How would you describe yourself – who is Martin Azambuja?
It is difficult to describe oneself, and more when we change over time, living new experiences. Anyway, for now, I define myself as a graphic designer who also likes to illustrate and uses illustration as a tool for their projects.
Could you tell us a bit about your journey into illustration & design?
I always liked drawing and I enjoyed it as a child (when I was not playing soccer that I did almost all day), it was a time of solitude and tranquility that I liked. After finishing my high school studies, I was thinking about studying architecture until graphic design crossed my path. I did not have much information about the career but I liked the idea of working with the image, the visual and the drawing was also related. Apart studying architecture took many years! ;)
Then while I was studying, I worked in two small local agencies in all kinds of projects. I started showing my work online, I never had a problem with that, I liked to share the things I did; that was bringing me some work and I decided to work as a freelancer alternating design projects and also some illustration.
What did you want to do when you were a kid?
I always liked playing soccer as I told you but I did not really pursue it, in fact at a time when I could have decided on that path, I chose to study some computer programs and start drawing. I think graphic design was always present in my head although I did not know what it was called.
Why do you do what you do? If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
I do it because I enjoy it very much and I feel that I am fortunate to be able to work on what I like. I love that game and challenge to translate ideas, words or something intangible into an image, it's a nice game.
I never imagined doing something that is not related to the design in some way.
Can we talk a bit more about your style? As we see you use geometric shapes a lot! How would you like to describe it?
That is true, I was always attracted to the geometric interpretation of things. I even remember as a child that I liked Mondrian a lot, for example as an artist, I was struck by the synthesis and how the proper use of colors can generate new universes, even if the elements are minimal. Then when studying design, the Swiss style also seemed fascinating, few elements, well aligned and nothing else, the message was there. I think that was my main influence while I studied and tried to solve things that way. Then with time, I went back to studying illustration and little by little it was strained in my work as a designer. I do not feel I have a style as marked as other illustrators, in fact probably because I feel more graphic designer than illustrator. Anyway, when it comes to graphically represent certain situations, objects or ideas, I try to think about the composition and in a "geometric" way, seeing if I can find a new way of showing it. I think it is more a style of thinking than of working since I do not always adopt the same techniques and sometimes I am changing.
What made you decide to go full-time freelance and run your own studio? What was the one challenge you faced in your career as a freelancer?
Starting to receive proposals from abroad and having free time to experiment was what led me to make the decision. Also the fact that I lived with my parents and knew that I could risk seeing what happened. Luckily until now it's been going well!
One of the challenges, as many I suppose you have said is to be able to maintain your designer work while you have to do administrative tasks, answer mails, etc. If you want to keep a small study or be just you, you have to do this work and it is not something we are prepared for by our university studies. Observing how the studios or agencies work is good so that later we can have tools, in my case I did not do it that much, so I am learning day by day, missing a lot.
Can the creativity be learned later, or is it a feeling that is always within the human being?
There are levels of creativity, in fact I do not consider myself a very creative person, I work with people much more creative than me. I think it develops like other muscles, it is practiced. The environment, the personal tastes and the activities we do can undoubtedly help to increase our creativity, to observe other worlds and apply them in what we do.
What should we all know about Uruguayan contemporary art & design?
Which is growing, which is just beginning to show itself to the world and that has a lot of potential. An example of this is the industrial designers of our country who were recently exhibiting their projects at the London Design Fair and were received very well. In terms of design, I think we are still looking for our voice, I hope we can find it so that new opportunities continue to appear.
Who are your biggest inspirations and icons, and have they changed over time?
In terms of design, as I said, I liked Swiss design a lot while studying. Then, knowing a little more, I started following the work of graphic designers who also used illustration as a tool, among them Alexander Girard, for example, an all-terrain designer. I also like designers who combined their more "formal and corporate” work with more playful and artistic explorations such as Ivan Chermayeff for example, his collage work was fantastic.
What are your top five songs on your playlist?
This is changing, I listen to all kinds of music. Some that I always listen to again are:
Dave Bruceck - Blue Rondo a la Turk
Nina Simone - Ain´t Dot No, I got life
Lou Reed - Make Up
The Beattles - Girl
Jaime Roos - Colombina
What are the five books that every designer should read?
My books about design, I have bought them in many cases for their images that reading. Most of them are in English and I do not read much in that language. Anyway, I could recommend:
Where are your favorite spots in Uruguay? Food, coffee, shops, etc.
Morning coffee in "La Tostaduría" by Café Nómade (studio client but beyond that is a very nice space). A lunch in "Escaramuza" (it is also a bookstore so you can buy something). A snack in the afternoon at the National Museum of Visual Arts having a coffee (I really like coffee). A dinner at the "Tazende" bar could be fine and then a beer at a friend's home.
Finally, is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do?
My favourite soccer player of history is Messi, never seen something like that ;)