For Pedro Ajo, a half Spanish, half Brazilian graphic designer, “or visual communicator, as I like to say since it feels less restrictive to me,” his career in the medium began by playing around in Photoshop. He was 13 at the time and spent hours designing avatars for internet forums and signature banners.
“I always had so much fun doing it, messing around with different tools and filters, just trying to make something that looked sick,” he explains. “For me, it was just a game at the time, but without being aware of it I started learning some techniques and developing skills that would later become really helpful in my professional design practice. At some point, I discovered that some people actually earn their bread by doing something similar to that, and that’s how I got into graphic design.” 12 years later he’s still messing around and the results, in his own words, are still sick.
In the interim between Pedro’s teenage self and the graphic designer he is today, he studied a bachelor degree in graphic design at ESD in Madrid. He studied there for a few years but between completing his course’s graduation project he jumped at the chance of internships and put the degree on hold. “It wasn’t planned that way, but after my first internship [at IAM] some job opportunities started appearing and it just felt pointless to reject real job offers to graduate, and I needed the money as well.” Since then Pedro’s completed work at “amazing studios,” like 2×4 and Studio Dumbar, and in gaining an “education that you will never get at school,” he’s a graphic designer with skills well beyond his years.
A personal project that proves this is No Future, his eventual graduation project finished a few months back. A printed publication on the culture of Brazilian pixação, “the term that Brazilian people use to refer to a certain type of graffiti that’s originated from Sao Paulo”. The book zooms in on the topic to define “which aesthetic features differentiate pixação from conventional graffiti, as well as trying to find out where they come from.”
Pixação is a type of graffiti that only exists in Brazil and, in turn, “has its own rules and philosophy, and also its own aesthetic, which is very different from any other kind of graffiti in the world,” Pedro tells us. To represent this in his own design aesthetic, the designer tried to take its signature features “and translate them into the editorial design,” he says. “For example, the horror vacui that can be found in pixação was translated into the absence of margins, visual eclecticism was translated into the use of four different typefaces (one for each column) and different font sizes, the close relationship between pixação and its medium (architecture) was translated in the four column grid being defined by the physical folds of the paper.”
Pedro additionally pushed the inspiration of Pixação by also designing a typeface, Pixo, inspired by its letter shapes. “When I finished the typeface I found it was still way too legible (and a bit boring) compared to real pixação, so I decided to stretch and distort all the titles to make them fill the blank spaces in the publication.”
As the designer is half Brazilian, the publication has a personable touch to it which makes it shine. “I’ve been in contact with this phenomenon since I was very young and there was always something about it that I found fascinating,” he says. By focusing in on something he visually knows well to explore further, and translate into his own style, No Future sees Pedro also finding his feet on his stance of design too. “In my opinion, most of us (designers and other creatives) often spend so much time looking for inspiration in other places, being jealous of other cultures and trying to copy the work of other people, that we overlook details in our own surroundings that can be very valuable and inspiring,” he justifies. “We all have a very personal and unique point of view to bring to that table and I think we should focus on that instead of trying to emulate what we see outside, and doing what has already been done.”
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.