Portuguese graphic designer Victor Fonseca grew up in Paris, where his practice is now based. He tells us: “This duality between where I come from and where I’ve always lived follows me in everything I do, especially in my self-initiated work.” Between his work for Vogue and his personal work, Victor cultivates a DIY aesthetic that draws on his early love of football and his artistic experimentations with graffiti.
Victor’s initial interest in graphic design stems from his fascination with the iconography of football. He states: “As a child, I was fascinated by the designs used by the teams, the clubs, especially Nike designs: jerseys, team logos, ball and shoe colour choices, TV commercials, posters. There are some teams that I prefer just because of their jersey designs or logos. I remember being astonished by the Mercurial Vapor II Gold worn by Cristiano Ronaldo during the 2004 European Championship; I was ten years old.”
Graffiti has also had a substantial impact on Victor’s current work. As he tells us: “I started writing on walls when I was not playing football.” You could say that graffiti writing was Victor’s first foray into typography; it was his mural experiments that led a friend to suggest he apply for art school. While studying, he “discovered space design, object design, but what attracted me the most was graphic design. It is the most instantaneous medium. I think about an idea, I draw it, I print it and it is done, it is alive. Now with digital devices it’s even faster, you don’t need to print anything any more!”
With its roots in expressive graffiti art and hand-drawn lettering, Victor’s work retains a hand-made aesthetic and feel that lends a distinctive character to each of his designs, rather than conforming to a homogenous visual style. He states: “I am really inspired by amateur design that everyone can relate to such as flawed designs, handwritten type, or a layout design for a grocery store, more than I am by clinical, streamlined design.” Within his practice, there are “no strict rules to follow”, and he says that “I think my practice is much more organic because I am free.”
From the numbers on football jerseys to writing on walls, typography also remains at the heart of Victor’s designs. In his words: “I try to approach all my projects from the same angle: typography. For example, in my work at Vogue, I attach more importance to text than images. It’s kind of weird for a fashion magazine, but if I need space, I will always choose to make the image smaller rather than to cut the text. The author composes words in a specific way and I have to respect his text faithfully. For me, letters are untouchable. So each page I lay out, I start from text and then I compose images.”
Because of its typographic emphasis, a lot of Victor’s personal work functions at its best in a book format. One such project, designed in collaboration with his photographer friends, Agathe Simao and Fausto Barrica Cantone, uses what Victor refers to as “a typographic folio system that tells the reader who made the image and where it was taken. Agathe’s pictures are referenced in light and Fausto’s in bold.”
Victor’s also employed the book format to process and rework preexisting written works as a way of engaging with the content on his own visual terms. With reference to another publishing project, he says: “I read a self-published book by Luis Caixao. He wrote his family story about their immigration from Portugal to France. I really loved the story because it was similar to mine and to many people I know, but I really did not like his layout. It was kind of an automatic one from a self-printing company and it did not fit well with the quantity of text. So I chose to redo the layout. I added to the text a series about Portuguese immigration from the photographer Gerald Bloncourt. I did not change the format and the printing method, only re-worked the text hierarchy to look more like a novel.”
For Victor, “my personal practice is my playground”. We hope that his approach to graphic design remains as playful as kicking a football, and as daring and spontaneous as spraying paint onto a wall.