"We seek inspiration where
others are afraid to look.
We like solutions,
but we love problems.
We don’t just reach for the stars,
we create them and
Hold on for dear life.
We fight gravity."
Alejandro is our Creative Director on the brand team and has been with the Astro crew for nearly 4 years now. With a background in publishing, he helps articulate our clients' stories and laces together our holistic design programs. Read on to learn about his start in design and what keeps him inspired.
How did you get started in design?
I moved to SF from Argentina to study journalism. I had a dream to become a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. The idea of covering conflicts with a camera and writing articles was incredibly exciting to me. While at SF State I had a great internship at a newspaper in the Mission, El Tecolote, where I was tasked with covering gentrification and the digital divide. Instead of spending most of my time reporting and writing I spent it working on layouts and illustrations and not focusing on school work. At my wife’s suggestion I switched my major from journalism to design. Shortly after graduating I got a job as associate Art Director at Playstation magazine. I managed to score my first job in design that brought together my love for journalism, photography and design in one role.
What is your role at Astro?
I am the brand Creative Director. I work closely with designers across the studio building brands for a wide range of folks. We work with clients that are either launching a new brand or looking to re-align their existing one to be more effective or representative of their overall mission/roadmap. This work comes in the form of brand positioning, naming and brand identity design that clients can take into the world and create more relevant experiences and products for their audience. I am responsible for maintaining and driving a cohesive vision from the beginning to the end of a program. Because Astro is a multidisciplinary studio, my work goes beyond just brand work; often times we help clients define the future of their offering, what is the next toothbrush experience, how can we better experience sound at home, or what is the future of coffee. The CD role, touches on a lot of different subjects, including the Astro brand and Minus-8 Watches. I am partially responsible for maintaining and evolving the way Astro connects with the world; what do our pitches/presentations look like, how we talk about ourselves, and how we want to be perceived in the next 5-10 years.
What would you consider important highlights or “turning points” in your career?
Becoming the creative director at Dwell was quite a highlight for me. I went from being an Art Director to being responsible for not only the magazine but the overall Dwell brand. It was a challenge to work on insanely tight deadlines wrangling editorial staff and up to 20 contributors a month to put together an issue.
Another special time was when I was consulting at PayPal on the brand team and I met John Maeda, who introduced me to the eBay inc design leadership team working on the future of design for the company. I was invited to be part of a group of 20 creatives to define the design mission and provide clarity onto the design culture at eBay inc. We worked on a sprint where we crafted a new brand mission and POV that would define the Design Playbook that was meant to inform the future of design across all the eBay companies including PayPal. It was amazing to work with a group of incredibly talented and passionate designers from different backgrounds, who rarely interacted with one another. We crafted a book, and on boarding system and a careers site that was meant to breathe new life into the design culture across the company.
Any “claims to fame” or award wins you are most proud of?
Hell yeah. While at SF state, David Carson came to do a lecture and held a competition for the poster. The winner would be used to promote the event and also be printed in his upcoming book Trek. I won first place and my work was published in his monograph before I graduated.
Another proud moment was when I was Art Director/Photo Editor for San Francisco magazine. We were awarded National Magazine Award for General Excellence. I had worked really hard bringing the best photographers and illustrators I knew to transition SF mag from a local publication to a nationally recognized magazine. It was quite impressive to realize that art direction and design can have such impact.
What gets you really excited about design? What inspires your work?
I really enjoy working with designers from different disciplines. It makes me realize that there is so much I have to learn still. I am really blown away by the insane amount of work that is being shared today, mostly on Instagram. It is as if the floodgates of design have open. You have to filter a lot of information, but there is a quick path to a specific source of design. Until a few years ago we had to find good blogs and or Tumblrs and then sift through that; or dig through FFFFFound or the never-ending flow of Dribble. I feel as though Instagram has brought us closer to designers and creators. What is fascinating is how we can spot a trend and see it propagate and take on a life of its own
Another folk that inspires the hell out of me is David Borras / El Solitario from Spain. He has crafted a genuine brand that has an insane deal of cultural relevance in the moto, design and photo worlds. El Solitario exemplifies what a brand should be… Have a point of view and run with it. Live it every day, share it with others so that they can fall in love with your passion.
What innovations or design shifts have impacted your career?
I have to say that having Adobe CC as subscription service has been huge. You can now access Adobe’s entire application portfolio and choose what you want to learn. There is no excuse anymore. Even though we are paying a monthly fee, I feel this has enabled a great deal of democratization that did not exist before. We used to have to deal with pirate software or be limited to the one application you could afford.
Being able to use my phone as a tool to design and make art with has been incredibly rewarding. I can’t tell you how many hours I spend making shit in my iPhone8 using Glitché and CC apps. I am able to react to whatever is going on in the world and in my life in the best way I know. It is also really practical and liberating; I created almost all of the Eskapist album art for the German bad The Hirsch Effekt on my phone.
What are you really digging at the moment?
The current type scene is super inspiring. Lots of young designers taking a stab a typography in different levels. From the ultra trendy fluid techno-arabic trend (http://www.lebenliebegrafik.com/
to amazing foundries like the collective, TypeNetwork, T-WO, Klim, goodtypefoundry > ( https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/good-type-foundry-graphic-design-310817P), and formistfoundry .
I also love shoes. I am not a sneakerhead or collector, but I do have lots of opinions when it comes to shoes. Seeing how the work Helen KirkumStudio and Studio Hagel inspired the current state of shoe design appeals to me because of the collage-like nature of their work and approach.
Another source of inspiration has been the advanced fabrication and architecture work done by aadesignandmake. I have always been fascinated by how architectural techniques and approach evolve as a reflection of the times we live in. AAdesignmake brings together craftsmanship and future technologies and robotics into their practice to create experiences that are grounded in nature, and are perceived as more human.
To be honest, one the most exciting things at the moment is that I have been consistently making artwork inside my phone for over a year now. I gave myself the task to figure out a workflow that would enable me to make collages that are true to my style on the go.
Anything else we should know?
I curse a lot. I drink mate every morning. I ride a motorcycle. I rarely sit down. I spend a great deal of time in my garage/studio making collages. I try hard every day to be a better father and husband.