There are discoveries that can change your life. In order to Raul Aguila (Havana, 1983) the covers created by Paul Sahre, one of the most influential graphic designers of the last decades, were a revelation. “The first image that struck me were the covers of the novels by writer Rick Moody designed by Paul Sahre,” he confesses. “I was already familiar with the great work of designers like Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Alan Fletcher, Herb Lubalin or Josef Muller Brockmann, and suddenly, the graphic simplicity and conceptual force of Sahre’s work intrigued me ”. The impact of his work led him to move to New York to study graphic design at the School of Visual Arts (School Visual Arts) where Sahe was a teacher.
But before going to the Big Apple to study, Raúl Aguila had already made other moves. In the early 1990s, her parents left Cuba and emigrated to Miami. “I have wonderful memories of when I was a child, playing in the streets of Havana and spending time with the family. However, not having basic needs covered on the island made my parents make the decision to emigrate to the United States ”. This is how his family settled in South Florida. “If they had not made this decision, my life would have been very different without a doubt,” acknowledges Águila.
“Since I can remember I have drawn on the back of all my textbooks,” he recalls of his attraction to illustration and images. The cartoons starring Elpidio Valdés, the character created by Cuban filmmaker and cartoonist Juan Padrón, are in a prominent place in his childhood memory. “He was obsessed with his drawings. I also really liked classic American cartoons: Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Popeye … ”.
In New York, Águila discovered Japanese Manga and American comics. “All of this contributed to my curiosity and later interest in graphic design.” In the United States, graphic abundance is present in every corner: in advertising, on store signs, in newspapers and magazines, and even on packets of breakfast cereals illustrated with pets like Tony Le Tiger. “My dream as a child was to become a comic book artist, so my first studies were in the field of illustration at the Pratt Institute in New York, but I quickly realized that I was more interested in graphic design, so I I went to the School of Visual Arts in my third year. My training was multidisciplinary, with classes in painting, sculpture, photography, screen printing, conceptual typography, editorial, branding and conceptual theory ”.
”I was lucky that some of my teachers worked in The New York Times Magazine and I ended up falling in love with editorial design, a graphic discipline that I didn’t know about ”, he explains. After finishing his studies, Águila began working in New York Magazine, weekly magazine founded in 1968 by Milton Glaser and Clay Felker as rival of The New Yorker. “It was my first job, a dream destination that was a fundamental formative stage for me. I learned one of the keys to this job, teamwork. It was an incredible learning to work hand in hand with editors, photography teams and designers. Without the experience and trust that I got in New York MagazinI would not be where I am today ”.
Another fundamental period in his career is his time at the magazine New York Times Magazine. There he coincided with creative director Gail Bichler, the woman who has given publication a 360 degree turn in the last fifteen years, incorporating new technologies, transforming publication into a creative feast between the visual and the journalistic. “I think she is the creative director who has influenced my career the most. The work she does weekly with the magazine, she and her team is amazing, each project means giving a new approach to design, photography and art direction ”.
After passing through the two New York weeklies, the Cuban put his signature as creative director in the magazines WIRED Y Esquire. “Each project has taught me that to be successful you must establish strong relationships with everyone involved in it. As creative director I seek to push the boundaries of magazine design and find new and interesting ways to communicate and evoke emotions. Both photography and typography can be used to open up new fields for design ”.
Magazine Variety, an institution in the world of cinema and entertainment, announced in 2020 the signing of Raúl Aguila as the new creative director. Editor-in-Chief Claudia Eller enthusiastically communicated her arrival: “It is very exciting to welcome such a talented creator into our family. Variety”.
“Magazine Variety it is a wonderful opportunity in my career. It is the first large large-format publication I have worked on, and the timelines to redesign it amid the pandemic have been challenging. You also have to be very careful because if you make very radical changes you can end up confusing the reader. For example, the design of The New Yorker it is simple, classic and beautiful and the way of working in such a classic design must be done through the art direction of photography and illustration ”.
After more than a decade, Águila is aware that his style continues to evolve without losing some constants, such as the use of an organic, strong and bold typeface and the data visualization infographic. A style that, according to him, began to define itself in his times in New York Magazinhey WIRED. “Also fundamental as creative inspiration was the work of designer Chris Ashworth in the music magazine Raygun”. The Cuban only hopes to continue expanding the limits of graphic design and redesign, one day, the logo of the brewery Sixpoint Brewery from Brooklyn. If it is true that the path is made when walking, it is most likely that Raúl Águila will end up fulfilling his objective.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.