Creators of 36 Days of Type, Nina Sans and Rafa Goicoechea join us to talk all things design, typography and working together as a married couple.
For this month’s GRINtroducing we have the fabulous Nina Sans and Rafa Goicoechea of Treintayseis, a Graphic Design studio based in Barcelona. Alongside running their brilliant studio, the pair also run the live online project 36 Days of Type! We got chatting to the duo…
Pictures by Xavi García for Central Magazine
1) Hi Guys, first of all congratulations on celebrating your first wedding anniversary! Could you introduce yourselves to our readers and tell us a bit about you both and how you met?
For anyone reading this interview who wants to know some bits about us, we are a couple of graphic designers with different backgrounds living and working in Barcelona. We both moved here 13 years ago from our home cities (Nina from Reus, Rafa from Madrid) and we came to meet each other around 9 years ago thanks to Nina’s cousin – also a graphic designer – who was by that time Rafa’s flatmate, so it’s been almost always about family matters! It has been quite a long time that we’ve started to work, grow and plan things together. After all that time, last year we decided to make it official by getting married. We decided to organise a music festival with all our friends and family. That was, and will continue to be one of the most unforgettable moments of our lives.
2) You run the fabulous design studio ‘Treintayseis’ in Barcelona (which translates to 36), tell us a bit about your studio and the sort of clients you work with.
Our studio is probably our latest personal project together, besides the annual 36 Days of Type, and of course our wedding! As a design team we started working with our single names following our careers as Rafa Goicoechea and Nina Sans, but making a studio and putting a name to the work we did together was an idea we had almost since the beginning. We struggled to find the proper name for a long time, and it didn’t come out until we realised that 36 Days of Type was by far the most recognisable and personal project we had. One in which we’ve put a lot of time and effort into, that somehow defines us most. We finally decided to name the studio after that, making also possible to have together in the same organisation both our work behind 36DOT and our ‘studio’ projects.
As a studio working on design projects, we focus mainly in graphic design for brands and communication design, from digital campaigns to visual identities or printed matter. We have somewhat specialised in clients from the music industry, art and cultural scenes, and those are maybe the clients we like the most, but we also work on more commercial stuff and we try to offer a wide range of solutions for any kind of project that needs to be designed or directed.
3) How do you find working together as a married couple?
Now that’s a tough question! haha. Working as a married couple, or just as a couple can be sometimes the most hard or the most rewarding thing to do. It can be difficult to separate life and work, or to make important decisions and get to agree on everything. This is nothing new or secret we guess! But you also get constant help and support from one to the other, and besides all, happiness is doubled when you get to achieve something together!
4) We are seeing so much amazing work coming from the Barcelona design scene, what is the competition like over there and what do you guys think of the design scene over here in the UK?
Being a graphic designer in Barcelona can be great, since the scene offers a lot of opportunities, but also the competition is much harder with new studios and designers getting into the game all the time. Many times it is all about knowing the right person and moving yourself in the right directions, but we also think that giving yourself time for experimentation and personal projects is key to find a place and a voice in such a busy environment. We can guess the UK design scene must also be very challenging and the competition even harder, but although we are not familiar with it, we believe that the design culture and the perceived value of design goes one step further in the UK, at least if we compare both countries and not only London and Barcelona as the hot spots. Maybe that can make things easier in terms of making a career successful and dealing with clients. Anyway, this is only our perception, we’d love to know more about this comparison from the other side.
5) If you could give any advice to someone starting out in Graphic Design what would it be?
We don’t think we are the best suited for giving advice for starters, since we still see ourselves as a young studio in many ways despite our experience working as graphic designers. If we would have to give some advice, maybe we have already answered this question just before, when we talked about giving time to yourself for personal projects and finding your right voice as a designer. This is key for a start and for making a life around graphic design. Also, never expect that things will work out easy. Work hard, have fun and love what you do as much as you can!
6) How did 36 Days first begin and how do you feel about how successful it’s now become?
That’s a long question and also one we’ve answered too many times, so we will just say it all came from personal design challenges we started separately, as a way to make new stuff and experiment a bit outside our comfort zones and our daily routines. One of those projects was just the same idea of making a letter each day, up until completing the alphabet with numbers from 0 to 9 that took just 36 days to be completed, and that was the very start of everything. We had some nice feedback on it and we felt it would be nice to have more people involved making the same exercise, so we turned that personal challenge and personal project into a collective exercise, and it seems like it worked quite well! We didn’t expect it to become anything successful at all, but we are very happy to have created such a large community that works as a creative playground around typography and single letter design, that also helps creatives all around the globe to get noticed. It’s our biggest achievement and we are very proud of it and we feel blessed to have the opportunity to encourage so many people to make stuff done.
“Never expect that things will work out easy. Work hard, have fun and love what you do as much as you can!”
7) We love seeing the amazing guest designers you collaborate with for each day of the series. How do you go about choosing these people and is there a process you have in working with them?
We love to hear this question because we think that our guest designers programme is one of the core parts of the project. It gives us the opportunity to collaborate with designers we admire and also to give a chance to emerging talents to show themselves. It also makes every edition different and exciting for us and despite the difficulties of having 36 guest artists working for each edition it’s very rewarding. In order to choose the right people, the process has no exact rules, but we try to put together different ways of making things and different disciplines, some directly related to the typography craft and others that don’t, so the outcome is the most diverse and interesting as possible. We also try to always have artists that we’ve discovered in previous editions of the project and some that we think will produce something remarkable around the subject and the chosen letter or number, so the final selection tries to be balanced between well-known artists and emerging ones so everything makes sense and has something to do with the project itself, it’s diversity and the original idea behind it.
8) You must receive thousands of daily submissions each year for the 36 Days project, how do you go about choosing your feature posts and is there anything in particular you look for?
We also get this question many times from followers and people taking part on each edition, and we try to always give the same honest answer to the process we use to choose from the many daily submissions. We will extend a bit on this one too as we think it’s important to be clear on this process.
It all begins by browsing through all the content, that means all of it, so that’s the hardest part! Within this process we start by saving submissions on separate folders for each day and letter/number to get some kind of shortlist of the most interesting, original and excellent in terms of craft, skill and techniques used. With the new Instagram limits, we can only post around 20-30 a day to be sure we don’t have problems with the account, that’s less than 1% of the daily submissions we get so it’s a great effort to make each day for 36 consecutive days, our eyes hurt! haha. That’s why we are super grateful when someone notices and appreciates the work there is behind, instead of insistently asking to be featured. We get a lot of that too and it’s sometimes frustrating, especially because we think that the most important thing is to join the movement, make good stuff, appreciate other people’s work, get better and spread some love to each other. There’s so much good energy in there to just waste your time in whining about not getting featured, because again, that’s not the goal of the project itself.
At the end, we always try our best to give a chance to as many people as we can and make everybody happy, trying to showcase as many different styles and approaches to designing an alphabet. Of course our personal tastes and backgrounds have a very important role, but diversity, quality and a rich selection always goes first.
Pictures by Xavi García for Central Magazine
“…join the movement, make good stuff, appreciate other people’s work, get better and spread some love to each other.”
9) Aside from 36 Days of Type, what project would you say has been your favourite/most proud to work on?
Aside from 36 Days of Type, we would say that our own studio project is the one we feel most proud of, since it is also a life project that encompasses a large part of what we do every day. If we had to choose a single project, maybe the one we did for Nitsa Club, specially since we won a pitch between different studios to design the whole new identity and communication system with our proposal, and also because it involved many different deliverables, from street posters to cool animations for social media. It was a total blast to be collaborating with them for more than six months and it took a lot of time and hard work. Sadly the project got interrupted by the new normality and the COVD-19 situation, with all venues closed and a very difficult situation for so many artists and workers. We hope this situation gets better as soon as possible for the sake of us all. Anyway, we feel proud of every project we’ve done since we opened the studio, especially those related to musical and cultural projects. We also have a couple of projects that have yet to come to light that we are looking forward to sharing soon!
10) Plan B – If you weren’t working in Graphic Design, what jobs could you both see yourself working in?
That’s a good one to think about! It is hard for us to see ourselves doing something different right now, but if we weren’t working in graphic design, we would probably open a local business like a vermouth store, or paint pictures in some remote part of the world or simply set up a home garden and try to live self-sufficiently.