My approach to design was through drawing. Since I was a kid I loved to draw. I also loved illustrated magazines and encyclopaedias. Images have always fascinated me. But not images toward art, or fine art, but images that helped me to understand things, the world. Images with a meaning, with some information. Images of planes, of mountains, the life underwater and so on. I believe I wanted to understand how things worked.
At college I had a teacher who opened my eyes to that thing called Visual Communications. I thought that it could be interesting. When I was deciding what career I would follow there was no design school, so I went into architecture, which in my town the curriculum integrated visual communications (as it was known then) and landscape design alongside all traditional architecture programs. So I went. While at school I understood that the function of the structure to hold a building could be the same to hold a visual message.
In the middle of my time at university I took a year off to study life drawing and to live abroad (NYC, 1979). That was crucial to develop my capacity or ability to look and see, and to learn from my sight. Back in São Paulo I started to mix the structured thoughts with my drawing which became my first and preferential tool for structuring a project. Drawing, and that includes doodling, roughs and all kind visual notes, is my language to design a project.
I had recently designed a Graphic Design program for a 2 year specialisation course in São Paulo. My intention in creating this program was to help students to develop the skill to understand the world we live in, which is more than ever a coded visual society. We live in a visual jungle where images are manipulated and their underlying meanings must be understood to those who want to work with visual communication. So, one of the first things we want the students to do is to learn to see! I wanted to make the students pay attention to what is going on in front of their very eyes—and what meanings those images have. Images are very, very powerful and graphic designers must learn what to do with them. Of course images include type, color and all graphic elements such as white/negative space or scale, proportion, etc.
This is what a traditional school can do.
Other thing is my relation with interns and assistants. I believe the relationship with them at the studio, in the professional life, is much more profitable for them than in a school because I can look at them and demand their attention while I understand what their needs are and how can I help them to improve in their own way. For me it is also very important because I can learn new things from them and recycle what I know. So, for mentoring I prefer to have 1 or 2 assistants at a time, working with me for 3, 5 or more years until they find their own paths and become full professionals.
I would say to myself the same I would to a student starting out. Have all experiences you can. Every situation in life is useful. Pay attention to what interests you. Travel, try different cultures, different foods. Read good books, be curious. Shape yourself in a way where all things can nourish your repertoire. Being an interesting person will make you a good designer if you learn how to express yourself, learn how to learn. Computers and software are important means, and you must learn how to use them but they are no an end in themselves.
I believe digital design is getting stronger and its participation on the business will be more and more important. Anyone considering getting into this practice should be aware of it. At the same time printed matter is going to be revalued as premium. So, there is room for both. Personally I want to be in a position to direct talented young designers, to pass what I believe is still useful, and to learn new things.