Nando Costa created Brasil Inspired by Die Gestalten in 2003: a richly illustrated book featuring work from local and internationally renowned graphic artists about Brazil. Starting from there, Nando set up the website brasilinspired.com to raise the global awareness of the colorful and thoughtful community of Brazilian designers. Following on the success of the Brasil Inspired book (sold out everywhere!), the second book Disorder in Progress will be released at the end of February!!
PingMag talked to Nando Costa about the current Brazilian design community and his own, rich graphic design works.
all Disorder in Progress images (c) Die Gestalten Verlag, Berlin 2006
Nando, you worked very hard to establish the whole Brasil Inspired community. What responses do you get? To what extent has Brasil Inspired changed the awareness of Brazilian design?
I receive so many emails from people telling me that they are really happy that Brasil Inspired exists. Locals feel a sense of pride to know that there are international projects such as this promoting their country and their graphic artists. People feel like it is a very good representation of Brazil.
I must admit, I was one of the rather prejudiced people thinking of coffee and carnival when thinking of Brazil. It really struck me to discover such “high level graphic design” coming out of Brazil, when the first book came out!
Your second book Disorder in Progress is very different from Brazil Inspired. What was your motivation behind this newer one?
I was a little bit disappointed about the themes people picked for the first book because most of the graphics were very colourful and spoke of a Brazil that was almost flawless, at least from the eyes of foreign artists. Of course there is that side, too, but I felt inspired to create artwork that was also about the opposite, to talk about the problems and touch all of the subjects that we usually avoid talking about.
You asked local artists and some designers living in Brazil (for longer than 2 years) to contribute to Disorder In Progress. Surprisingly, all the artwork is in black&white!?
The cover of Disorder in Progress is very colourful clashing with the black&white interior of the book. The concept behind this is that the outside represents the image that Brazil “exports” while the inside pages represent the reality that the locals live in.
What range of subjects did the designers approach? Was there anything you found surprising?
The material was very broad and I was very excited about that. I think there was perhaps only one repetitive subject, which was child prostitution…
Some of the ones that excited me the most were about more obscure or perhaps subtle subjects such as how long and slow the lines at banks and post offices are on a daily basis.
Was there any difference between the motives picked up by native Brazilians or by designers living in Brazil for a longer period?
No, not really. I guess in their case, it was a lot more about personal experiences than for the locals. Linn Olofsdotter, for example spent a lot of time with families and was a bit shocked about how many families rely on full-time baby sitters. Therefore she illustrated an image about that subject.
William Morrisey’s subject was about drug lords. He must have felt threatened in some way, I suppose. For Brazilians hearing stories about criminals taking control on whole areas of a city is not really shocking.
Violence is definitely one of the worst problems so it influenced many of the artists’ artworks.
Do you have a favorite piece, one which you could point out as “THIS is Brazil”?
Yes, I do actually. I think the perfect image is the one by Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon showing a group of police men wearing their typical uniform. Their physical appearance is so perfectly suiting for cops from Rio de Janeiro: the really skinny guy, the strong guy….. all looking evil and holding machine guns, which they actually do!
There is one holding a little kid on a chain and the kid is smoking. Another guy is getting a blow job from a girl, which is also typical …. it portrays the police in a very bad way but it is unfortunately true to what you see sometimes. It illustrates the essence of the book in a less abstract way than the other designs.
Are you happy about the outcome of this book?
I am really happy with it. I only wished there could have been more time and more artwork, but that’s fine! Just like in the first book, I didn’t have the chance to put everybody I wanted in but you never really get to make things perfect.
What about your own work, then? You set up Nakd.tv together with your wife Linn Olofsdotter, where you mainly created film and animation. Then you joined the advertising agency Modernista until recently, working with clients like Budweiser, Hummer and Napster… Now you are on your own again?
I was just getting too many interesting projects from other people and I wanted to have my own pacing. I like having the freedom to work very hard at times and then not work at all…… that’s why I quit.
What projects are you currently working on?
The largest one that is taking up most of my time is a project I am designing for Microsoft. I was hired via Razorfish to illustrate all of their new packaging that comes out this year. It’s a really great opportunity given the exposure.
It’s difficult to do anything else at the same time, but I always try. If I go into my folder of active projects I have.. let me see…14 projects in there and all of them are basically to be done before April. (laughs) That is all clients…and if I go into my personal folder I have: 1, 2, …7! Well, I just work on the personal projects when I can.
Most of those are illustration or animation projects.
“Anatomic Exuberant” Series
“Anatomic Exuberant” Series
I don’t really care if a project is big or small – it is just as exciting for me. I can still be excited about a 100 dollar CD cover for a friend…
I heard about another community project you are currently developing?
Well, that is still kind of secret…..It’s hard to explain it at this stage, but it will basically be like the Wikipedia Encyclopedia but about design. I find, that there is no place online that really talks about the history of design and important phases of design. There is nothing really dense… I also feel that students nowadays are so used to grab content from the web and tend to go away from books… I think it would be good to create a tool, that will hopefully grow into a bigger source of design.
Great! I can’t wait to see that happening! Is it going to be based on Wiki-programming?
No – it is going to be rebuild from scratch. Wiki feels more like a resource, a large database but I want ours to feel more like a conversation, more like a blog with something new to look at every day.
You shift very naturally between different media such as web, print animation, film, illustration…..
That’s what I do I guess. I don’t like the term web or print designer… I just like ideas and images – doesn’t matter what they end up being as long as they look good and preferably have some meaning (grins).
Before I was in design I was painting and experimenting with textures. Now I want to deal more with objects, too. I’m getting a little tired about my work being mainly vector… so if I could photograph some of my real objects and mix them with my illustration – that might be interesting!
You still do a lot of paintings in collaboration with your wife Linn! I really like those photographs on Lard&Joy with your hands holding the artwork!
The idea came from the fact that those pieces were all about me and Linn using our hands together. It is not about one of us, but our collaboration, so I thought it would be a nice metaphor to show that our hands again hold the pieces which we did.
Our drawings are based on layers – I would start to create a layer and then she would draw one on top and then I do another one… in the end it is a really big collage of layers of the two of us.
Elephant – Poster by Linn
Doodle – Painting by Nando
How is it to collaborate with your wife, actually!? I imagine it to be quite difficult at times…. Who does what? And who is better at what? (sneaky grin)
We haven’t done as much collaboration as we did when we had Nakd, but usually what happens is that we get a new job, sit down and talk, have different ideas and mostly work out two of them. The clients usually pick hers (Uleshka laughs) – but even if the idea is hers I usually end up directing it. During the shoot, I’m mostly off doing something else so she goes on directing the shoot… and then we do the editing together…. something like that!
She is really good at ideas! Nowadays, she often thinks of an idea which I design or she draws a logo by hand and I take it into the computer to create a vector version…
Final Logo – Send out Light and Truth
I love the colors you always choose! It seems slightly different to other color combinations I get to see!
My wife thinks I’m color blind….(big laugh)
My former boss was this very old-school guy and a really good teacher. For choosing colors, he would type in the numbers in CMYK just as if he was actually mixing ink: “I want this to be a goldy-orange with a little bit of blue, so I take this much for cyan, this much magenta, this much yellow and black.”
I think I picked that up, so when I decide to use colors I always type them in instead of picking colors from a palette.
You’ll be off to the AIGA – Nowhere conference tomorrow. What are you going to do there?
They invited us to present our work and to do a workshop, too. Most people watching will be students and most of their questions will be very basic, I expect.
The group of students we will be dealing with is more into print design, more “traditional design”. So what I want to talk about is how a lot of new devices are becoming important nowadays. Not only phones but how things like iPod and PSP change things. Its a really really big market and in one way or the other they are going to be influenced by it.
I’m going to ask them to bring a photo or something that is related to their background, so they can create a design based on where they are from. The reason I’m going to do that is because I’m going to be talking about Brazil Inspired, which is a project that is very personal to me.
I’m going to take my PSP, my phone, my iPod… and ask them to bring their gadgets, too so we can then upload their new designs to a webpage and then download them to their devices. This way, they will hopefully begin to understand the differences and develop a feeling for different media.
Sounds good! Thanks a lot for your time, Nando and hope to hear some more good news from Brazil!