“I have learnt to see graphic design as a kind of puzzle,” explains Oscar Maia. Based out of the historic city of Porto, Oscar has been practising for more than a decade in some of the romantic city’s renowned studios. From Atelier Martino&Jaña to the White Studio, Oscar has honed a career specialising in design in the cultural sector which he continues today as a freelancer.
On viewing graphic design as a puzzle, he adds, “You have all these pieces that you can move around, and then place in a logical order to build something that solves a client’s necessity.” Luckily for Oscar, this form of visual problem solving is highly “enjoyable and appealing." To be able to influence how the final puzzle will look in terms of “beauty, complexity and style” is something he finds endlessly engaging; as demonstrated in his latest project designing a publication for Porto City Theatre.
To celebrate the theatre’s 87th anniversary, 100% Porto collaborates with the authors come directors of Rimini Protokoll, who work with amateur actors to produce site-specific projects from a given situation. Oscar further explains this: “The project takes the statistics of the city and gives it a human face. They place a hundred of the city’s inhabitants on stage, representing the population of Porto in different ways such as through gender, age, nationality, family units and area of residence.”
Throughout the performance, each character reveals a detail about themselves; “their joys and their sorrows.” The accompanying publication designed by Oscar compiles all the key information from the performance as well as a profile of each of the 100 participants. On top of designing and curating the information into a beautifully designed book, Oscar importantly considers how to translate the essence of his native city into print.
“To be 100% from Porto is to be able to feel the city’s various moods on a daily basis,” adds the designer. In the last couple of years, Oscar has witnessed an upheaval in the city which has managed to “pull through in a period of population losses.” Additionally, “there are new people and new cultures coming in every day and it’s interesting to see how the city adapts to these new lifestyles and ways of thinking.”
With a typographic cover that displays the names of the one hundred participants in the performance, Oscar reflects the recent change in the city through the contrasting type in the publication. Juxtaposing bold headings with smaller blocks of differently aligned texts, the design emulates the headstrong, outgoing inhabitants of the city while hinting at the “welcoming and warmheartedness” through the friendly sans serif choices.
In another design detail, there is a mirror positioned on the back cover to include members of the audience in the commonality of the project. “To be surrounded by hundreds of years of heritage in architecture, culture and inexplicable romantic beauty is something you learn to appreciate when you spend most of your time in Porto,” says Oscar. Impossible to cram in all these sensory observations, Oscar channels the fundamentals into the open design, leaving plenty of interpretation to the members of the audience and viewers alike.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.