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Interview with Fernando Volken Togni

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Fernando Volken Togni is a Brazilian graphic designer and illustrator living in Porto Alegre. He develops intricate compositions which combines soft vector shapes, organic swirls and harmonious colors. Fernando says, he likes to use eye-catching bold shapes that express vivid energy and the idea of a simple thing that's full of meanings. Read more about him in this interview.

Q Hi Fernando, give us a little background bio of yourself; tell us where you're from.

Hello, I am graduated in Advertising but I have always worked with graphic design, brand and packaging at advertising agencies here in Porto Alegre, southern Brazil. I was born in Roca Sales, a small town but I moved to Porto Alegre to study and work. I always liked art and drawings, so about five or six years ago I started to develop my own illustration style because I always loved to work with vector software.

Q Tell us about your formal education. You are a graduate in advertising, when did you decide that you wanted to be in the design and illustration field? How long have you been designing and illustrating? Do you freelance full time? What was your first design job?

I've loved illustration and art since I was a child. I decided to study advertising about ten years ago, because I thought it was something I could succeed at. I almost studied arts, but I never gave up, I am sure that in the future I will study and maybe work with it. Over the last six years I worked more with illustration software at advertising agencies and that made me to develop my own style to illustrate. It was a simple process, but I never thought it would work, I didn’t see myself doing it for a living, I used to think I would always work as a designer.

My first design job was like an intern in a big advertising agency in Porto Alegre, as assistant on the design area of the company. Since the last year I realized that I couldn’t work with design anymore, because it was not my biggest passion, but yes illustrating, now I do it for a living and I'm so grateful. I freelance full time, I have some representations and I think it is going on the right way.

Q Simple vector shapes and attractive solid colors are the focal points of your illustrations. How do you develop these intricate compositions, what is your work flow for creating a typical image? How do you go about choosing colors schemes for your illustrations?

When beginning a new composition, I start to construct a selection of simple shapes into a rough skeleton, maybe a simple circle, maybe triangles. Compositional decisions like this can be modified, but are necessary to organize the initial structure of the elements. With a structure in place, I build up the detail increasing intricate shapes and patterns made of new simple elements. I like to combine squares and rectangles with circles to make soft elements and I search for an organized chaos. I like bold shapes and a reduced color palette. I work a lot with black, vivid colors and neutral ones. I think it gets harmonic.

Q What is it about vectors that fascinate you? What tools and applications do you mainly use?   

I like vectors because the final result looks sharp, vivid and clear. Even using a lot of elements I try to organize them into an area and I think the result must be good looking.

I work with Adobe Illustrator, but I have already used CorelDraw and Freehand years ago. Now I think Illustrator is better because you can work better with colors and vector libraries.

Q Who is your artistic role model? What are your favorite sources of inspiration? Does Brazilian culture influence your art and illustrations?

I love lot of designers, artists and illustrators. I like artists with unique views and specially those who work good with colors and those who have an unique view that catches your eyes. I love the work of the Brazilian Bruno 9li, I love Jasper Goodall's work, Siggy Eggenstein, Sanna Annukka, Denise Carrion, Vital Lordello, Pirecco, the designer Stefan Sagmeister, the photographer Ryan McGinley.

Brazilian culture inspires me a lot because here things are very joyful, colors everywhere, a great diversity of cultures and influences from all over the globe. Brazilian nature and urban elements also are very important to my work.

Q Tell us about your 24 Hours themed illustrations for Oryx Magazine. How was the concept developed? What planning or research was required to do keeping in mind the specialties of the city that you were illustrating?

This is a nice work. Oryx has a monthly issue with an special section about travels around the world. The agency that represents Oryx, Agency Fish passes me a brief with a lot of information about the cities I have to illustrate. I would love to travel to all of them but this would be so expensive. They ask me to illustrate some special sightseeing or local culture elements but they give me a lot of freedom to illustrate and create colorful compositions. It is very nice because I can discover a lot about all those cities and cultures.

Q What design project are you working on currently? Which amongst your works or projects is the one that you consider your favorite or the one that you enjoyed working on the most and why? Is there a dream project you would like to work on?

Now I am working for some Brazilian magazines, I like editorial illustrations, I like to illustrate for articles and chronicles. I specially like the 24 Hours series, because they are rich in different elements, but I also like Prece poster, because the colours are nice, the symmetry makes the idea of the poster look nice, it is about balance and serenity.

I would love to work for companies like Nike, Adidas, Coca-Cola, and all those brands who work with clothing or beverage because they are always so vibrant and positive and they express people's feelings. I would love to illustrate billboards around the world spreading colors, impressions and good feelings.

Q How would you define your artistic style? What do you want the viewer to walk away with when they see one of your pieces?

I think I would define it as a vibrant bold style. I want some eye-catching bold shapes that express vivid energy and the idea of a simple thing but full of meanings. I like the idea that the simple can be complex and the complex can become so much simpler.

Q Do you listen to music while working? What kind of music do you listen to? Does it have the influence on the outcome of your designs?

Sure, one tool that I can’t work without is music, which I listen to as I illustrate, using the tone and pace of the music to help inspire the fundamental shapes that comprise my illustrations. If the rhythm is fast, the final result might be darker or heavier. If it’s calm, the shapes are usually more intricate and detailed. There are no rules, but the final result is usually better.

Q Fernando thanks for the interview. What message or advice would you like to give to the aspiring artists and illustrators?

I think it is nice to find out something that is yours. An inner feeling that makes you love what you illustrate. I think illustrating requires passion. You can start with a moleskine, a simple piece of paper, a white canvas, vector software or an advanced tool like Photoshop, or your own new technique. Create and spread it. The only thing important is having a message or feelings to pass. The world needs art, colors and freedom of expression to make people to get closer.

Fernando Volken Togni on Web

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