From London to Lisbon: How a Local Designer Found his Way Back Home

Jul 23, 2018

Recently Jayme sat down with Pedro Bento Novo who is the founder of Panorama, a local graphic design studio.

From London to Lisbon: How a Local Designer Found his Way Back Home
Pedro Bento Novo at Panorama's studio

Jayme Gerring: What does Panorama do?

Pedro Bento Novo: The best way to describe Panorama is that we are a small practice in the design business. We also do digital communication. Our main scope of work is editorial design; we are quite good at editorial design. We also do branding and brand development. Right now we are on the verge of converting ourselves to digital platforms. However, our main work comes from print, although we’ve recently discovered that this is the moment that we should translate our knowledge of the print world to the digital world. The software that’s available now is very freeing. It allows us do to a lot more than we could have ten, even five years ago. There are many more creative freedoms with typography, for example, that didn’t exist back then. This is welcome news to someone who is used to working with print based media, such as books, catalogues, and posters and stuff like that.

JG: I have to admit that one of the reasons I was so anxious to talk to Panorama was the beauty of your website and business cards. There is such an elegance to them.

PBN: Yes, yes, this is also something that defines us a little bit. We like to provide tailored services to the client. Meaning that we are involved with the client and their project every step of the way. We are not a normal business, we like to do special things for special clients—this means fostering a special partnership with the clients. This partnership translates into beautiful invitations and business cards…basically it translates into beautiful pieces. We like to create tailored design and not, what I would call, ‘mass media’ design. However, we are a business and this is not to say that we don’t do commercial work because we must also take on those kind of projects.

JG: I know you lived in London for 6 years and relatively recently returned to Lisbon, was Panorama founded in London?

PBN: So my work experience starts off in Lisbon. I studied graphic design here, after which I worked for several companies—from big agencies to small niche studios. From that point on, I felt the need to learn a little bit more and I moved to London to begin my master's degree at the University for the Creative Arts. After I finished that I started working in London. I spent 6 years there, working for a medium-sized studio called Portland Design. While I was there I worked on a variety of projects, from large developments in Dubai to design for small shops in the London area. After Portland Design I worked as a freelancer, working on projects such as off-air design for SkyTV and the Fitch Agency. After freelancing in London I returned to Lisbon and worked for another big agency here—after they went under I went on to found Panorama in Lisbon.

JG: I know you have a business partner, Inês Rolo, how did you two meet?

PBN: Yes, we worked in a small agency, basically in between my arrival in Lisbon and my time working for the big agency. We both worked there together for about a year, before the financial crisis forced it to close as well. We found ourselves with two options after we were both unemployed due to the crisis: find another job or create our own company. This is how Panorama was born. I think both our talents mesh together well. With both come from two different backgrounds. I always had worked for big companies while Inês’ experience comes from working in niche studios. This means that Inês has a knack for developing close client relationships and special design products. This allows us to have expertise in both areas and really understand what a client is about. Two of our main points are having a close relationship with the client but also understand the business model of the client. It’s also important to know that design decisions come from this model.

JG: Why did you decide to move from London to Lisbon?

PBN: For me it was more of a personal decision. London isn’t good for living. You have friends that live on completely opposite sides of the city as you. These places become bubbles, meaning you never leave your own bubble. If you are not living next to your friend’s bubble it means never seeing your friends for months on end because London is so hard to navigate. From the perspective of the Portuguese reality it’s bizarre, we’re not used to that… It’s a little bit weird. Especially if you consider that one morning a bombing could happen and then in the afternoon you’re having tea with your friends. I think this has to do with what I call the ´neutral’ mentality of Londoners. They’re not cold, however, there is a lot of distance between people. You don’t create bonds with people in London, and my explanation for that is that any person you meet might not be there tomorrow. Either because people are always coming and going from London or because they decide to move back to their home countries. I’ve lost contact with loads of friends that I made during my six years in London. So this attitude really defines whether or not you can make it in London.

JG: Do you think that Lisbon has some advantages over London?

PBN: Lisbon has some advantages over London, and that has to do with the proximity of stuff. There is also a sense of informality between things and people…the easiness of talking to certain people compared to London. In London people are more distant, that being said, there is another sort of distance between people here in Lisbon. If you are in a big company in London, you can easily talk to a CEO and they will easily speak back to you. They respected me as a professional and cared about what I had to say. In Lisbon, there is some sort of hierarchy—and this is a little strange. If you want to have a good life, filled with the beach, spending time with friends, good food at great prices, and generally not feeling so compact—these are the things that are easy in Lisbon. The advantages would be space, there is a lot of good talent here in Lisbon, we have good professionals. I think I was also a little weirded out with the drinking culture in London, we do things a little more smoothly here in Portugal. I think Portuguese people aren’t very organized but we like good organization…we aspire to be more organized. One explanation for that is our love of bureaucracy.

JG: How do you find talent in Lisbon? Do you recruit talent from outside of Portugal?

PBN: No, no I always recruit talent here in Lisbon. Normally it’s through word of mouth and someone will send their portfolio.

JG: And the company now has more personnel? Other than just you and Inês?

PBN: At the beginning we were three, and then one of our partners dropped out. We never wanted to grow larger than two people that work full time. When we need more people we exclusively work with freelancers that help us out with certain editorial projects, sometimes web projects.

JG: And to finish, what’s the biggest project you’ve worked on so far? What are you the most proud of?

PBN: Good question. I have to say the catalogues we have been developing for Jorge Welsh. We got to produce a catalog for an exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (In New York City). Basically Jorge Welsh is an art dealer and he has exhibitions every year. He specializes in Chinese export porcelain. What differentiates him from our other clients is that Jorge Welsh does academic research, meaning that the pieces that he gathers for the collection contain a lot of background information. He is certainly one of the best in his field, if not the best. The catalogue for the Met came out of a collection from Renato Albuquerque where his collection of porcelain was part of an exhibition there.

JG: Alright! Thank you so much Pedro for sitting down with Made of Lisboa. For more info about Panorama you can visit their website here.