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Isabel Urbina Peña

Graphic Designer

Primary design concentration:

Graphic Design

Most preferred tools for designing:

Brain, Eyes, Hands

How and why did you choose to become a designer?

Back when the Internet boomed (at least in Venezuela), I sort of discovered computers and looooooved spending time on them. I think that sort of got me fixated on being a graphic designer, since it was one of the few careers that allowed you to spend LOTS of time in front of a screen. Funnily enough, nowadays, I try to go analog as much as possible.

What are some of the challenges you encounter as a designer and how do you deal with them?

As a cover designer, one of the biggest challenges for me is picking THE right solution. Because once you read a book, there are so many ways in which a book might take you, that you almost feel like anything is possible. But I find that once you find the true answer, it’s quite obvious that nothing else was truly a solution for this. So, I try to keep digging and not settle for the first idea, until I feel that I’ve explored enough.

What is your definition of an “elegant solution,” that is, good design?

While I don’t necessarily get to do this everyday, I’m really drawn towards conceptual solutions with good, bold, and simple typography (I guess Swiss design comes to mind). That said, I don’t think that is always the right solution for your design problem.

From skills to values, what makes a designer successful?

I think it depends on what you mean by “successful.” From where I am seating, a successful designer does the work that he/she loves to do, gets paid accordingly for doing it, and gets to be passionate about it.

To get to be a successful designer, you have to hustle and work hard for what you want (specially in a city like New York City with so many other talented people doing what you do). Discover whatever makes your work unique and push that as far as you can, don’t allow yourself to get too comfortable AND, this is important, have a good attitude towards clients and projects.

How do you stay motivated and grow personally and professionally as a designer?

Well for one thing, I try to always have personal projects. And use them as an excuse to explore the ideas that a client might consider too risky or not commercial enough. Also, I really enjoy taking courses and learning new skills from different professionals. Particularly, Cooper Type has a really good range of lettering, calligraphy and technical courses as well as free lectures. Last but not least, I try to go to art shows and museums as much as possible. I think it’s really important to look back and know what’s out there.

For those aspiring to become a designer, whatever the discipline, what is your advice?

Ask yourself what are you trying to accomplish with your work from start to finish, did you manage to make it happen and what can you do to make it better and more interesting next time. Explore new ways of doing things and don’t settle.

What is your quest in design, from a professional practice, education or evolution standpoint?

From a professional standpoint, my goal is to make unique work that contributes something new and useful to the design world. From an educational standpoint, I’d love to have the opportunity to share the (little) knowledge I’ve gathered through my studies and with my professional experience as a designer, and help someone become a better designer or simply in love with design.

Isabel Urbina Peña highly recommends the music by the Wu-Tang Clan and seeing the film “Rushmore,” written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson.

Images courtesy of Isabel Urbina Peña.

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