Victor Davila is a freelance designer and illustrator from the central Florida area, as well as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida. He’s worked on everything from character designs for film and animation, to editorial illustrations, interactive games, and children’s books. Victor is a member of the central Florida illustrator collective and Giant Illustrators. He’s also on the board of AIGA Orlando and on the Creative Mornings Orlando team. Some of his clients include Scholastic Book Fairs, The Orlando Sentinel, General Mills, Coors, and Dreamworks. You can find more of his work at victordavila.com

RF – Can you describe your path to becoming a designer / illustrator?

VD – It’s been a life long kinda thing actually. I’ve been drawing since I was in kindergarden. It’s something I’ve always done and I knew at some point I’d be an artist of some sort. Initially I wanted to be a comic book illustrator, then I wanted to be some sort of Disney animator or something along those lines, but illustration has always been in ‘the plan’. The graphic designer part wasn’t anything I consciously intended to do, at least initially. To tell you the truth, my grades weren’t good enough to get into the film program, and back in the day the animation track was part of the film program at UCF. And because I screwed around in my early years, my overall grades weren’t good enough, and I quickly tried to come up with a plan B and that was graphic design. It worked out beautifully because two teachers, David Haxton and Chuck Abraham had just started teaching and Chuck actually became My mentor, and still is to this day. David was really pushing 3d animation (back then we were running old versions of maya), so I was able to actually take animation courses even though I was a graphic design major. But I really fell in love with typography and problem solving in graphic design, which is something that I always gravitated towards, even in my comics. It was happening at a sub-conscious level but it wasn’t something I had thought about doing until I started to get my hands into it. I realized I could have my cake and eat it too. So it all kind of worked out. That was kind of a long winded answer huh?

Inspiration

RF – Not at all! That’s awesome. Would you say you made a conscious decision to move away from animation when you found this love of illustration and design?

VD – When I finally worked in animation (which was only for a short time), I got to work on something for the Moser Brothers. I worked on a pilot that never aired (at least my version didn’t), but I realized I didn’t enjoy drawing the same thing over and over like animation requires you to. It just became tedious drawing of movement. There are people who are naturals at this, and I had a lot of good friends who were naturals but I never could really enjoy drawing the same thing over and over again. I realized what I preferred to do was use my illustration and design skills to present an idea. Whether is was a story in a comic strip, or illustrating a book cover, or something like that. I just liked promoting an idea with my work.

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RF – What do you enjoy most about design?

VD – One of my favorite things about design, or just creating in general, is the process. I love the process of creating. Even if I haven’t figured out the solution just yet, one of my favorite things is trying to figure out that solution—creating the sketches, fine tuning the idea, creating the logos, making the layouts, binding the books, seeing things printed. The whole process of getting something made, of creating, never gets old and is always amazing.

RF – What’s something you wish you knew before becoming a design professional?

VD – I think one thing that most designer’s graduate wishing they knew more about is the business side. I don’t think we realize how unprepared we are until we actually have to go face to face with a client, or have to do taxes for the first time, or how have to write a contract, or even how to quote a client. Those are things I wish I knew more of before becoming a designer, or at least a freelance designer. Also, If I could go back and talk to my student self, I’d also tell myself to have more confidence in my work. I think some people have it earlier than others. When you’re in school with your classmates, I think that you have all of these questions and you think they (your classmates) may have the answers to them, like they know something you don’t. But you realize that they are also looking to you for answers, your two cents, or your point of view. So you have to have confidence to give your point of view, especially if it’s someone going to hire you.

RF – How do you keep ideas fresh or how do you find inspiration?

VD – I think like a lot of people I try to keep up to date with trends, blogs, and just visit major design sites such under consideration to see what other people are doing. That can be dangerous though because you see a lot of great work and some people get discouraged by this and think they can’t compete. At the  same time, by doing that, you can sometimes be over influenced by what other people do and I want to make sure that the voice in my artwork is mine. Another key way I keep myself fresh and inspired is by surrounding myself with people I admire and who are doing good work. These are also the people who give me honest feedback on the work I am doing. I look at their work as well and do the same. Guys like Brian Boesch or Clark Orr who are great illustrators and designers (as much as it pains me to say) and I pass my work by them just to get honest feedback. By immersing myself in this community of great people it’s really inspiring, but also it’s a bit of a competition. Healthy competition, of course helps you step up your game. Kinda get’s the fire going.

RF – What’s a pet-peeve you have with design?

VD – A lack of attention to detail. It can be forgetting an apostrophe or forgetting to kern. I think when I see a mistake that’s what I tend to focus on. It takes away from work that has the potential to be good.

RF – Are you satisfied creatively?

VD – Someone asked me that recently and I put it like this: When you’re hungry and you eat, you’ve satisfied that hunger and that means you no longer need to eat. So to that point, I’m not full yet. I feel once you get satisfied with something, you’re done. You stop eating. I’m happy to keep creating and I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied. There’s designers and illustrators still putting out work like Milton Glasier. I still have an appetite.

RF – Do you have any goals you wish to accomplish in the next 5 – 10 years?

VD – Something my wife and I have always discussed is starting a line of products with my illustrations on them. So I think I’d like to have that launched in the next five years. Like a self sustaining business that can help fuel my work. I also really enjoy illustrating characters and I have lots of ideas in my head that are character based, so I’d like to have a couple books out within the next 5 to 10 years. If everything works out, i’ll have my first book out soon.

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RF – What’s something you think every designer should know?

VD – There was an artist from the 70s named Ralph Bakshi, who created one of the first x-rated cartoons and animated movies, and in a talk a few years ago he said that when he was doing these films, they had to find money, find film, find people to expose the film, and they really put themselves out there but they did it. And now, with all this technology at our fingertips, there’s NO excuse not to put yourself out there if you really have the passion for it. As artists and designers we have this tendency to be introverted and maybe too tough on ourselves, but I think  we need to realize that there are things out there to help put our ideas and our work out for everyone to see. If you’re serious about this, then you have to make it a point to get your work in front of people. Whatever way that is. On walls or on the web. Otherwise, you’ll only be working for yourself and the only person who will be able to enjoy your work is you.

RF – What kind of music do you listen to when designing?

VD – Honestly I listen to pandora a lot. For the most part I listen to a lot of soundtracks for movie, like John Williams who did the music for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. They’re not too distracting and they pump me up to draw. There’s nothing quite like drawing and suddenly the Star Wars theme comes on.  A lot of Beatles for me as well. Especially the later Beatles. I think the reason why is it makes me feel a bit melancholy? Like, I know what’s going to happen to them and the fact that they didn’t really do anything after Abbey Road kind of bums me out. It makes me feel like I want to pick up where they left off. It’s kind of a funny in a way.

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5 comments

  1. Andy BaumbachReply

    An inspiring interview with an incredible learning facilitator. A lot of us owe a debt of gratitude to you, Victor. Your encouragement, passion and wisdom will be long-standing in the hearts and drawing hands of many young designers. Cheers to you and Ron for a great read!

  2. Victor DavilaReply

    Wow, thanks, Andy! That’s really kind of you to say. My job is made so much easier when I have talented and dedicated students that love to create and make great work like you, Ron, and so many in your class!

    Ron, thanks for including me as the first of your interviews. It was fun to do and I look forward to reading more!

  3. Cine Louise CrispReply

    Ron and Mr. Davila

    Wonderful interview and a great read. I have absolutely no experience with the graphic design field (I had to look up what a “kern” meant) and this interview kept me engaged and whetted my appetite for more! This article is a great introduction to graphic design to us lay people.

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