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Featured Designer

Anywhere / Hardcuore

November 2019

Designer Julia B Aguair self describes as a hands-on prototyper, highly curious, on-going amateur with a multidisciplinary approach. We caught up with her to chat about how living in Brazil and working remotely have impacted her career, education, and design practice, and how not sticking to the plan has led to some important experiences. She also shares how it's ok to feel a little lost sometimes, and to touch as many areas as you want as long as something is grounding you.

Did you have a plan for graduation and what actually happened?

Yes, I did! But they kinda turned out completely different.

For my graduation project, I wrote a thesis about new forms of literature through the use of algorithms of artificial intelligence and big data. It was utterly theoretical and experimental with a lot of research, coding and writing, which I loved doing for 2 years. The plan was to continue that research via a postgraduate degree at a university abroad.

But then, my life took different turns – moving out, getting married, work, Brazil’s political fiasco, lack of funding… The plan got delayed and therefore, I’ve changed my focus so I wouldn’t miss opportunities for growth even though things didn’t go the way I planned. I’ve been focusing on my co-owned remote practice Anywhere with my friend Carlos Bocai, and in the meantime, I got a full-time job at a great design agency/production company called Hardcuore. So instead of working with research and technology, I’ve been gathering experience in different areas such as art direction, production, branding and packaging.

In the end, I wouldn’t change a thing ‘cause the experiences I’ve had as a result of not sticking to the plan were really important for my career and personal life. I think it’s essential to make plans, so you have a goal to work towards - but it’s even more important to be prepared when they take a little longer to happen, because there are a ton of interesting things going on in the meantime.

What's the quality of design education like locally?

I was very privileged to have parents who could afford a design education at a private university in my city, but currently many of our public colleges are being left to dust because of lack of funding from the government.

It’s sad because I think we have so much to offer and so little investment. We live in such a big country with an immense diversity of identities, climates, landscapes and cultures, that also has a lot of social and political issues. Because of that, as designers, we’re taught to be very sensitive. I can’t speak for everyone here, and not for every uni, but PUC-Rio has a human-centered design methodology which just gets more relevant each day.

Through the course we’re encouraged to observe, practice empathy and try to generate a positive impact in every project. Understanding the context in order to give shape to ideas, regardless of which area they tackle —graphics, animation, fashion, product, web — I had amazing teachers from different backgrounds who constantly opened my mind for the amplitude of what design is and how powerful it can be. Those teachings are still the basis of my creative process and I'm very proud and thankful for the education I’ve had here.

How does the local culture of where you live affect your design work and getting clients?

In Brazil, there’s this inferiority complex we put ourselves through ever since before the 19th century, which is still part of our culture. We grow up looking up to everything that’s foreign and not recognizing our homeland. Consequently, I feel like it’s hard for a lot of people that work with creativity, including me and many of my friends, to get to the point where we trespass that barrier and get the confidence to make our local knowledge valuable to the world.

In the meantime, I believe there’s something very unique about being Brazilian. Because our country is complex, diverse and has so many issues progressively getting worse, I feel like there’s no space to create something that’s not meaningful, that has no purpose or any sort of impact. Also, most of the time we don’t have a lot of resources to work with because people are still learning the power of design, communication and branding — hence not only there’s a need to educate our clients, but we also have to get creative and learn how to use what we have to make something worthy.

It’s very challenging working here but also very enriching. And as I grow older and the world gets more chaotic, I value my heritage more each day because I know it made me a better professional.

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As I grow older and the world gets more chaotic, I value my heritage more each day because I know it made me a better professional.

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How did you name your practice and what does the name represent to you?

I think it has to do with my personality, but I feel like a shift through different areas with such a high frequency that I’m not that sure of “what” I am. I’ve been calling myself simply a designer because I feel like that’s the most far-reaching I can be without losing awareness of my profession and becoming something else.

I’ve been adding “titles” to that name that have to do with my identity and how I work instead of what I do – like “I’m a hands-on prototyper, highly curious, on-going amateur with a multidisciplinary approach” instead of “graphic designer”. I believe it’s possible to be as multiple as you want if you still have a train of thought that leads you somewhere and keeps you grounded on your beliefs.

What are some of the best and worst parts of your job, day-to-day?

I gotta say it’s exhausting doing this double-shift thing — having a personal practice while maintaining a full-time job. But I love the fact that either way I’m working very close to people I admire and have so much to learn from.

People here are very collaborative. In a lot of local studios I know, it doesn’t really matter if you’re an intern, junior, senior or even art director sometimes, there’s a blurred line between those positions. We like to talk to people, get different views over the same subject, exchange knowledge to get the best result. Also, I’m lucky to be part of a large group of local designers, filmmakers, photographers and communicators that I’m constantly collaborating with and that keeps growing as a community – so I’m kind of always working with friends.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

I don’t know if I’m in a position to give advice, but what I wish someone told me when I was graduating is that it’s ok to be a little lost after and not know exactly what you want to do or where you wanna go. Just because you’ve graduated on something, doesn’t mean you have everything figured out.

I feel like sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to be extraordinary and relevant somehow, that we forget our own narratives. We rush our process and sometimes we force things upon ourselves because of that. That’s not healthy or productive. So stick to your truth, keep asking questions you don’t know the answer yet, stay curious, work hard and be nice to people (and yourself).

Website: jb-aguiar.com

Instagram: @juliabaguiar / @anywhere.today

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