Alvaro Dominguez
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
I started freelancing in the middle of the Spanish financial crisis, almost 3 years ago. It wasn’t my plan at all, actually I was only trying to find a full time job as a graphic designer but that was impossible. Some studios were firing people, others were closing, even some of the important ones.
The Spanish panorama was definitely pessimistic at the time. Therefore, I decided to look for freelance opportunities abroad, more particularly in editorial illustration, a field in which I had never worked but which looked very interesting.
Although English was not one of my virtues I decided to email an enormous amount of people and I got lucky! Matt Dorfman, art director at the New York Times’ Op/Ed page, replied and, one week after, gave me my first assignment. I’ll never be able to repay him for giving me that opportunity.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Believe that only your design skills will make you a better graphic designer. In my opinion, developing your human skills is even more important.
I recently read a quote from Christoph Niemann, one of my design heroes. He said: “Be nice to people, everybody is fighting a fight.”
Almost 100% of the projects I do are managed through email and precisely for that reason it’s easy to forget that there are people just like you on the other side. People with problems and difficulties trying to do their best. So being polite, empathetic and always thankful are good skills to develop.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
I would have loved to know about the importance of personal projects. I’ve always enjoyed trying different styles and solutions, so personal projects are testing grounds to push my career in new directions. In the beginning, I used to wait for the perfect assignment to develop my new interests but this kind of assignment never usually arrives. Nowadays, although I’m lucky to work with well known clients on interesting projects, I try to push myself to produce personal stuff and sometimes, paradoxically, it’s that kind of stuff that can bring you other types of assignments.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
I don’t have any particular rules but during these three years working as a freelancer I discovered that I’m a morning person. I usually start working very early, and try to take advantage of those hours when most of the city is asleep and there are no distractions such as email or phone. There is a certain safistacion in starting the day before the sun rises.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
I have two favorites: the first one is not about design and the second one is not a book.
Last year I discovered a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People  by Dale Carnegie. The title can be a little bit confusing and one could think that it’s another one of those “silly self-help books”.  Not at all! This book is a huge bestseller published for the very first time in 1936 and it’s still valid today. The book talks about the way we communicate with each other, a universal topic that, as graphic designers, it never hurts to learn more about.
The other recommendation is The Great Discontent. It’s a site full of interviews of creative people that features mostly graphic designers, illustrators and photographers who explain, among other things, what risks they’ve taken in their careers. In my beginnings this site was my bible. It was comforting to read that some of the best designers had experienced the same things as me.
Alvaro answered the questions on July 30, 2015.
The answers were published on August 1, 2015.