When we consider the term “Lettering”, we can say that it is a discipline linked to graphic design that focuses on creating letters that are drawn and not written, in order to transmit a message. Basically, this is a new visual language that broadcasts messages depending on the shape, colour or volume of these typographies. Currently, many brands all over the world can be identified perfectly by a specific lettering and a logo linked to that same image. A clear example are the creations associated to brands such as Nike, Coca Cola or Ikea that implicitly show their activity through specific shapes and colours.
Ana Gómez Bernaus, from Barcelona but living in Los Angeles after a short period in New York, is currently the best Spanish reference abroad for defending this discipline among the great opinion leaders of this activity. Her striking and curious proposals have already enamoured important names in international business such as Converse, David&Goliath, Nike and JWT and prizes such as the Type Directory Club Certificate of Typography Excellence and the SOTA & TypeCon 2016 are starting to take over her shelves.
Her work, which shows a great level of evolution from her beginnings, has become more precise and stylised over the years, and her most recent ideas focus on innovation for textures, colours and shapes. Visual Adventurer is a concept that perfectly defines her work, an activity that began in Barcelona, closely linked to graphic design, and which began by focusing on organic ornamentation and Catalan modernism. However, Ana discovered her passion for lettering after moving to New York, a city where she lived for three and a half years, where she widened her horizons, and which marked a before and after in her professional work.
1. You reached this profession almost in a premonitory way given that, as you have said, as a child you filled your notebooks with an infinity of graphic proposals…
My father always knew how to draw, and my maternal grandfather did as well. Neither of them did so professionally, but growing up in an environment where pencils and paper were the most common toys had a definite influence on my career. On the other hand, one of my father’s brothers is a doctor in Fine Arts and my sister is an industrial designer, so that artistic streak is present in my family.
2. Almost all of your work focuses on Lettering. Beyond the graphics themselves, is there always a message behind each new creation?
When I work for clients, each project arises from the message that must be transmitted. The graphic result depends on the ideas from the briefing, as well as the references that the client sends. On the other hand, I always have one or two personal projects that I can work on without outside influences. In these cases, I can explore techniques without the need to stick to a certain concept. They allow me to explore and normally attract the attention of other possible clients. Last March I gave a conference in the Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) and I created a series of typographical experiments so that the students could see a more visually risky way of working with typographies. I uploaded these pieces to my website and a few weeks later, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) entrusted two projects to me where I could use these techniques.
3. Do you start each project with a draft or is it simply a question of getting straight to work?
Normally I write first. I make a list of the ideas that come to mind and the adjectives that help me to describe the qualities that I want to represent. Depending on the project type, I start with pencil and paper or directly with the computer. The project I did with David and Goliath for Kia Motors started with several hand-drawn sketches. The advertisement for Cricket Wireless, where I worked with Psyop, is all done by computer because the type of lettering is much more mechanical.
4. To what extent do the brands control your work?
The clients usually send a briefing with a series of references, but I normally have a day or two to explore. In this time, I work on ideas and present some options that follow their direction and others that are more personal interpretations. It is best to do it this way and for the client to ask you to roll it back than to focus on the safe option.
5. Do you prefer black and white or colour?
It depends on the project.
6. Did you leave Spain because for your speciality there was no future or market?
First I moved to New York and then to Los Angeles to grow as a designer. Both cities have something in common: many people choose them as a place to carry something out, normally in the professional field. They have a special energy in the atmosphere. In my case, leaving home has helped my career to evolve exponentially.
7. Does being a woman condition your projects?
No, I work with several different types of clients and when they contact me they usually make reference to projects in my portfolio. It is my work, rather than my gender, that determines the type of projects I receive.
8. Is your intention to create a typography or logo that would allow you to retire, or do you need to continue growing professionally?
I am lucky enough to work in a field that I really like, so even if I created an internationally recognised logo, I would continue to wake up each morning with a desire to start a new project.
9. Do you prefer manual work or the computer?
Both. When I draw letters with organic shapes it’s easier to start by hand. The curves that I generate with a pencil and paper are always more balanced and natural than those I can achieve on the computer. On the other hand, for more geometric work and to achieve greater control over the evolution of a piece, the computer is better. It is more efficient and allows me to pay better attention to the details.
10. How artisanal is your activity?
Despite the fact that my work is digital, everything that I do starts from scratch. So, in some way, it is hand made. In fact, I never use a mouse. I do everything with a pencil and on the screen. In this way, my process is very similar to traditional illustration. Also, taking into account that each project begins with a different briefing, each resulting piece is unique. We could call it digital craftsmanship.
11. Any immediate projects?
I can never talk about what I’m up to until the client makes it public. In my more personal work I have been using Illustrator a lot, creating designs in 2D that look like 3D. For a breath of fresh air, now I feel like focusing on Photoshop and Cinema 4D, and on developing new techniques that I can apply to later projects. I have started a series of lettering that combines geometric and labyrinthine shapes with outlines that seem made of smoke. I am also very interested in the look of plastic models where all of the pieces are connected in a grid. I like the idea of seeing the entirety of the parts that make up a certain element, but in an individual manner and with everything on the same level. I am not sure what I am going to do with this idea, but that’s what makes it exciting.
This article is also available in Español