1. Octavio Pardo is a type designer from Spain. He created a set of five typefaces intended for protest signs, pictured above, and is now running a project to help make them universally available. The specificity and design-oriented approach piqued our interest, so we asked Octavio some questions.
Could you talk a bit about your design background in general?
I started as a graphic designer working in different studios in Barcelona. One day, one of my Art Directors told me: “You are a badass graphic designer, but you have no idea about type.” Since I am very stubborn, that day I decided I would learn as much as I could about typography. I ended up studying type design in England and then working for some of the most talented type designers in the world. Nowadays I freelance as a graphic designer and do type design projects as I seek true happiness :)

What are the characteristics of a good typeface?
There are two levels to judging a typeface. First, how interesting is the design? Second, how well is that design implemented throughout the entire piece of work? Since everything that matters in typography is quite subtle, it’s hard to tell if a typeface is well done if you don’t know where and how to look. But in the end, when you are looking at it, reading it, or using it in the right way, a good typeface makes things look great!

What attracted you to protest signage in particular?
Since I was very young, I was always amazed by protest images, both amateur ones and ones made by designers. They are pieces of communication that most of time seek to make an impact through the message, not through spectacular visual compositions. The concept goes straight to the mind. The work done by Adbusters, Jonathan Barnbrook… those are the reasons why I became a type designer.

Do you have personal history with protests?
During the first two years of the spanish recession, I was seeing my friends losing their jobs, my brother and sister having a very bad time, cases of corruption in the government every week on the news. Almost every time you turned on the TV you could see people striking and protesting, all over the country. I feel like doing something, but didn’t know what to do. That weight in my chest turned into a trigger for my creativity. I guess that is the feeling behind any emotional piece of art, but I’m not an artist, I am a graphic designer and a type designer. 
I am cautious about joining protests in general. The reason is that most of the information that the citizens get to establish their criteria comes from the media, and I simply do not trust the media anymore. They are aligned with political parties, not with the people. Without reliable information I hate to take positions on any idea. The people, I trust them.        

What are your future plans for this project?
First of all, I will finish it the way I want it to be. That still means a lot of work, especially [the typeface] “Revolution.” I am also negotiating with a big company to create companions for the fonts in different scripts; that would make it a really universal tool. And once the project is launched and finished, I want to add two more fonts to it. These are different but related ideas within the Tiananmen concept.

    Octavio Pardo is a type designer from Spain. He created a set of five typefaces intended for protest signs, pictured above, and is now running a project to help make them universally available. The specificity and design-oriented approach piqued our interest, so we asked Octavio some questions.

    Could you talk a bit about your design background in general?

    I started as a graphic designer working in different studios in Barcelona. One day, one of my Art Directors told me: “You are a badass graphic designer, but you have no idea about type.” Since I am very stubborn, that day I decided I would learn as much as I could about typography. I ended up studying type design in England and then working for some of the most talented type designers in the world. Nowadays I freelance as a graphic designer and do type design projects as I seek true happiness :)

    What are the characteristics of a good typeface?

    There are two levels to judging a typeface. First, how interesting is the design? Second, how well is that design implemented throughout the entire piece of work? Since everything that matters in typography is quite subtle, it’s hard to tell if a typeface is well done if you don’t know where and how to look. But in the end, when you are looking at it, reading it, or using it in the right way, a good typeface makes things look great!

    What attracted you to protest signage in particular?

    Since I was very young, I was always amazed by protest images, both amateur ones and ones made by designers. They are pieces of communication that most of time seek to make an impact through the message, not through spectacular visual compositions. The concept goes straight to the mind. The work done by Adbusters, Jonathan Barnbrook… those are the reasons why I became a type designer.

    Do you have personal history with protests?

    During the first two years of the spanish recession, I was seeing my friends losing their jobs, my brother and sister having a very bad time, cases of corruption in the government every week on the news. Almost every time you turned on the TV you could see people striking and protesting, all over the country. I feel like doing something, but didn’t know what to do. That weight in my chest turned into a trigger for my creativity. I guess that is the feeling behind any emotional piece of art, but I’m not an artist, I am a graphic designer and a type designer. 

    I am cautious about joining protests in general. The reason is that most of the information that the citizens get to establish their criteria comes from the media, and I simply do not trust the media anymore. They are aligned with political parties, not with the people. Without reliable information I hate to take positions on any idea. The people, I trust them.        

    What are your future plans for this project?

    First of all, I will finish it the way I want it to be. That still means a lot of work, especially [the typeface] “Revolution.” I am also negotiating with a big company to create companions for the fonts in different scripts; that would make it a really universal tool. And once the project is launched and finished, I want to add two more fonts to it. These are different but related ideas within the Tiananmen concept.

  2. 
Last year, Adam and Joey, the guys at Baron Fig, did a project on Kickstarter for a run of their beautifully designed notebooks. The project was wildly popular, and the books are now being produced. We caught up with them to hear about how it’s been going since then. 
What are your backgrounds like, and how did this lead you to the idea of Baron Fig?

Joey: I’m a graphic designer. Before Baron Fig I did design for other people, which was always a delight — but at the end of the day I didn’t own what I was making.
Being a designer has given me a huge appreciation for process. The magic doesn’t happen in the beginning or the end, but in the middle — and only if we’re open to it. Baron Fig is about celebrating this process.
Adam: I’ve had a wide variety of influences in life. The year before college I spent volunteering with Americorps in California. In college, I studied both computer engineering and business. A summer internship at the Corvette factory showed me physical products being made. After college, I worked in the stock market for [awhile]. While I found great mental engagement, I wanted to create something.  
I’ve known Joey for a number of years and we often talked about paper, notebooks, and theories of creativity. I have scores of notebooks on my shelf, but always used pieces of each and then moved on. There was never quite the perfect notebook. We thought we could take all these small improvements and transform it into a physical, tangible product that hasn’t seen much innovation in years.
You explain the meaning of your name on your site with the ideas of discipline and impulse — Baron stands for Apollo, and Fig for Dionysos. So, who’s who in your company?
Joey: Great question. I can honestly say we both balance discipline and impulse pretty well. There is no crazy half or stolid half. It often happens that we’ll have opposite reactions to the same thing, which allows us to balance each other out in discussion. Sometimes I jump up and down, sometimes Adam does. Except maybe on launch day — I’m pretty sure we were both jumping then.
Adam: Joey is about 60% design and 40% business. Meanwhile I’m about 80% business and 20% design. Product we jointly work on designing and producing. Joey is amazing at design and does all the primary work on the website, design campaigns, marketing, and social media. I focus on the manufacturing, distribution, finances. One of our biggest strengths is having a variety of influences and examples. We’re able to draw on our backgrounds and experiences we’ve had in the past from design to finance to manufacturer and marketing, so we’re both able to give input all areas of the business.

How important is design to you, in the everyday sense?

Joey: For me, design is an ingrained perspective. The curiosity in wanting to know how things work — and understanding how they work in action —was never something I woke up and decided to assimilate. I just love it. I can’t get enough.
On an everyday level, the design of objects and processes is something I’m constantly paying attention to. And I have a perpetually nagging desire to fix or create where I see design lacking. 
Adam: Design is something I always loved from being a kid. It always amazed me how a mass merchant like Target could take a lamp selling for $20 and make it look beautiful. There’s something to the design aesthetic that makes a product much more accessible. In my life, I greatly appreciate that.
Who is your audience, and how did you connect with them?
Joey: We spent a lot of time and energy on designing the notebook, which included a lot of back and forth with people around the world. They all answered one simple question: “What do you like in a sketchbook or notebook?”
What’s happened since the end of the Kickstarter project?
Adam:  We finished the Kickstarter in the beginning of October and delivered the books to our 4,242 customers worldwide in the beginning of February. While four months may seem like a long time, it was an extremely busy and interesting period.  
I strongly suggest to all potential Kickstarter campaigns, that they do a lot of preliminary cost work before launching the campaign. We got quotes on production and shipping before we even launched. Its essential to make sure you price your item appropriately. We met with a potential Kickstarter campaign in our studio last week. While the person had thought through the reward tiers, there was much less thought put into what the actual costs of delivering those rewards. That’s crucial if you want to be successful beyond the campaign.
What are you working on next? 
Joey: We’re actively taking feedback from all of our users and moving forward accordingly. From the beginning we’ve said that Baron Fig makes “Sketchbooks and Notebooks designed with an underlying philosophy of simplicity, usefulness, and community.” We stress the last part —community — because we’re very much dedicated to being open with our users and making products that are truly designed for people.
Adam: This is just the start. We are a very early and young company. Our mission statement is “To champion thinkers in their journey to create and inspire the world.” We have plans to go along with that.

    Last year, Adam and Joey, the guys at Baron Fig, did a project on Kickstarter for a run of their beautifully designed notebooks. The project was wildly popular, and the books are now being produced. We caught up with them to hear about how it’s been going since then. 

    What are your backgrounds like, and how did this lead you to the idea of Baron Fig?

    Joey: I’m a graphic designer. Before Baron Fig I did design for other people, which was always a delight — but at the end of the day I didn’t own what I was making.

    Being a designer has given me a huge appreciation for process. The magic doesn’t happen in the beginning or the end, but in the middle — and only if we’re open to it. Baron Fig is about celebrating this process.

    Adam: I’ve had a wide variety of influences in life. The year before college I spent volunteering with Americorps in California. In college, I studied both computer engineering and business. A summer internship at the Corvette factory showed me physical products being made. After college, I worked in the stock market for [awhile]. While I found great mental engagement, I wanted to create something.  

    I’ve known Joey for a number of years and we often talked about paper, notebooks, and theories of creativity. I have scores of notebooks on my shelf, but always used pieces of each and then moved on. There was never quite the perfect notebook. We thought we could take all these small improvements and transform it into a physical, tangible product that hasn’t seen much innovation in years.

    You explain the meaning of your name on your site with the ideas of discipline and impulse — Baron stands for Apollo, and Fig for Dionysos. So, who’s who in your company?

    Joey: Great question. I can honestly say we both balance discipline and impulse pretty well. There is no crazy half or stolid half. It often happens that we’ll have opposite reactions to the same thing, which allows us to balance each other out in discussion. Sometimes I jump up and down, sometimes Adam does. Except maybe on launch day — I’m pretty sure we were both jumping then.

    Adam: Joey is about 60% design and 40% business. Meanwhile I’m about 80% business and 20% design. Product we jointly work on designing and producing. Joey is amazing at design and does all the primary work on the website, design campaigns, marketing, and social media. I focus on the manufacturing, distribution, finances. One of our biggest strengths is having a variety of influences and examples. We’re able to draw on our backgrounds and experiences we’ve had in the past from design to finance to manufacturer and marketing, so we’re both able to give input all areas of the business.

    How important is design to you, in the everyday sense?

    Joey: For me, design is an ingrained perspective. The curiosity in wanting to know how things work — and understanding how they work in action —was never something I woke up and decided to assimilate. I just love it. I can’t get enough.

    On an everyday level, the design of objects and processes is something I’m constantly paying attention to. And I have a perpetually nagging desire to fix or create where I see design lacking.

    Adam: Design is something I always loved from being a kid. It always amazed me how a mass merchant like Target could take a lamp selling for $20 and make it look beautiful. There’s something to the design aesthetic that makes a product much more accessible. In my life, I greatly appreciate that.

    Who is your audience, and how did you connect with them?

    JoeyWe spent a lot of time and energy on designing the notebook, which included a lot of back and forth with people around the world. They all answered one simple question: “What do you like in a sketchbook or notebook?”

    What’s happened since the end of the Kickstarter project?

    Adam:  We finished the Kickstarter in the beginning of October and delivered the books to our 4,242 customers worldwide in the beginning of February. While four months may seem like a long time, it was an extremely busy and interesting period.  

    I strongly suggest to all potential Kickstarter campaigns, that they do a lot of preliminary cost work before launching the campaign. We got quotes on production and shipping before we even launched. Its essential to make sure you price your item appropriately. We met with a potential Kickstarter campaign in our studio last week. While the person had thought through the reward tiers, there was much less thought put into what the actual costs of delivering those rewards. That’s crucial if you want to be successful beyond the campaign.

    What are you working on next?

    Joey: We’re actively taking feedback from all of our users and moving forward accordingly. From the beginning we’ve said that Baron Fig makes “Sketchbooks and Notebooks designed with an underlying philosophy of simplicity, usefulness, and community.” We stress the last part —community — because we’re very much dedicated to being open with our users and making products that are truly designed for people.

    Adam: This is just the start. We are a very early and young company. Our mission statement is “To champion thinkers in their journey to create and inspire the world.” We have plans to go along with that.