Bringing back the Ascenders competition for its third edition, the Type Directors Club extended jury invitations to members of our community outside of the Advisory Board for the first time.
Jurors were nominated by the outgoing 2021 TDC Board, and the creator of Canela and Ayer was an obvious choice for Ascenders Chair, Paul Carlos. Miguel Reyes lives in his native Puebla, Mexico, balancing his work with Commercial Type and his endeavors as a restauranteur. You can watch his TDC lecture, Variations on a Theme, here.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
What was your very first job?
First design job?
Editorial designer at a local magazine.
Did you go to school for design? If so, where and what was your major/concentration?
Yes, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (Bachelor’s in Graphic Design), Centro de Estudios Gestalt (Master’s in type design), Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (Master’s from Type Media).
What was your earliest design class?
Name one of your favorite projects from early in your career.
A book about Mexican architecture.
Are you embarrassed by your old work?
Most of my graphic design. Glad I’m a type designer now.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be more straight forward with the things I don’t like.
If you could change one thing about your career trajectory, what would you change?
So far I’m happy with my path, but probably learn about type design earlier.
What is a barrier to entry facing today’s designers that you might not have?
The pandemic and not being able to learn some things face-to-face, feedback is easier in that way.
What is something that today’s young designers have that you wish you had?
I guess not having the same opportunity of having almost anything on the web. Like design workshops online, I always needed to find the right person from who to learn something, sometimes traveling really far to get something out.
Are there any up-and-coming young designers you admire? (Clarify last part of my question)
I have not been following much the design scene the last two or three years, I got burned out by so much information out there and sometimes I don’t even know how old they are, but I have plenty of talented friends that I admire and I think they are on the edge of 35, like Sindy Ethel Salas, Jose Berrio Lesmes, Hrvoje Živčić, Julien Priez, Marko Hrastrovec, and of course my colleagues and friends at Commercial Type: Kara Gordon, Greg Gazdowicz, Tim Ripper, and Thomas Bouillet.
What top 3 traits are you looking for when looking at young designers’ work?
Distinctiveness, I like to be surprised, and of course attention to details.
What are 3 things that you hate seeing in young designers’ work?
Repetitive work, trendy, and not well crafted. Social media makes things a bit difficult and I think younger designers sometimes are not self-critical about their work.
Name one way in which you continue your education.
I continue learning things every day, since every project is completely different. The challenges change from project to project, and the last 9 years working at Commercial Type has been an ongoing learning curve, thanks to Christian and Paul. But learning about some other crafts and things in my daily life improves the way I look at my design work.
If you could change careers, what would you do?
I would be a furniture designer and carpenter full time.
What is your favorite job you’ve ever had?
Commercial Type has been the best and there is no way to exceed it.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
I always dreamed about this editorial design studio, I really admired the work that they did earlier. But once I was there, the employer-employee relation was not the best, always taking advantage on their side, really long work hours that were not balanced with the money, and I never felt like my work was really appreciated there.
What is a job you’ve had that would surprise people?
Carpentry, people most of the time get excited about it. I learned the craft from my father.
Which of your peers do you most admire?
I really admire my bosses and mentors Christian Schwartz, Paul Barnes, Erik van Blokland, Andreu Balius, Ken Barber…
What do you wish you were better at?
Being more organized nowadays.
What in your career are you really good at?
Drawing and spacing letters.
How do you define a successful career?
If you are happy with what you do and with everything that comes with it.
What tools do you need to have a successful career?
Persistence and goals. Of course, being the best person that you can be will also help.
What food must be accessible to you in order to work well?
Who do you credit most for your career rise?
Andreu Balius, Christian Schwartz, and Paul Barnes.
Who do you consider your teachers?
Christian and Paul.
If you could collaborate with anyone (that you haven’t worked with yet) who would it be?
Ken Barber, of course.
Any books, films, or albums that have defined or changed the way you think?
I don’t know if any of these things changed something in me, but the books and albums that I remember the most are *One Hundred Years of Solitude* by Gabriel García Márquez and *People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm* by Tribe Called Quest.
What hobbies keep your sanity intact?
Basketball, carpentry, lately graffiti and learning about DJing.
Do the above inspire your career/practice, or do you compartmentalize to get away from it?
Carpentry inspires and complements my type design, they are really close crafts because everything is about details. The other ones, I think they get me way from thinking about type all day.
How much sleep do you get?
I love to sleep, I think that could be another hobby. I try to sleep 7 to 8 hours. Less than that, I’ll be dying.
How necessary do you find “routine”?
I think routine is necessary just to keep thing on track but I normally end up losing track since I have other activities that sometimes cannot be completely planned.
Would you like to retire?
Of course, but I know it would be impossible not do anything since I always find ways of have something new to do.
What excites you about the future of design?
I have not thought about it.