Paula de Álvaro playfully champions design’s role as one of expression rather than service

From paper scraps to personal projects, Paula shares the methodology and process behind her practice, as well as details of her dream stationery shop.

12 October 2021


There are many different titles within the discipline of graphic design. For a while, Barcelona-based creative Paula de Álvaro was defined by the four words “Graphic designer and visual explorer” she used to describe herself via her Instagram bio. But, upon going freelance Paula found the definition of her role beginning to shift – and with this shift in approach came a change of perspective.  

As she describes: “I have been running my own projects as a freelancer, so I also work as a creative and art director, photographer, researcher, strategic communicator, copywriter, project manager, editor, content creator, printer, delivery person and blah blah blah…” she lists on top of her core role as a designer. Driving each of these projects is also Paula's own want to develop her design perspective from “reflection, critical, fiction or speculative design practices,” she continues. “I see design as a tool for expressing ideas and not simply at the service of a client’s commission.”


(Copyright © Paula de Álvaro, 2021)

The speculative and mindful nature of Paula’s work also comes as a direct result of her comprehensive, and self-described “geeky,” variety of interests; ranging from design-focused curiosities like typography and editorial design, to scans of paper types and unused notebooks. “I’m also interested in photography and post-photography, data, product design, art and fashion design,” she adds. It makes sense therefore that the designer notes how important references are to her practice, often spending “whole days just looking at projects and works from other designers, friends or studios.” Such detailed research allows the designer to challenge established borders within the medium and explore a broader perspective. “I am also interested in trying new formats and supports or using everyday objects to communicate and transmit new things,” Paula notes, mixing different methodologies and disciplines with her own.

An interesting element of Paula’s fascinations and practice is her love of stickers – and the subsequent combination with typography that manifests in her work. The use and inspiration of found stickers seems poetically representative of her approach to design too, representing something that exists in one context before being reconsidered and altered for another. Asking herself what she could “change or rethink” when tasked with a project, Paula explains: “I really like to find meaning and coherence in what I am doing, so that the graphic system and aesthetic decisions make sense.” It is here that we find the source of Paula’s unique design practice, where her self-awareness, candour and own fascination with the discipline harmonises with the consideration and graphic kindness towards concept. Together, these sentiments pragmatically and playfully culminate in an expression of graphic wit.


(Copyright © Paula de Álvaro, 2021)

These thoughtful sensibilities recently manifested in the design of Bau Design College of Barcelona’s graduation diploma. “Every year they choose a professional designer who studied at the university,” Paula recalls, “and this year I couldn't believe it when they proposed it to me.” Rethinking the traditional diploma format, Paula sought to make the object more personal, bringing it closer to those receiving it by having them take part in the process of its design. “I can't tell you much more about the project because it is a surprise gift for the students,” Paula reveals, “who will receive their graduation diploma next week (stay tuned!).”

Another project that saw Paula’s interests and practice align was Book®Archive, a personal project exploring books, office supplies, household goods and retail trade. “Book®Archive is a project where everything is possible,” she explains, “my only way out from day-to-day work for clients,” providing Paula a space to experiment and investigate her own personal brand and identity. “This project above all,” Paula adds, “helps me to rethink my own practice and where I want to go.”

Looking ahead, Paula’s potential personal prospects are equally as eclectic as her design practice. “My dream in life would be to have a stationery shop with many objects designed by me,” she says, imagining “a huge bazaar,” listing “diaries, notebooks, books, magazines, office supplies, clothes, accessories, a thousand things.” Paula also stresses her urge to learn and train to complement her practice. “I think it’s essential to constantly update yourself,” she concludes, “especially if you don’t want to become a boomer.”

Gallery(Copyright © Paula de Álvaro, 2021)

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(Copyright © Paula de Álvaro, 2021)

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About the Author

Harry Bennett

After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. He nows works as a freelance writer and designer, and is one half of Studio Ground Floor.

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