Please describe your journey to becoming a designer? As a 2020 grad, what do you wish you had known when you were first starting out?
My journey to becoming a designer began during university. I didn’t really know much about design as a profession until I became involved with UDesign, a student-led design club at the University of Toronto. The club introduced me to the kinds of work a graphic designer does, teaching me about the creative process, tools and client-designer relationships. I quickly realized how much I enjoyed doing this kind of work and decided to pursue it after graduation.
I was an architecture student at the time, so I learned a lot by surrounding myself with design content in the form of Instagram accounts like AIGA’s Eye on Design. Seeing work from these platforms sparked my passion for branding and even shaped my understanding of what I’d consider as ‘good’ design.
In the last years of my undergrad, I attended events hosted by the RGD, Toronto Design Directory, DesignTO and Institute of Canadian Agencies, which were key in helping me get involved with the local design community.
I think the one thing I probably wish I had known earlier was to be easier on myself, especially while on the job hunt. The pandemic was in full swing when I was looking for jobs and it took perseverance and trust in my system to continue the search for that first opportunity. People often say not to give up in those situations, but I realized that it’s equally important to take much-needed rest and have patience.
When you were in school did you know where you wanted to be after graduating? Did you always see yourself working in an agency?
Not at all! I initially thought I wanted to be an architect, but things took a turn as I began to experience it more during school and become aware about other creative professions. My vision only became clear in my last year at university, after I had done research on the type of creative I wanted to be (I didn’t know there were so many!). I found using resources like the RGD’s Creative Earners Survey and even reading the ‘about’ sections of studios I admired to be very helpful.
I knew I wanted to work at a small studio after graduation. It seemed like a natural transition from hands-on studio classes and, somehow, through the power of sending emails and inquiring about jobs I had the chance to try that out via a remote internship for a branding studio based in Monterrey, Mexico. Once that finished my next opportunity arrived in Canada and happened to be in a PR firm which was also my first agency environment. That experience opened up my views about it and made me realize all the benefits that come with it. Now I enjoy being part of a close knit team that is connected to a larger organization.
What was the biggest learning curve when you started where you are now? What do you wish you could tell yourself now based on what you know on your first day on the job?
Two things: time management and communication.
After 4 years with a fluid student work-schedule, it took time to get used to the more defined nine-to-five. At the same time, learning how to manage work time efficiently became a very important task I had to and continue to work to master.
Additionally, having only worked in remote environments, I realized the importance of having open communication with my managers and being comfortable asking any and all questions. As a young designer, you often don’t know where or how to start these conversations, so for anyone starting out, it's important to recognize that all of your questions are valid and understanding all that needs to be known for a new project is a necessity.
What is your favourite way to break out of your comfort zone while designing?
I like to include a few ideas outside the safety net of the brief. Though it’s always good to follow the most obvious direction for any given project, having ideas that are unexpected or even outside the project brief can help you design with less constraint and flush out ideas that wouldn’t work right away as you compare them with ones that take you in a much safer direction. It can also help uncover any unconventional perspectives that might benefit the project.
Where do you find most of your inspiration?
Although it may not sound very glamorous, I have to bring up Instagram! If used well, it can be an amazing tool for tapping into different design trends and finding out about the work other studios are doing around the world. For anyone asking me what are the main accounts to follow I always share them what I call the ‘holy trinity of design journalism’ @itsnicethat, @aigaeyeondesign and @thebrandidentity
Fine art painters like Mark Rothko, Hilma af Klint, Henri Matisse and Ellsowrth Kelly also bring me lots of inspiration since learning about them in school.
And lastly, bookstores! I’m quite an art & design book fanatic. I frequent a few favorites of mine over the month for inspiration. These bookstores are: Swipe Design, Type Books and BMV, all of which you can find in downtown Toronto.
I saw on your website you work in both digital and physical mediums, do you have a preference?
I find that I enjoy a hybrid model between the two. It’s always nice to come back and try out the ole’ physical mediums after doing mostly digital work. Simple paper and pencil sketches can be quite engaging and draw you into the work. At the same time I like to get into the tiny details of a logo and nudge vector segments 0.5 pixels to the left to make it look perfect.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years I will be… twenty nine– oh boy. I see myself at a more senior position at Leo Burnett. There's a lot of opportunity for personal and professional growth I want to pursue; however, I also like to ponder the idea of having my own studio, but regardless of what it will exactly be, I see myself working with people.
Do you have any personal projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?
Currently I am helping my dad with the branding for his consultancy business. It’s the first time I’m working with a family member and it’s a lot of fun!
With restrictions more at ease, there are a lot of things I’ll want to try this summer. In addition to lots more photowalks and branding projects, I’ve also been wanting to get better at illustration and collaborate with other creative friends of mine. I’m hoping this will turn into some kind of fun project like creating a limited run of hand-printed t-shirts or starting out a new magazine! I have yet to figure it out, but I'm certainly excited about it.
We always end our interviews with a fun question, if you had to wear one pair of shoes for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
The classic white Converse Chuck Taylors. I wear those anywhere; a night out with friends, a dressed up occasion, even the gym. I love their versatility and feel!
Eric Espinosa Provisional RGD is a recent grad (class of 2020) and junior designer at Leo Burnett. He combines his multidisciplinary education in architecture and visual studies to create conceptually rich and engaging work. In his spare time he likes to go on photowalks and get lost in the art and design section of bookstores.