The Designers: Folch’s Josep Puy on creative process, teamwork and more
The Designers delves deep into the world’s leading design studios through a series of in-depth conversations with the individuals that make them tick. We kick off the series by talking to Josep Puy, a senior designer and art director at Barcelona-based studio Folch.
EM Hey Josep. Can you tell us about your background, and how that led to you becoming an art director at Folch?
JP Creativity and ‘the world of ideas’ has always been interesting to me and, together with developing a technique, they were the fundamentals that pushed me towards the field of design. After studying and honing my skills in publishing and advertising graphics I decided to further my education by enrolling in the Master’s Degree at Elisava (Barcelona). During this time I was taught by Albert Folch who later gave me the opportunity to join Folch as a junior graphic designer, where I have been working for the past four years.
I’ve always been a curious person, searching for a broad spectrum of visual references. I believe in the importance of expanding your vision to find the best solutions in any situation, and it is this curiosity that I feel has led me to the role of art director.
EM It must’ve been nice for you to have the familiar face of Albert to help you transition from studying to working. How has your relationship with him developed, and do you see him as somewhat of a mentor?
JP Yes! I was deeply interested in editorial design and Albert’s active involvement in the Master’s Degree was a crucial factor in my decision to enrol. We shared similar visions and common points of view during the course, which have organically continued to grow stronger by working closely together at Folch. Albert has a strong legacy as an art director and has passionately shared this with me. His experience and knowledge gained working on a great variety of outstanding projects have been invaluable to my career as a designer and art director.
I believe in the importance of expanding your vision to find the best solutions in any situation.
EM How has your role in the studio changed as you’ve transitioned from a junior to a senior member of the team?
JP Of course in the early stages of working in an agency or studio, your first steps are focused on small complementary actions supporting larger projects driven by senior designers. Through this process, you begin to understand the creative approach, communication systems, roles and the overall working environment, whilst at the same time developing your skills as a designer and finding your place within the team.
In my case I progressed from a pure graphic design role, working on specific print or online projects to embracing the role and work of an art director. Alongside supervising other design projects within the studio, the added commitment and global vision of each project have encouraged me to explore new treatments and solutions to creative problems.
EM Have you had to adapt the way you work to incorporate the added responsibility?
JP You have to adapt your way of working when you work with other people, from organising your projects and presenting your ideas, to receiving feedback and offering support. I was a person who was accustomed to having maximum control of projects and being responsible for the whole process of development. I had to learn how to adopt common and shared creative methods, trust your team by delegating tasks and drive the project together. It’s important to reach a midpoint where everyone feels comfortable with the creative process, giving every member the opportunity to contribute their vision and take on responsibilities to achieve the best results for both the client and the studio. Good results lead to personal satisfaction and a motivated team.
EM How do you approach working with the younger designers, who are in a position you were in not so long ago?
JP It’s true that it hasn’t been long since I left university, but I think this is a positive thing, particularly when working with new people. For many young designers on the team, it’s the first job that they face and, with that in mind, it’s necessary to balance a certain amount of responsibility with freedom of expression so that each profile can develop and find a position that works for them. Many times we are taken by surprise, discovering unique skills and awakening interests as people adapt to their new environment. My experience as a teacher in the Master of Art Direction at Elisava has taught me not only to share my knowledge and offer guidance but to encourage other designers to grow and look for new directions within their areas of design. Following this, I really came to understand the importance of taking projects in different directions by involving the team, by giving people opportunities to explore whilst at the same time tailoring projects to their strengths – whether in terms of concept, creativity or technique.
Good results lead to personal satisfaction and a motivated team.
EM We’ve really enjoyed the recent work coming from Folch – it feels like every detail of every project is considered to the last, tiny detail. Which project do you feel most satisfied with now it’s out in the world?
JP Thank you very much! One of the projects that the studio has developed recently is ECOSISTEMA DEL DISEÑO ESPAÑOL. ‘EL ECOSISTEMA’ is a project for the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities of Spain, The BCD (Barcelona Design Center) and READ (Spanish Network of Design Associations). It is an archive of data providing a 360º vision of Spain’s design industry. We had to collect and compile this data in an ‘engaging and entertaining’ way. For the questionnaire, we decided to use a simple grey and black colour scheme, with bright colours adding a secondary layer to guide the user through the website and highlight the various interactions. Likewise, we didn’t want a rigid, restricted identity. Just as the Spanish design ecosystem grows, adapts, transforms and evolves, so too does the graphic identity. We wanted something simple and geometric, but also playful and versatile. We built it from different modules, a variety of rudimentary shapes that refer to the different disciplines within the same field, offering multiple variations and solutions. ECOSISTEMA is a result of the multidisciplinary creative process we pursue in the studio, working within a big team focused on every detail of a project ultimately results in a fulfilling and rewarding experience for both the studio and the client.
EM That project and many of the others you’ve worked on incorporate animation seamlessly. At what point during a project do you think about motion?
JP Digitalisation is an integral part of contemporary society and branding should be a reflection of what is happening in the world. In light of this, I and the studio believe it’s important to bring personality and dynamism to every design using (whenever possible) animation. We try to incorporate motion from the very first stages of any project, reinforcing ideas and concepts or determining the idea itself. This helps us to dynamically communicate the work process, gives an added level of expression and a sensibility to the final design, in turn helping to define and complete the personality of a proposal by setting the tone from the initial stages.
EM Looking at your work, it’s clear that you have a particular approach, often involving a contrast between simple typography and bold use of colour, shape or both. How would you describe your approach and the way you think about design?
JP I have always been very interested in typography. It can be the voice or personality of any given project and for me, it is an essential starting point for defining the direction of the overall project. I usually like my designs to be clear and concise, conveying a strong message. I avoid using too many distracting elements, and those that I do use work together in harmony, each with a definite purpose within the composition.
I try to avoid getting obsessed with the magic word that is ‘creativity’
EM As designers, we’re expected to produce highly creative work all of the time. How do you approach days where you don’t feel so creative?
JP It is a difficult question and it is impossible for me to give a clear or definitive answer. You can take inspiration from anything around you but for me, hard work and dedication are what drives the creative process. I try to avoid getting obsessed with the magic word that is ‘creativity’ and if one day I have a creative block I will focus on a project that requires more technical capabilities, it’s all about finding the right balance.
EM Where do you find inspiration?
JP Anything can ‘inspire you’ – at least in the sense of providing that ‘click’ that makes you connect and look for a solution, even if it has nothing to do with the initial stimulus. Obviously, Instagram and other platforms offer a great global mood board, allowing you to connect with everything that is happening around you.
Receiving inputs from other creative areas is invaluable for staying inspired and developing a wide range of visual references for future creative developments and projects.
EM How would you say Instagram has affected the way we look at design?
As with almost everything, Instagram affects us in both a positive and a negative way. It is a powerful platform which allows us to consume a lot of design and to make your work known and give you professional visibility for free. On the other hand regarding design, the reality of the ‘filter bubble’ pushes us all to visualise the same content, follow the same trend and have certain common references, homogenising design.
EM What does your setup look like?
EM Can you tell us about something new you’ve learned recently?
JP I believe learning is a key value in any creative and multidisciplinary environment, and it should be a constant process. What I learn continuously is how to develop a communication system where I am able to express and pass along ideas, concepts and references in the most understandable and concise way for the team to understand. In this way, the work process is streamlined and, after an initial process of experimentation, the team and project start to move towards the same endpoint, contributing their individual strengths along the way.
EM Collaboration is the key! Do you have any advice for designers who might be thinking about sending their portfolios to a studio like Folch?
JP My advice would be to carefully select the work that best suits the studio they are applying for, choosing projects that highlight their work as well as representing their own interests. Often the careful selection of some well-developed projects that reflect your personality or how you want to be perceived is much more effective than showcasing all your projects.
EM Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Josep.
JP Thank you very much, Elliott, it’s been a pleasure!