April 13, 2008

The Color Red and the Color Yellow

Sometimes a color can make a world of difference. In this case our case study was about the accent color for the magazine cover.

Red was very strong for the soft looking environment. We proposed yellow and we believe the result was so very harmonious. The dark gray lights against the sunlit background showing a river was the ideal connection for a little yellow and, we as people, need to see pleasant, restful things.

That is why color is so important, specially when it becomes subtle.

We wish you a pleasant and harmonious day.

: : Ars Cives Art Director : :

April 1, 2008

The Art of Void in Art Direction

We have been approached by the publishers of this Magazine to revamp their cover. After obtaining their permission to publish the present case study, here it is.
If you bear in mind the fact that we do not have a logotype, you will go back to our main page only to find an image of water, shapeless water that takes the shape of the vessel that contains it.
However by not having a logotype we happen to have an image that is ever present. When you wash your hands, take a shower, drink water or look at the sea, water is always present and it is an indispensable part of life. We would like to think it is a nice metaphor.

Therefore, when you create something, it does not need to have a brand of yours. We do not need to put our ego in what we create. We just absorb what is in it and recreate it.

The same principle of Void was used in the magazine design cover.

This is one of the ways we create. So very often it is only possible to upgrade but not innovate as some clients would want. Yet is is not less challenging. Especially when everything is explained to the client.

We are very happy with our clients. We hope they are happy with us.
Thank you.

: : Ars Cives Art Director : :

March 22, 2008

Recurrence and bridging between Art and Design

The aspect of thematic recurrence is very interesting, specially when separated by more than 20 years.
In 1985 I used Chinese paper and inks and finished the painting with acrylics. It was my personal interpretation of a shan shui, a landscape painting with a surface covered by a very complex topography.
Then we just sent out our Easter Card to clients and friends. Suddenly it just made a click on my mind.
In our website main image the water is also topographic and an interesting relation can be found between the two.
This, I would say, creates one of the various threads I use in expressing my visual thoughts. Only that they are separated by 23 years, since our website was revamped early this year.
Meantime, Happy Easter!

: : Ars Cives Art Director : :

March 13, 2008

Academic Regalia in a Multicultural Environment

So as not to point out just things from long ago, here is a case study from about four years ago.
The Macau Inter-University Institute's rector has invited us for a challenging task. Although he is a PhD from an American University, the rector wanted that the Academic Regalia could be created based on the Sino-Portuguese Memories of Macau.
We therefore elaborated on an ideological-historical approach on the colors and values. We planned every detail and even created a necklace for the Rector based on the traditional jewells of China.
An entire website was built and can be viewed here with full explanations.
Never did our client questioned the design. He agreed with everything and we are proud to have developed a new Academic Regalia based on the request for History and the combination of East and West.
We still cater for the making of the regalia for new Bachelors, Masters and PhD's.

Hope you all enjoy.

: : Ars Cives Art Director : :

February 23, 2008


I went in 1982 on a photographic trip to Portugal, commited to spend two months driving around the country and photographying places and people that were not the post card type. Always disliked clichés. I carried two Nikon F6 cameras which, at the time, were very popular as the crème de la crème of Japanese cameras.

I returned after going deep into what I had in mind: photographying Portugal By The Side of the Road. Had over two thousand slides that were finely developped in a professional lab.
Now there was the need to publish it. As I faced new jobs, the project was carefully laid on the side.

One day, on the 1st. of June, 1986, I was called to a meeting of a Government cultural institution and was presented with this fact:
National Day is on the 10th of June, we have 9 days and not a clue on what to do. Any idea?

I instantly recalled the unpublished book, and said: yes I have something for you. I can produce a book and a photographic exhibition. My interlocutor looked at me in disbelief.

-Can you do it for the 9th. of June? Can you guarantee it? I said: yes!

-Okay then, go ahead and we count on you.

As I arrived home I called Mr. Sakai and asked him to come the next day for an urgent meeting. Same day I called the manager of Colorteknik. Both would have to come from Hong Kong, as in those days Macau was less independent. I also called the printer for the same meeting.

Then I prepared myself to work throughout the night. I would have to spend countless hours on the lightbox selecting the slides, they would need to have a coherence of both the geography as well as the balance between landscapes and people, it had to tell an unknown story, and last but not least, it would also need to contemplate the gallery where the photographs would be displayed.

After the coordination meeting the next day, I started writing the book's introduction, have it picked up by the printer's messenger.

The coordination was to make sure that once the slides were scanned for color separation with a precise deadline, they would be handed to Raymond Lau of Colorteknik to proceed with the making of 50 crystal paper photographs which had a maximum size about 26 inches (66 cm).

At that time the best technology was photo composition which would come out in a 7 inches wide matt photographic paper. Then if there were typos, the fastest way to do it would be to surgically cut some letters from somewhere else and paste them with a thin drop of rubber cement.

To make a long story short, by the 8th. the books arrived, the photographs vacuum sealed in acrylic frames also arrived and everything went without a glitch. The color separations were superb. But we don't like to work on rush jobs. They become very expensive and disruptive.

Bottom line: This account helps describe the potentialities of Macau in the area of services.

: : Ars Cives Art Director : :

February 19, 2008


In 1982, the then Macau Issuing Institute, now the Monetary Authority of Macau, invited me to design a set of coins to renew the coins design to a more mixed flavor.

The challenge was most welcomed as Chinese everyday habits and culture rely on
symbols and other good auspices.

Chinese coins from the past were already a good start. Cosmogonically speaking, the circle represented Heaven, Tien, while the square in the center represented Earth, Di, which was hollowed to allow a red string to pass through many coins.
Based in this geometrical design, I created a bridge in one side of the coin, linking Earth to Heaven, by extending the square until the coin's ridge. This would mean new interpretation, something that I knew the Chinese population would understand, while the non-Chinese would judge it by its own aesthetical right.

The next step was to interact with the
Cantonese language play with homophonous words. This had to do with the characters Fok that I used for the 10 cents coin. Fok means luck, and ten is homophonous of obtaining. Therefore the left coin meant obtaining luck.

I came to learn that the second character, Lu or Lok (Prosperity) was the most favoured by the local Chinese. When coupled with the number 2 of the 20 cents, it spelled easy prosperity.
The last one of the decimal coins was the last of the so called three stars. Longevity. Therefore the highest amount would have to be attributed: 50 cents.

As an end result, both Singapore Mint who worked intensily with me, praised the (then) innovative multi-layer design as a benefit for the visually impaired, while the commemorative silver editions were so much sought after that they had to make two more editions. The gold and platinum editions were also gone.
Later, banking authorities noticed an increased shortage of the 20 cents coins. People kept them home for luck.

As a consequence, I was incumbed of designing the 12 commemorative coins of the Lunar Years.

: : Ars Cives Art Director : :

February 16, 2008


This stamp was designed in 1981.
I was invited to design a commemorative stamp for an Intercultural Psychiatry Symposium that would, for the first time, take place in Macau. The main reason for that event was the study of identity cases of multi-cultural places and eventual disorders derived from mixed identities.

One of my first thoughts was about how to approach the theme symbolically. I felt that it was definitely through religion as it carried sufficiently distinct iconography to represent East and West roots.

It happened that I was able to photograph a beautiful wooden sculpture of a very unique Arhat , known as Lohan in Chinese Buddhism. Painstakingly I drew the sculpture with its gold leaf pealing and superimposed it with the Christian cross, defining limits for different colors.

The idea came by looking into my own local memories: whenever a large venture was started, such as the building of a bridge, Buddhist monks and Catholic priests would pray side by side, in a fine example of tolerance and conviviality.

The Post Office was quite happy with the idea and within a couple of days they had the final work painted with poster colors on a large board. No one dreamed of computers or digital images those days.

The interesting thing was that the Symposium itself took the stamp as a case debate.

: : Ars Cives Art Director : :