Walter Mattos: An Interview About Grids

Walter Mattos: An Interview about Grids

Walter Mattos is a Brazilian designer specialised in creating brand identities. He looks for simplicity and rationale as essential features for his projects. Studied the construction grids deeply during an editorial project and later applied the same fundamentals in brand identities.

He finished his training in Graphic Design in 2006 and took about three years finding its path. With experience, he started his career in search of what truly drives him in its profession and realised that, just as in its personal life, he liked many things at the same time, related to design. He wanted to do volunteer projects, be an illustrator, image handler, editorial designer, and he did it all. Due to its need to convince herself that everything he does has technique and rationale, ended up becoming a professor of the tools he used to work. So, in addition to acting as a designer, he taught private lessons in a Computer Science course in Rio de Janeiro, the iLearn.

Tell us a little about your academic and professional path.

I entered college in Visual Communication / Graphic Design for affinity and drawing ease, but I had no idea what design was in fact. In 2001 the term “design” was not as widespread as today – at least not in Brazil. Luckily it was love at first sight.

Today I am 36 years old, I have had more than 13 years of experience since I graduated and since then I have worked with illustration, image manipulation, editorial projects and currently my speciality and work focus is brand identity design.

I split my work as a designer with another passion, produce content for creatives through a blog and a YouTube channel.

I know that you make enough use of grids in the branding process. Can you tell us about the project the grids you were most useful and why?

From my point of view the use of grids, in general, is part of a process of search for beauty and visual harmony through the balance of contrasts, weights, hierarchies, forms, etc.

Using a grid is no guarantee of success. That’s why I could not tell when it’s more or less useful. I think utility is in the function to which it is assigned and in the way it is used.

If the grid facilitates its work process and the perception of this work is positive, the grid played its role just like all other intrinsic processes, tools and knowledge used in the project.

What is your method of creating identities and what stage the grid goes in?

My process is not exactly linear, but it has characteristics common to every design project, which I can briefly describe as discovery: interpretation, observation; brainstorming: drafting, testing; implementation: refinement and finalisation.

I do not anticipate precisely when I will use the grid. It is a mechanism that comes to me spontaneously as an ideal tool for a particular function or need. The need can appear before or during manual drafts, before or during the creation stage on the PC or even after the design is finished, as a refinement step. It may also contribute to reinforcing some concept, but it is rare.

For me, the use of the grid is part of a natural process. But still, there are times when I feel that the best solution is not to use it.

Nothing prevents the “ideal shape” from being found without the use of any kind of grid.

Walter Mattos Tree Digital Marketing Logo Grid
Walter Mattos Tree Digital Marketing Logo Standards
Walter Mattos Bruno Cabral Advogado Logo Grid
Walter Mattos Bruno Cabral Advogado Font Grid

What are your primary references and inspirations in the grids usage?

Currently, the first name that comes to mind is Joseph Muller-Brockmann, but this is due to recent studies, post-discovery of the grid.

During my initial design learning process, I understood that the grid was an essential item in any process. Although today I have another perspective, at the time, during my studies, its role was not clear to me. I knew it was something that was part of the foundation of what we understand today as design, so it was natural for me to use it.

At last, I felt comfortable using grids as a foundation for my designs, and I thought that was normal.

To give you an example, the first time I heard the name Alexandre Wollner was when a college professor compared me to him after presenting a brand design project.

After that, I focused my studies on editorial projects and forgot about brand design for a long time. In this universe, editorial design, what I would research most would be the use of grids. There I came across the name Jan Tschichold, who was the one who opened my mind to new discoveries.

How did you make the transition from the editorial grid for logo design?

For me, there was not a moment of transition. There was indeed a moment of a shift from the focus on editorial design to brand design, but it was not a blunt break. There was a time where I worked with both things, and in both cases, I was already using the grid in some processes.

What is, for you, the importance of using a grid in an identity?

The same importance as any tool and process available during a design. You will never use all the tools at the same time. And some people prefer some tools over others.

“The use of grids, in general, is part of a process of search for beauty and visual harmony through the balance of contrasts, weights, hierarchies, forms, etc.”

How did this need to use grids in the process of creating logos appeared? How they contribute to your projects?

I am a passionate confessed by the use of grids, but this is personal. I implement in my process because I feel at ease and enjoy studying and exploring its possibilities, not because I feel it is a must.

Some people use grids because it really helps in the design process, but there are also some people using it as a way of justifying the construction process. In your opinion, how we should make use of it?

Today we see people arguing that the use of the grid is mandatory, and this generates resistance.

In addition, we see many people simulating the use of grids just to say that the grid is there, without it actually exercising any function. This is sad because it ends up banalising a tool that allows us infinite exciting possibilities.

I can not say what is right or wrong in using grids. I can only say that it is a useful tool for those who have an in-depth understanding and know how to choose the right time to use it.

Would you like to leave some advice for the use of grids in logos (or identities in general)?

The first point is to understand its function. To do this, one must study, know the history of the tool and understand how by whom and why it came to be used throughout history.

Having said that, my advice is to use only those who really arouse a natural interest in the thing. That way the study will be constant, and it will become increasingly easier to understand where it applies or not.

The danger is in associating the use of the grid as a synonym for good design, and it is not. It is far from being.

How do you think grids are evolving in identity design?

I venture to say that the use of the grid is not evolving in the design of identities. In the period when we depended only on rulers, pencils and paper, the mechanism we had to achieve balance and harmony was mathematics – which at that time was calculated manually and mentally.

Today we have software that centralises, aligns, multiplies, etc. Besides, we have more and more tools understanding how human behaviour and perception works.

I believe that for this reason the perception about the grid today is divided, contradictory and controversial. More and more we see people seeing the grid as something without necessity, and in fact, for some people it is.

Again, the grid is just one of the tools available in a design process.

Today, what is not lacking are tools.

How do you expect to come to apply the grids in your future projects?

This one I can answer quickly. The same way I use it today. 🙂

For me, the beauty of the grid is in its history, the use of this mathematics that makes us think and the possibilities that it opens when we understand how to work with it.

Ricardo Araújo

Ricardo Araújo is a Communication and Multimedia Designer. Winner of a D&AD New Blood Award and likes to share his knowledge on his YouTube channel.

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