Spanish studio Hey brings their bright colours and positive vibes downunder

AUTHOR:  
Published:  November 6, 2015
Katia Pase

When I sit down with Hey’s Verònica Fuerte on Skype, she’s between an exhibition for EveryHey, the one-portrait-a-day project headed by studio partner Ricardo Jorge, and getting ready for their AGDA-backed Australian tour, first stop: Perth.

“I like the idea of visiting Perth,” says Fuerte, when we discuss the lack of Melbourne date on their itinerary. “It seems like a good perspective to have, to see outside the big cities of Melbourne and Sydney.”

From EveryHey

From EveryHey

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From EveryHey

When the Barcelona-based studio announced the Australian tour on their wildy-popular Instagram feed, the huge response was filled with the same kind of enthusiasm and energy (and koala emoticons) that Hey hopes their work conveys.

“We like to be positive, in the case of our work with colours and energy. We like to be accessible, and not to design in a conservative way, or in a single way for a small audience.”

Here we chat with Fuerte about the value of personal projects, sticking to a house style, and living and working in Barcelona.

Let’s start with an introduction to your practice – in your own words. What do you do?

We are a very small studio; there are five of us. We do a mix of illustration and graphic design, and we try to keep this balance between them, and to mix them, too.

We have a style, more or less. It’s very colourful, very geometrical, plays with the grid. We use bold graphics and we always try to keep this style.

So you consciously purport the idea of a house style?

Yes, maybe at the beginning our style wasn’t very strong or clear, but we’ve tried to keep a style across the years.

Your work is striking, and it is very identifiable. A Hey piece looks like a Hey piece. How does having this house style effect the way you respond to a brief or a brand?

We are lucky because the clients get in touch with us because they want our style of work. But every project is different, so we try and use the style differently for each client. Though things might be the same at the beginning, because [having a house style means] it’s not necessary to explore so many different things. We can focus better.

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Film Commission Chile

FCCh_2_A

Film Commission Chile

FCCh_3_A

Film Commission Chile

Does the studio have a particular working methodology?

We have a particular way of working, though it’s pretty standard. At the beginning we get the brief, and often the client is outside Spain so we manage this on Skype. If they don’t provide a good brief, we get there by asking questions and we build a better brief together. Then we mood board, looking to art and architecture too, then we start designing or illustrating. Each of us in the studio then spends a week or more thinking, and then we get together and decide which ideas to present to the client.

Do you ever feel limited by the house style you’ve set in place?

We try to do new things sometimes, but we think it’s good to improve what you’ve done or are already doing. We take our time, and think about everything thoroughly, and we think that’s important. One of the reasons we do so many side projects is to improve our work, to think in new ways or experiment with new styles. Sometimes with commercial clients you don’t have time to explore or experiment but with side projects you can take your time.

You describe your practice in English as “graphic design” which has come to be viewed as a bit limiting, by many practitioners whose practice also crosses into image making and illustration and other areas. What do you call your practice in Spanish? Do you have another word for it, or way of talking about it?

We prefer to say graphic design. It’s more pure. It keeps things simple.

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Mural for Three telecoms

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Mural for Three telecoms

You’ve said before that Hey is an attitude. What is this attitude, and how has it changed over the years?

It’s been influenced a lot by our daily lives, by our family and friends. Hey is not just my studio, there are five of us here, and we try to share an attitude or a way of working. It’s not only working, it’s about sharing ideas and conversations. Everything is related.

What are some of the other principles that influence your approach?

We try to be simple, but with an idea behind everything we do. We prefer to be tight with the geometry and be clear, working with strong, clear ideas. If we can design in a simple way, but in a smart way, that’s when we’re most satisfied with our work, and we find people understand it better.

How is your work influenced by the city?

I think where you live influences a lot. Barcelona is a very open city. There’s a mix of people and cultures, and there’s a big community of designers and artists. It’s a big pool, and I think this is positive for us. It means we’re always trying to improve our work.

What is the design community in Barcelona like? It is close? It is competitive? How do you interact with one another?

More or less we all know each other. We have a good relationship, but it is competitive; it’s inevitable that it’s competitive. But our competitors and influences are all over the world, too. It’s not only Barcelona.

ArtFad 2014

ArtFad 2014

ArtFad 2014

ArtFad 2014

Do you think the design coming out of Barcelona at the moment has a certain style? Or are there elements or ideas you see being used a lot?

Maybe ten years ago there was a particular style, but I think now you can see a lot of different influences.

And ten years ago when Hey was starting out, and you were still developing your own ideas and directions, who or what were your references? Were you looking locally or international?

I love the modernist and universal style of graphic design from the 60s and 70s. We try to do the same, but with another point of view.

What are the biggest challenges facing the design industry in Barcelona?

Not so much for us, but the crisis affected a lot of studio business a few years ago. But at the same time it was also positive, as we had to improve our methods of working and seek clients from elsewhere. We work hard to find clients from around the world, and now I’m very happy to live here. I can’t imagine living in another country.

One challenge is the price of living, which is quite expensive with so many people coming to the city. It can be difficult to find a place to live or work if you want to be inside the city. We’re in the centre of Barcelona near the city council, sharing a space with architects and a few other designers and illustrators, but we’re trying to move to a bigger place. I would like to have a showroom for the shop, and have space for other things. But it might mean we need to move a bit out of the centre.

Can you tell us a bit more about the role personal projects play in your own exercise as designers, and in the studio’s work? How do you find time?

We’ve always made time for personal projects, which was much easier at the beginning when we didn’t have many clients! But the personal work helped us improve, and helped us gain more clients. It’s a way to improve your ideas and style and this feeds into commercial projects too. So it’s not a waste of time. It’s building to something. For our side projects we had people emailing asking if they could buy the work, so we set up a little shop and now we can share this work.

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Grandules 2011

Grandules 2011

Grandules 2011

Have you ever been surprised by the way a public has responded to or interacted with your work?

Every time we have a response we are surprised! We don’t want to lose this either.

To finish off, you’re coming to Australia on an AGDA tour, and you also sat on the jury of the AGDA awards. What did you notice about the work you were assessing for the awards? Anything that surprised you?

There are a few Australian studios I admire. Frost, who I imagine are the most famous, and I love Toko and Parallax. We also did a cover for Process journal a few years ago.

Judging the awards I realised that the design level in Australia is pretty high. It can be compared with London or any other European city.


See AGDA for full details about Hey’s visit to Australia.

Perth: Monday 9 November, 6pm
Adelaide: Wednesday 11 November, 6pm
Sydney: Saturday 14 November, AGDA Forum, 9am

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