Designer Interview: Eric Torres (Part I)

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September 28, 2010
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Designer Interview: Eric Torres (Part I)

Eric Torres has found what many designers would call an ideal balance: maintaining a successful professional career while working actively on thriving personal projects and creations. While running his own brand, he also designs and builds an entire world: Rynaga.

Design, interview, Eric Torres, Rynaga, Iconica, Cards,

Design, interview, Eric Torres, Rynaga, Iconica, Cards,

Wired.com interviewed Torres about Rynaga and its creation—read their review of the game here. The graphically beautiful RPG includes maps, complex characters, rich colors and a thoughtful story line that players and fans experience through cards, published stories, posters and more.

Read on to hear more about the designer/illustrator/consultant’s professional and creative thoughts, words on self-publishing and how he balances his goals.

Q: You are a designer who wears many hats. Could you describe the different roles you take on as a creator?

A: Sure. I work as an independent designer and art director and I’m the owner of Specimen, my creative services and merchandising brand. I accept contract work for agencies and corporations large and small, offering brand development, design and illustration.

I’m also the creator of an ongoing design project called The World of Rynaga (rin-ah-gah). I create art, books and games set within this world using a limited palette of geometric elements and colors. Exploring limitations goes hand-in-hand with exploring this world as well. I publish all of my products and content through Specimen.

Design, interview, Eric Torres, Rynaga, Iconica, Cards,

Design, interview, Eric Torres, Rynaga, Iconica, Cards,

Q: What design work do you most enjoy (branding, logo work, illustration, publication, etc.) and why?

A: I’ve found brand development to be most enjoyable due to the fact that these projects usually involve skills such as illustration, typography, visual design and layout, which are core strengths for me. Building metaphor, symbolism and iconography into a visual language is always an enlightening exercise and it’s satisfying to see a team or organization get behind a new outlook on their work and what it means to their audience.

Q: Could you describe a typical day-in-the-life of Eric Torres?

A: (Laughs) Hmmm. Up around 6 a.m., plot my day out, start work around 7 a.m., lunch around 11 a.m., some sort of exercise or studying till 2 p.m., work from 2-6 p.m., dinner, maybe a game with the family, bed around 10 p.m. This is a typical day. Care to guess how many of those I get?

Many days are a crazy blur of travel, meetings, email ping pong, packing orders from the shop, late nights writing and early mornings sketching with things moving so fast there’s little time to plan or ponder. I love those days.

Design, interview, Eric Torres, Rynaga, Iconica, Cards,

Q: How do you maintain a balance between your different worlds?

A: It’s important to me to put my clients first, so contract work has priority and I focus until a project is complete. While I’m regimented and methodical with my time, I’m also a non-linear worker. So I have to make sure that when creative sparks happen, I allow myself the freedom to capture ideas.

It’s important to me to spend dedicated quality time navigating both worlds – Rynaga and Reality. In fact, these two worlds actually support each other. Reality is all about skills improvement, having a career and making a living, while Rynaga is a sandbox for product development, collaboration and imagination. For me, one cannot exist without the other.

Design, interview, Eric Torres, Rynaga, Iconica, Cards,

Q: You self-publish your own books and games. How would you describe this experience? What are the struggles? The triumphs? Would you recommend it to other designers?

A: I would describe starting out as daunting. It's a perfect storm of research, planning, writing, paperwork, legalities, goal-setting and conceptualizing. Some of my ideas failed, saving money was a lesson in willpower and staying positive was a challenge. Yet, I learned to wait for what I really wanted rather than settle for short-term gains. It took me a couple of years to lay a strong foundation to begin meaningful work. 

Some of the triumphs have been coverage locally in Phoenix Magazine and Arizona Foothills Magazine as well as recent coverage twice on Wired.com. Receiving press is a great privilege and helps in the battle against obscurity, but its benefits are temporary. I stay focused on triumphs such as the professional relationships and friendships, spending time with my son making things, and, hopefully, an increased sense of satisfaction when I look back at my life's work someday.



Would I recommend self-publishing to other designers? Sure. Just be ultra-sure of what you want to achieve. Don’t get distracted. Be patient. Save your lunch money. Avoid credit cards. Abandon your television. Find people who will give you genuine honest feedback. Most importantly, don’t wait for kingmakers or venture capitalists. Put your ideas to work for you.

Design, interview, Eric Torres, Rynaga, Iconica, Cards,

View Eric's shop, where he sells his book, Prelude, and other Rynaga goods, here.)

Look out for Part II of the Eric Torres interview on Friday, October 1st. He'll give insights on his inspirations, future goals, what's in store for Rynaga and his advice to freelancers and would-be freelancers.

Jessica Patterson

Jessica Patterson

Hi, I'm Jessica. I'm a Designer and Writer at Drawbackwards and write for the Design Blog at Design.org. I enjoy vintage things, letterpress, publication design, and long walks around the Cesar Chavez Park pond. You can follow me on twitter at @jessdoodled for lots of fun randomness.

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