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Browse Current IssueArt & Design Heart.Wrk is the Designer Every Auto Enthusiast Needs to Follow

Fernando Pino is a prolific creator who calls New England home. His work shows incredible range, experimentation, and a finely tuned sense of color, texture, and shape. There are echoes of everything from vintage car ads, collage art, mid-century print design, all the way to the fine art explorations of Mark Rothko. Take all those sensibilities and mix them with an incredible discipline and you get Heart.wrk — a Petri dish of creative discovery. Fernando has worked with global brands like Acura, Saucony, Apple, and more, but his passion lies in the exploration of the serendipitous alchemy that occurs when the only goal is curiosity — where the work is its own reward.

IA: Can you tell me about Heart.wrk?

FP: My Instagram was born out of the love of album covers and a place I could do all the things I couldn’t do working in advertising. I’d just left my job as an art director at an ad agency and felt at a low point in life. All I wanted to do at the time was work on graphic design for music-related projects. I didn’t have a lot of projects I could show in my book, so I decided to make an album cover every day for a year. A lot of people have taken on this one-a-day for a year project thing, but I really credit that project as the one where I learned the most about graphic design.

IA: Who inspires you and why?

FP: I’d say Karel Martens, David Carson, and Aaron Draplin. Karel Martens is probably my biggest influence. He’s a designer out of Amsterdam. He’s 82 years old and still makes unbelievable things with color and texture. David Carson has driven the rebellious side of some of the stuff I do. I started creating things that fought against traditional design and found that it wasn’t just rebellious, it was a new way of communicating. That’s what David really mastered. Aaron Draplin is probably the most known in the group and while I don’t feel like I reference him design-wise, I love his approach to design. He talks about his work as a trade, as if the work he makes is a tool in a workshop. I relate to that thinking and it helps me stay grounded when the old ego comes knocking.

IA: You have a great command of color and shape that pushes your work beyond “collage.” Can you tell me about where that comes from?

FP: A lot of that came from Karel Martens! A couple of years ago, I picked up his book, Printed Matter, and was floored by how he used color — mixing it unexpectedly — and the texture that came through. He created that book physically, hence the name, and that was something I didn’t have the space or tools to do, so I started creating things in Photoshop that resembled that texture or color. This was all in the year I made something every day.

Discipline is a factor you can control. The way you grow up and the things introduced to you as a kid are factors you can’t.

IA: Automobiles are a recurring thematic element in your work. Where does this come from?

FP: I’ve always loved cars and my dad was the guy who had three more cars in the driveway than he needed, so I grew up with them around. Oh, and Gran Turismo. I played a lot of Gran Turismo. It was only recently that I started using cars in my work. I’ve been into cars my whole life but never as much as in the past couple of years. My first car was a Mercedes 190E and I wanted to have that car back again. I couldn’t quite afford it, so I started designing with it as a way to cope. That led to other cars I wish I had and eventually to cars I thought would be fun to design with.

IA: You’re clearly a music-lover. What’s in heavy rotation at the moment? Is there something specific you find yourself listening to when you work?

FP: My music taste changes all the time, but I’m currently listening to Dijon, Vince Staples, and Frat Mouse. That sounds so perfectly genre diverse but to be real, my favorite band has been Third Eye Blind since I was 14 years old. I haven’t stopped listening. Yeah…Third Eye Blind.

IA: Album art occupies a strange place in the age of digital music. Is it becoming a lost art or is it an opportunity for designers/artists/musicians to think more holistically about the visual aspects of music?

FP: Yeah, it’s odd. I found out very quickly when working with some record labels and artists that the industry is a weird place of art and commerce. Album art sort of gets kicked to the curb although it’s one of the first things you see. I was lucky enough to work with a friend and super good musician, Nate Kerbin, on album covers for his music that let me explore some weird/fun approaches to album covers. Overall though, I feel like art and music are inseparable and maybe they’re just going through a rough patch in their relationship.

IA: It seems as though Heart.wrk began as a “spec work” project but has since evolved to take on a life of its own. Do you consider it art, design, illustration, or an alternate reality altogether? How do you think about it?

FP: I really only think of it as a lab or a studio for me to try stuff. I try to keep it that way so it doesn’t take on “a life of its own.”

IA: What do you do to get yourself unstuck when you’re feeling creatively blocked? Do you have any useful tactics to get the juices flowing?

FP: I rarely feel stuck, I guess. I know that sounds pretentious, but it’s more like having the energy or time for me. The things I make for Heart.wrk is like my “break” from client work. It sounds cheesy, but I love graphic design, so I don’t ever feel blocked by it. Whenever I start something, I expect there to be some process of finding or experimentation. Sure, some days that process is really hard, but I always like doing it.

IA: Are you a morning person or a night owl? When do you do your best creative thinking?

FP: I feel like designers or creatives have a reputation for staying up late and working until 3 a.m., and that’s the time we create great work. Not me. I fucking love sleep. If I don’t sleep, I don’t make good shit. My prime time is 8-11 a.m.

IA: You’re a prolific creative. Have you always been a high-output producer, or did you have to work to build that discipline? Any productivity tips?

FP: Thank you for the kind words. I actually think about this idea of “being born with it” or “maybe it’s Maybelline” theory all the time. There are so many factors that it’s hard to nail down. If you saw some of my first pieces of graphic design you’d say, “It’s time to find another career, kid.” Discipline is a factor you can control. The way you grow up and the things introduced to you as a kid are factors you can’t. My parents weren’t designers, but they were both makers in their own ways. They were immigrants from Paraguay who needed to problem-solve their way through a country that was completely different from theirs — with three kids. Every step was a creative solve for them. I take a lot of inspiration from that in my freelance career.

All that is to say, I’ve had to work on my craft to understand how to make and get a better understanding of good design, but I’m lucky my parents had that same spirit.

IA: What does the future look like for Heart.wrk and Fernando Pino?

FP: I’m not completely sure! I like most of what I do right now. More car work is always welcome. A lot of people have asked to buy my posters, which is amazing. I may create a shop to sell a few, but again, I fight with myself on making sure Heart.wrk is a place to experiment, not necessarily to sell stuff. Then the other side of my brain kicks in and says, “Get the fuck over yourself and make a buck doing something you love.” So we’ll see.

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