tests to create collages of many sizes. They decorate my house but I also keep them stored. I really enjoy doing this work as not only I love the result visually but I like to do it by hand and create a mess in the house. I started doing the collages because I had many empty walls and only my own design work to fill them, no art pieces. I wanted to look at something more abstract and had huge amounts of paper, printed or not, so I started cutting, ripping and mixing my posters until it reached an abstract look. Today my graphic design work is influenced by this too and I have graphic design commissions to do just this kind of work which is amazing because it is what I enjoy the most doing. Of course you can see a selection of the collages in my Tumblr.

Who would be the “dream client” that you would do anything to work for?

A client that likes my work, has good work ethics and a production method that is environmentally friendly. Lately I feel I would love to do graphic work for ceramics so a collaboration with a ceramist or ceramics factory would be exciting. And designing sailboat sails is a bit of a fantasy... It would be amazing to see my design meters high at sea.

Design work by Isabel Lucena The Design Kids interviews Isabel Lucena work-6
Design work by Isabel Lucena The Design Kids interviews Isabel Lucena work-6

Where to find Isabel Lucena online.


Instagram: @isabel_lucena

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