Hey mate, nice to chat, why don’t we start with a little about your background?
I’m Alejandro Rodriguez. I’m a Brand Designer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Currently, I’m a Senior Brand Designer at a venture studio called All Turtles. Originally I’m from Lancaster, PA.
What’s the design scene like in Lancaster?
AR: Very healthy. Lancaster has an excellent design scene which I didn’t know existed until I pursued design as a career. In addition, Lancaster is known for its printing heritage. So, there are a ton of local print shops that require designers to design and printers to print. I enrolled in a 2-year design/print program to be a designer but having a foundational knowledge of print has served me well.
How did you get into the strategy side of your design practice? And how do you think it enhances the design work that you do?
AR: It took a few knowledge milestones to infuse strategy into my process. During my time at college, I won a few logo design competitions. That motivated me to learn more about logo design. That led me to understand logo systems, identity systems, and eventually the broad world of brand design.
I realized to be a competent and reputable brand designer—I had to learn at least the basics of brand strategy. Instead of designing purely for aesthetics, it's to design with a purpose and to meet a business goal. Understanding business and how your work can influence a person's perception of a business is a powerful thing.
That means you need to be curious about how business works and be able to ask questions about who you're designing for. It's a lot of additional work, but you create more value as a designer, which means you get to charge more for your service.
AR: I created that during the peak lockdown in 2020. I had a lot of free time to think about my process and how to optimize my workflow. I noticed when onboarding a new client and preparing for a kickoff, I spent a lot of time describing what information I would need to better our chances of having a successful working relationship.
I thought it would be great to send a document outlining what key information I would need and the thought exercises to get it before a kickoff call. That way, a client can come prepared with answers and an awareness of what to expect.
I took a few weeks to gather information from books and other references to create a 10-point checklist complete with easy-to-follow exercises. It was helpful to reintroduce myself to foundational elements of brand strategy, but it also displays my expertise to a client. Fun fact—I designed it using Tusk Sans, the font I made a few weeks before creating the Brand-Building Checklist.
I tested it out, and it proved to be a beneficial tool. So instead of gatekeeping it for my use, I have it available for free on my website.
You always seem to have an awesome home setup, what’s the secret to a good workspace?
AR: For context, I grew up sharing a room all through childhood, and it wasn't until I moved to NY that I finally achieved the personal milestone of having my first desk. So from my perspective, having a space to work and create things is a privilege. There isn't a day I walk into my office and don't feel an overwhelming sense of appreciation.
I put a lot of effort and time into creating a calming workspace filled with things that inspire me. Design books I've collected over the years, childhood ephemera, and of course, all the tech required to do my job.
I had my custom desk hand built by Make Good Wood in Brooklyn. Design decisions from my desk influenced a lot of elements surrounding me. I like to have a desk set up like a pilot's cockpit where everything I need is within arms reach away. I take organization seriously, so if it's taking photos for a project, repairing an object, or building something, I can grab everything I need and put things back in their rightful place.
You have a really great typographic sensibility, is this something you’ve always been good at?
AR: I have always had an appreciation for type and letterforms. So after graduating in 2014, I got into hand lettering and spent a lot of time exploring different styles while documenting my work on Instagram. I did that for a couple of years, and when I refocused on branding, I had all this knowledge in letter forms that proved helpful in creating custom typography for logos.
You’ve created a couple of different fonts like Tusk Sans and Lowlit, What did you learn from creating fonts that enhanced your overall design skill?
AR: I should start by saying I'm not a Type Designer and have so much respect and appreciation for their craft. In 2018, I was working on a branding project and had just completed the logo design phase of the project. One of the directions that wasn't selected was designed building custom type. I casually shared those directions with a co-worker then and mentioned that I wished I could find a project to recycle the type treatment that won't be used. They said I should recycle it to make it a font. I thought, yea, I should do that.
That led me to learn more about typography and font creation. Lowlit was my first font, which took around two months to complete. A few years later, in 2020, I created Tusk Sans. Both fonts have plenty of room for improvement, but they are both huge personal achievements. Pulling knowledge I had from lettering mixed with a more refined sense of design was an exciting challenge. I've been working on a third font for almost two years now and only touch it for a few weeks at a time. That prevents me from rushing the process while keeping its relaxing nature.
Any fun projects you’ve been working on recently?
I’m fortunate to be at the point in my career where I can pass most of the side work that comes my way and share leads with other designers instead. My free time in my 20s was spent working nonstop to grow my portfolio and make extra money. Now, I only accept work that’s worth my time. At the moment, I rather enjoy the city with my fiancé and dog.
I like to think so. Honestly, the work ethic I learned from dishwashing at 16 allowed me out-compete most of the designers around me. Coming from a small town with only a 2-year degree to working and thriving in NYC wasn’t a walk in the park. I think I can handle any critical Creative Director if I can handle the fury of an angry breakfast cook during the Sunday morning rush.
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