Nelson Vassalo

We chat with Interactive & Visual Designer, Nelson Vassalo, about everything from editing typefaces, to his love for Dragon Ball Z. He tells us about his job creating custom illustrations on Crocs™ at shopping malls; shares his top 5 design crushes, and gives us the low down on the Lisbon design community.

Any hilarious stories about you as a kid being creative?

Plenty, since I’m one of those classic cases of the kid who used to draw a lot and kind of went to design school organically through that fixation (though in the end, it was a lot more convoluted than that). But my Dragon Ball Z fan stage — which lives up until today, in fact —, was definitely prolific in stories. It not only made me “famous” in my middle school for drawing Goku a la carte doing each and every mundane thing my classmates would imagine (picture Toryiama’s characters in the toilet, at the movies, hanging out with cartoon versions of my classmates), it developed my first and only artist beef ever, with Franklin, the kid from the class next door, who was also pretty good at DBZ drawing. It had us protecting our markets (yeah, we were paid for this) very fiercely by lobbying with the infuencers of that time: usually bullies who would root for either of us and promote our work accordingly. Good times! I wish Franklin also followed the arts somehow and is still drawing better than me.

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

I studied at the School of Fine Arts — University of Lisbon and a decade later continued at Parsons in New York.

Immediately after my bachelors, I took on a job as a Crocs™ promoter (the shoes thy shall not talk about). I was assigned to create custom illustrations on the shoes at malls by the request of kids or their parents. After a while I started getting regular graphic design agency internships, then a proper job at a news paper (Not planned at all. Loved it!).

Design work by Nelson Vassalo The Design Kids interviews Nelson Vassalo work-2

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I’m a classic graphic designer by trade, who started as a huge drawing and typography nerd and started getting excited with animation and then interaction. That means today I mostly go from tackling a problem for someone in the broadest way possible and then figuring out how to solve it best. This often includes a combination of all these areas, other times it demands exclusivity from one or the other. You can find me either editing a typeface, designing a poster or corporate identity, imagining a customer journey for an app, or straight-up coding some web game or weird visualization (which I’m more and more addicted to).

Who are your top five design crushes globally right now?

Design work by Nelson Vassalo The Design Kids interviews Nelson Vassalo work-4
Design work by Nelson Vassalo The Design Kids interviews Nelson Vassalo work-4

What are your top 5 local design things our readers can check out?

The community took quite a blow on the height of the Euro crisis, and it’s steadily getting back on its feet again. While it was sad a few of the city’s favorites didn’t make it past that hot mess, I’m very excited for the new kids on the block fiercely exporting our design scene to even higher ground. I’d say definitely Rita Matos, but you know her already for sure, José Costa Torres, Tomás Gouveia, Mauro Santos and Rita Diniz. There are more established studios I love that you can easily find by googling. The reason I chose these 5 young guns is that they’re establishing a new kind of organic design community. Not necessarily establishing studios or agencies, just very casually and organically collaborating within neighborhood to city-wide communities, each other and around the world. I’d say follow them and you’ll be in touch with the broader Lisbon eats the world design scene for the next decade.

If people wanted to know more about design in your city, what are the top blogs, organisations or events they can read up on?

@theptdesign for extensive design curation, for designers’ perspective on the city life, Clube Criativos de Portugal for competitions, events and talent showcase, check the events and companies hosted by Centro de Inovação da Mouraria, you’ll find studios popping up everywhere if you follow some key groups on Meetup: Digital Nomads for sure, Lisbon Graphic Design. Also go for open nights and drinks at some of the major coworking spaces in town: Cowork Central, Cowork Lisboa, Second Home, Workhub, Todos, Graceland and Village Underground.

Design work by Nelson Vassalo The Design Kids interviews Nelson Vassalo work-6
Design work by Nelson Vassalo The Design Kids interviews Nelson Vassalo work-6

Where to find Nelson Vassalo online.


Instagram: @nelson_vassalo

Twitter: @nvassalo

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