Each of our 2019 Ascenders spoke with us about their design inspirations and work. Here is our interview with New York graphic designer Abraham Lule.

What schools did you attend?

The Universidad Del Valle de México was my alma matter, and then I did my continuing education at School of Visual Arts in New York, where I had the pleasure to learn typography with Ed Benguiat.

Did you have a teacher, past employer, client, or colleague who was instrumental in your career?

There’s not a specific person right now that stands out to me, but I always try to learn from everyone and everything. One of the experiences where I learned the most was being a dance teacher and choreographer. This is a bit of a hidden side of me. I did it for over 10 years while becoming a graphic designer. Dance taught me a lot while I was teaching others. I learned about persistence, self-criticism, observation, and dedication. I never had any specific education in dancing, which also taught me that curiosity is a great tool to learn and to guide you.

Additionally, one of the tools that has helped me the most in my career as a graphic designer is Debbie Millman’s podcast Design Matters. I used to listen to it even in my sleep, and I have borrowed a lot of ideas from it that I’ve put into practice and applied to my career and personal life.

Did they have any specific advice/words of wisdom that you remember?

There’s a particular Design Matters episode with Massimo Vignelli in which every single second is a piece of advice. His ideas on the three pillars of education ­­– History, Theory and Criticisms – really resonated with me and I’ve been keeping them close to me ever since, even if my work doesn’t reflect his vision whatsoever.

Detail of label for Gracias a Dios Gin.

Which of your design projects are your favorites? Why?

Gracias a Dios Gin is my favorite project so far. It has everything that I love and the process was pretty smooth. The printing was great and it is a high quality product itself. This is also a project that has bespoke typography in an 85%, I designed and developed every single detail and every single letter; even the mandatories. I’m very proud of it.

What’s your worst design experience and project? Why? 

It is probably a wine project I did last year, and it all goes back to a very confused client with zero experience in the wine industry and with a very vulnerable opinion. He asked for a million changes, and after almost a year, ended up using a generic design that looks like a template.

Where do you work now? In a studio, independent, other? What’s a typical workday like?

I have a full time position at Vault49, but I always keep myself busy outside the office practicing my own design voice. I normally start at 9:15am in the office. I check my emails and write in my agenda every project I’m working on and what’s to be done. After that, we all have a “Morning Meeting” where the studio manager gives us a heads-up of who is working in what, then everyone takes their positions.

As an Associate Design Director. I’m normally overseeing a couple of projects, but also developing projects. Most of the time, if it’s typography or something calligraphic in the studio, I’m involved in those projects. But if I could compare my day of work to working at a restaurant, in any given moment I can be the chef, or the waiter, or the sous chef or the delivery service, or all of them in less than two hours. It can be quite hectic, but that is also what makes it exciting!

Experimental lettering.

What are your hobbies besides typography or design?

I love to dance and choreograph. I’ve always being motivated by how bodies in motion can be a piece of art itself, and even beyond that when it’s paired with music. I dream about this a lot. I’m a runner, too. I also workout and practice yoga. I use these as my therapy to relax my hands and brain.

Do you know any of the other Ascenders personally? If yes, whom ?

I don’t have that pleasure. I know some by name, but not in person.

Do you have any favorite designers and/or artists? Who are they?

This list isn’t short, but to list a few designers – Herb Lubalin, Saul Bass, and Alexander Girard. As for artists, I just have one – René Magritte.

Experimental lettering.

Do you think you have a design philosophy or methodology? If yes or no what is it?

Yes, I do. Very traditional – pencil and paper with no use of visual references, just my imagination and things I’ve seen. Then I write about the concept, as if I was writing a movie. Then I do research, normally using books, and then I let myself go in experimentation using technology this time. If something along the way changes my original path, I’m pretty good at letting it go and just post-rationalize the solution.

Now that you have had some time to think about it, what does the award mean to you?

Being recognized by someone you admire is hard to explain. The Type Directors Club is an organization I fully respect, and I feel flattered as well as supported. This is an incredible energy bar to continue my career as a graphic designer, but it has also encouraged me to continue developing my work through typography.

Instagram: @abrahamlule


To see the list of all the 2019 Ascenders, click here.