Maximo Recio, art director at Another Space, informs his work with everything from “high-brow books to crappy TV shows”
Being a key part of the creative team at Another Space comes with its own unique set of challenges, all of which Maximo Recio has been central in developing solutions for – be that splitting shadows or designing digital football goals for 100mph impacts. With an early interest in science, his current role is the perfect union of art and physics. Working on AV installations for the likes of Dazed and Nike, you’re just as likely to find Maximo sitting behind a screen as getting his hands dirty in the workshop, with the laser cutter as his weapon of choice for prototypes and experiments.
Art Director at Another Space (2016–present)
Co-founder and Creative Director, Pelonio London (2010–2014)
Freelance Designer and Art Director (2008–2010)
Graphic and Interaction Designer at AllofUs (2005–2008)
Magazine Art Director, Indoor Media, Madrid (2002-2004)
Junior Art Director, Delvico Bates, Madrid (2000-2002)
MA in Information Experience Design, Royal College of Art (2014–2016)
BA Interaction and Moving Image, LCC (2007–2009)
Escuela de Arte Numero Diez, Degree Level, Advertising and Graphic Design Studies (1998–2001)
How would you describe your job?
My role is to drive the creative output of each project from concept to delivery. Firstly, I work very closely with Alexandros, our creative director, trying to find the right concept and design solution, which also involves other members of the team both in thinking and hands-on experimentation. Once an idea is signed off, each project takes a very different route, and teams vary depending on the skill set required.
What does a typical working day look like?
Usually I arrive around 9.30am and stay until 6pm but obviously that depends on what we have going on. I get the train in from Clapton and the journey takes about 40 minutes. When I get to the studio I go straight to the coffee machine. My ideal day is when I feel absolutely satisfied with what I’ve done. On a typical day it’s more of a process where you’re grappling with a brief.
How did you land your current job?
Matt Clark (co-founder and executive creative director of Another Space) was my tutor at the RCA and oversaw my final project. Maybe I got the role because I took a strong narrative approach to my work. If it stood out then maybe it’s because others were more tech-heavy. I was all about the concept and communication of an idea and the impact of technology rather than technology itself.
“It’s a risk working too much on a computer, in the virtual, when you’re making something for a real, physical space.”
Where does the majority of your work take place?
I do a lot of thinking on the train; I like noise around me. I work in the design space at my desk and in the workshop – having access to the workshop means we can experiment all the time. Depending on what stage a project is at we’re usually playing with materials, testing things in there. Trying to nail everything in front of the screen is impossible.
The studio’s great as it’s open plan but with different areas and environments that allow you to think in different ways. I also really enjoy being on-site; it’s so rewarding when you’re seeing the work in situ and you have the chance to do some fine-tuning. It’s a risk working too much on a computer, in the virtual, when you’re making something for a real, physical space.
How collaborative is your role?
We collaborate with our clients, other agencies, suppliers… The scale of our projects means that you’re always working as one part of a much wider team. I mainly work on the conceptual and design side but each project will need different skill sets so we work with external collaborators. In order to collaborate well you need to be sympathetic to and have an understanding of others’ skills. You need to be be able to articulate all the key parts of the execution so you can explain to an external freelance specialist what we need.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The most enjoyable aspects are research and experimentation, being involved in something new and discovering new things and using those things as the basis for an idea. The least enjoyable aspect is dealing with emails. There are so many emails in the world. If we had to pay £5 every time we sent one I bet we’d think twice!
“I was a slightly shit graffiti artist for a while, and what I do now resonates with that – looking at a space or a canvas that’s bigger than you and scouting around for a place to make work.”
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
I joined the team about a year ago so there are only a number of projects I have worked on. But the project we recently did for the Dazed 100 party was lovely as it was great to see people very actively engaging with the installation. It was playful and fun.
What skills are essential to your job?
To be able to identify or interpret the key things in a brief that you can turn into really original, interesting ideas. You also need to be able to visualise and communicate abstract concepts very clearly. From there, every person profile is different I suppose.
What tools do you use most for your work?
It depends on the phase you are in. The first steps involve a lot writing and pencil drawing, then you move on to digital design tools, such as 3D softwares. From that point, each project is different. We make great use of the laser cutter – it’s really good for making prototypes and modelling something very quickly. And of course we use projectors. Light itself from all different kinds of sources is one of the tools of my job.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I was always drawing and wanted to be an illustrator or maybe an archaeologist
What influence has your upbringing had on your work?
I don't think I ever drew amazingly well, but I did put a lot of imagination in what I did when I was a kid. I think my family always saw me as a potential artist or illustrator, and they have always motivated me to take an artistic path. However I don't remember having much information about what kind of art studies could I take. I even remember my grandma coming once with a form for me to join in the army. But that was just her idea!
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
At high school in Spain I wasn’t really aware that you could do art studies. I just didn’t really have much information on the possibilities. Initially I took the science path but once I discovered art studies was a thing I switched. Having said that, I’m still very interested in the sciences and what I do now sort of combines art with physics.
What were your first jobs?
I started working before finishing my degree and started an internship at DG in 1999. It was a graphic design company that was making the transition from print to digital, websites and so on. It was bought by Delvico Bates, which is now JWT. As an intern you got to work across all kinds of design projects and we had a lot of clients in the film industry, so we did promotional posters and made digital platforms to promote the films. This was in the days of Flash 3 or 4 when we designers would get carried away with making things animate, and creating websites that were a nightmare for actual users! Anyway, I joined as an intern but was then offered a job and stayed there for three years.
Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
Pepe Chamorro, who was the owner of DG (mentioned above). He’s now quite an important figure on the digital scene in Spain (CEO of Tribal Worldwide) and he helped me a lot. He saw what I was doing in art studies and offered me the internship
“Having access to the workshop means we can experiment all the time. Trying to nail everything in front of the screen is impossible.”
Was there an early project you worked on that helped your development?
The project I worked on at Harefield Hospital while at AllofUs. It explored how design, art and sound can have a positive impact by helping reduce patient anxiety before major surgery. It was part of an ongoing art therapy initiative led by the Royal Brompton Hospital. Making something that would benefit patients was amazing. It was one of the first installations that I was actively involved with and I realised then that I could translate my graphic design and visual skills to something more environmental, experiential and physical. This was probably the moment when I felt that installation and environmental design were within my reach. It felt like a different realm but also one in which disciplines and fields overlapped in an exciting way.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
I’ve learned to think more in terms of 3D space and at a large scale. I was a slightly shit graffiti artist for a while, and what I do now resonates with that – looking at a space or a canvas that’s bigger than you and scouting around for a place to make work.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
I think I have wasted a lot of time and effort on projects that didn't deserve it at all, which can be pretty frustrating and demoralising. On the other hand, other projects deserve all the effort you can put in. I suppose it takes time to realise where to invest your energy in order to make the most of it.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
It’s absolutely what I expected. I joined Another Space because I love how their work ranges from projects for commercial brands to performing artists or cultural institutions.
What would you like to do next?
To do even more projects and experiment with more techniques. I’m really enjoying working with light and colour at the moment.
Could you do this job forever?
Fortunately, in this industry jobs evolve and rarely remain the same. Now, for instance, it looks like I might be more involved in film-related projects, which I think it is a great opportunity. So yes, I could be doing this, in the broader sense, for many years, but I also believe in change so I don't rule anything out.
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
From art director to creative director to executive creative director or chief creative officer, depends on where you are. You can develop a certain reputation that means clients are attracted to you. If an art director has a particular profile they can create opportunities proactively. There’s also teaching, lecturing or developing a very specific path of research.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become an art director?
Be engaged and interested in lots of different disciplines; photography, illustration, video and so on. Being an art director is about articulating lots of different creative media. But mainly, you have to do lots of research as part of your everyday life, whether that’s reading high-brow books or watching the crappiest TV shows. It can all influence you and inform ideas. Also, write things down; ideas, loose concepts, anything that grabs your attention.
Interview by Laura Snoad
Photography by Sophie Stafford
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Mention Maximo Recio