During his first term at university studying architecture and urbanism in São Paulo, Brazilian graphic designer Gabriel Finotti stumbled upon two books in the library which entirely changed his creative career path: Grid Systems by Joseph Müller-Brockmann and S,M,L,XL by Bruce Mau and Rem Koolhaas. “I was fascinated with the fact that putting typography and images together and organising data was actually a job, a profession, graphic design,” he recalls.
In 2011, Gabriel started a blog called Sometimes Always. The “sometimes” referred to how, every now and then, he would host things in the real world, like zine launches or parties. But it would “always” be an online blog. After graduating from an MA in publishing at London College of Communication and working at Thames & Hudson for a few years, Gabriel moved back to São Paulo and initiated Sometimes Always as a fully-fledged design studio. Today, the studio very much sits in between the worlds of graphic design, music and architecture working across art direction, branding, web, editorial and environmental design in both São Paulo and Berlin.
“We are a holistic graphic design studio and we are not specialised in anything, to be honest,” Gabriel explains. “Our first two years we were working mostly for fashion brands. We were doing art direction for campaigns, catalogues, lookbooks,” he continues. “But for the past two years, the majority of projects we’ve done are branding and visual identities for all sorts of companies.”
This variety is also represented in the aesthetics of Sometimes Always’ projects, which are as multifarious as its outputs. “I wish we had a [signature visual language], for real,” says Gabriel. “I love artists that you can tell something is their work just by looking at a little part, or just by hearing a little verse… [But] we try to think of every project as a story in its own, demanding a particular approach, a particular idea.” However, he has noticed that “we almost always use a 12 column grid,” alongside full compositions, with little to no white space.
A personal favourite project of Gabriel’s which most certainly proves his point about white space is an identity designed for a bar called Caracol. A simple and bold visual solution, it references modernist Brazilian designers including Rogério Duarte and Alex Wöllner, and uses technology to create generative compositions.
Caracol has a different DJ playing five days a week and so wanted a way to communicate this dynamic programme that was still “attractive”. Gabriel explains how he approached solving this problem: “Starting from scratch, we first took the basic form of the caracol (snail in Portuguese) and reduced it to its minimum: a circle. Then, we created four different types of circles. A palette of nine different colours was chosen and applied to the circles. Finally, we designed seven different possibilities of layout. All these parameters combined led to an impressive number of more than 10 billion different compositions which is obviously impossible to do by any sane human. That being so, we invited the genius Bloco Studio to help us with a practical solution. Bloco came up with an application that randomly generates the compositions within the determined parameters. All the user has to do is hit space for a new composition, and then enter to export it.”
Undefinably affable, it’s identity you can’t help but enjoy. By combining a contemporary typeface with such a bold, graphic colour way and system of shapes, what Gabriel has produced is work which is cool, but not too cool. It perfectly toes the line; it’s intriguing and slick but still retains a sense of fun.
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