The Designers: How&How’s Joana Fatela on animation, side projects, and the tastiest studio snacks
Our interview series 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. For the thirty-third entry into the series, we had a chat with How&How’s Lisbon-based motion designer Joana Fatela. Having joined the studio in its early days, she tells us about witnessing not only the growth of the branding and digital design agency, but also her own development as a creative. And looking further back, she shares how she fell in love with motion in the first place.
PT Hi Joana! How’s everything going?
JF Hey, all good, thanks for asking! This year has been great, and we’re finally entering the summer season. How about you?
PT I’m good thank you! The sun was nice whilst it lasted aha. To kick things off, can you tell us about how you became a motion designer?
JF Looking back, my journey as a motion designer started when I was a kid. I used to download random programmes related to video editing and design, and I’d experiment and create things like board games, CD covers for my brother, and some ‘video clips’ for music I liked with a programme that did like stickman animations.
Then, I studied graphic design, and at the end of the degree I wanted to learn animation. That’s when I made the decision to do a Post Graduate programme in Motion Graphics at ESAD in Porto. At the time I wasn’t entirely sure what ‘motion graphics’ meant, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. During the programme, I learned a lot about motion and graphic design principles. It gave me the tools to not only follow, but also to play with them and break them in unique ways.
Motion plays a key role in shaping a brand’s personality and behaviour.
PT What led you to branding? What do you most enjoy about working in this industry?
JF I’ve always been drawn to the branding industry because of its significant challenges. It’s hard to create a brand that is impactful and timeless, having the ability to continue to speak every year to the culture and world around it!
Nowadays, motion plays a key role in shaping a brand’s personality and behaviour, and it’s amazing to have this opportunity to be working at this big moment of change in the industry.
PT How did you land your role with How&How? What about the studio appealed to you?
JF I discovered How&How on Instagram about three years ago while browsing through studios to send my portfolio to. It was a new studio at the time with just a few small projects, but the work they showcased was incredible. I really liked their social and environmental approach to work too, it instantly caught my attention. The fact that they were based in Lisbon felt like it was meant to be!
So I knew I had to be quick and drop them an email that day hoping that they would see it! Luckily, they did! They gave me a freelance opportunity to collaborate on a project, which I enjoyed a lot. A few months later, Cat and Rog How, the founders, offered me a junior role, even though I knew I didn’t have enough experience – so I was super happy with them trusting me in joining their amazing team!
PT What does a typical day look like in your role?
JF In my role, a typical day starts with a quick morning call to discuss our tasks, of course, we always end up chatting about random non-design topics! Then, we have separate catch-up calls with our project teams to kick off the day. My main focus normally is on animation, and sometimes design also. Throughout the day, I have frequent huddles to brainstorm and improve the animations.
PT What is your current workspace setup?
JF At the moment I’m working from home (Lentilha my cat likes to work with me!), because we’re moving to a new big office here in Lisbon in a week! Super excited to see the new space!
PT Who do you normally work with during a project? At what stage are you brought in?
JF It actually totally depends on the project. There are always different teams for each project, so I get to work with everyone. If it’s more personal work from the studio I work more with Cat, and Mel (Assistant Producer), and also Carl (Junior Designer). If it’s more project-related I can work with almost all of the producers on their different projects, or with others in the branding team like Chris (Creative Director), Luke (Design Director) and Lucy (Senior Designer).
I was really scared of failing at the time.
PT How do you think you have improved as a motion designer since you first joined How&How?
JF I’ve improved a lot since I first joined How&How! I had a lot of guidance and training inside the studio, but the best thing was having the opportunity to work with different teams on various projects. It’s amazing to collaborate with everyone on the team – it makes me learn different processes, ways of working, and unique ways of thinking.
More related to motion, Chris Beck, our Creative Director, is an amazing motion designer, and he's the one that guides me more, and so he is constantly challenging me to push my limits and think differently. Just when I think I’m done with an animation, he always surprises me with fresh ideas that improve it.
PT Which project are you most proud of?
JF It’s a difficult question. But I guess Intergiro, my first project at How&How, just because I was really scared of failing at the time, and I ended up having a lot of fun with it, and also learned a lot. I worked on animating different animated designs for article covers, where I had tricky titles to conceptualise that required some studying to understand (Intergiro are fintech, basically a banking platform for modern businesses). Their visual identity, based on abstract geometric shapes, added an extra challenge to represent each content successfully, so when everything worked well I was really happy with it!
PT Do you have any side projects on the go? Or do you have a passion project you’d like to create?
JF Currently, I’m doing a small mini-project. I’m diving into my archives to create a series of animated posters that are a mashup of random bits from different trips I’ve taken around Portugal. I’m using different techniques, and typography for each one, some photography, funny expressions, and some cool travel moments.
PT Your website is great! Can you tell us about how you created it? What did you want to convey?
JF Thank you! My website came to life during the pandemic when I had some free time. My parents, and my brother work in IT and they pushed me to learn coding and discovered the SuperHi platform, so I began studying and doing a course while creating my website coded on their platform. Coding can be frustrating at times, so I was lucky at home to have some help on discovering and fixing some mistakes. The best part about coding a website is the freedom it gives you.
PT What advice would you give to someone considering motion design as a career path?
JF Right now the motion community is big and has so many things online, you can learn different things every day, so I would say, have fun, play and experiment with different programs and techniques, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Those accidents are what make your work stand out. But the most important thing is, stay true to yourself. Let your personality, experiences and culture inspire you – because that’s what will make your work truly unique.