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“What the fuck does it even say, though?” A question you might find yourself wondering while gazing at one of Axel Xavier’s original logos and text designs. But you would be missing the point. This isn’t your grandmother’s typeface. The future is now.
Born at the turn of the millenium, Axel started “dicking around” with PhotoShop as a preteen video game nerd/wannabe YouTuber. One thing led to another, and at 20 years old he found himself pulled down an online rabbit hole of surreal futuristic imagery. Inspired by his contemporaries, trap culture, meme culture, mysticism, Y2K aesthetics, chrometype, streetwear, and abstract sculpture, the resulting artistic nausea led him to start vomiting up his own original digital content.
And after catching the attention of his first client, an Atlanta-based brand, Axel was floored to discover just how possible it is (with computer access) to make a living as a freelance creative in Argentina by tapping into foreign markets online. It’s just a question of absorbing the trends that captivate you, doing your damn thing, and putting it out there, until that one person comes along who’s picking up what your putting down, and is willing to invest in it. And where there’s one satisfied client, another is sure to follow.
Axel’s future plans include continuing to hone his craft through experimentation, collaboration, and online study. He hopes to lean further into the artistic side of graphic design, focus more on self-expression, and eventually start his own clothing brand.
Okay, tell me the story from the beginning. What lead you to become interested in all this?
It all started once when I was about eight or nine years old, I set one of my security questions, for if I ever got locked out of my Habbo account, to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And then ten years later, when I go back and try to recover the account, I discover that I had answered graphic designer. I guess it’s something that was always there. And that was what made me remember that even from that point in my life, I wanted it.
It definitely started with video games, my first console was a Sega Genesis, when I was like four or five years old. And I would play on the Sega a lot, I loved games in general. As I got older I would play PlayStation 2 games, and also a lot of computer games, like Habbo. And the relationships I had with my friends at that time, they were all gamers too. It got to the point where I decided to go to a high school where I studied programming, with other… nerds. That was like, sort of a tipping point, for me getting pulled into the world of video games.
And, well, that’s where I developed all the skills that, these days, I guess, put food on the table. Which is graphic design, and speaking English. Like, from video games, I learned all the basics of English that allowed me to later on, with all the other stuff that I consumed, in terms of English-speaking culture, stick it all together.
And, your first designs?
So I officially start designing around age twelve, when like, I started to make banners for YouTube, or profile photos for YouTube, for the videos that, well when I was twelve I wanted to be a YouTuber, and I had a channel called “La sensual vida de Axelito” (Little Axel’s sensual life).
So yeah, that’s when I started making like, thumbnails, banner photos, and then I started using PhotoShop to make my friends bald, or makes memes of the teachers… PhotoShop always started out like, with that kind of shit, making memes and making shit for YouTube.
So I started using PhotoShop, and I used it for quite a while before all of a sudden it hit me that I could make ads, or really do whatever I wanted, and when I was about fifteen, when I had to start making money, start finding ways to make money, one of them was always, being able to… like, I made all the signs and banners for the Kiosco where my girlfriend at the time worked. And then for this store that sold cellphones, shit like that, and that’s when I kind of realized, this is gonna be my job, and I started studying it… online.
I joined a lot of graphic designer groups, on Facebook, and that also made me kind of sad, because everyone was always saying like, that it was a job with no future, that you’ll starve as graphic designer, and, well, anyway, that’s a huge lie. But at the time I got pretty insecure about it, and I decided to study programming more than anything else, but I never liked programming. I don’t know, it’s like, all my friends were more rational, you know? And I was always… the one who did drugs [laughs]. So I mean it’s like, well… nah, I never really liked programming.
So yeah, I just kept, like, studying and trying shit, studying and trying shit, always trying to get jobs. I never really got a job during that time — well, shit, to this day, actually, I’ve never worked like, officially at a company as a graphic designer. It was always like, trying to get random people to pay me to do shit.
How did your current style start to take shape?
So, what happened was… when I started getting into the world of trap, that’s when the paradigm shift happened. Because in the world of trap music there’s also a whole world of trap aesthetic, obviously, visual aesthetic. And in a way, like, trap being this thing that’s super modern, and super hip, and all of a sudden there’s this whole subculture of designers on Instagram, who are super hip to it. And they’d put out shit within that same vein, and I started wanting to make trap shit for my buddies, and that’s what got me familiar with this whole tribe of designers on Instagram, who have this really pronounced style that has to do with, like… what it means to be futuristic, like… this whole tribe that kind of, is always riding the wave of the trend. And at the same time, it’s a world that is very much underground, because these are all designers who don’t tend to work for say, Nestle or McDonald’s, or super well-known shit like that. This whole world of underground designers, and that’s where I started developing the aesthetic that I have today. With the logos, the shapes, the kind of surrealist typography.
And then also it’s like, being up on, and paying attention to… what’s going on within the whole aesthetic current en general, like, what’s starting to show up, for example, in the world of music videos, and clothing brands. That whole aesthetic current of what is modern, what is “popping,” that whole…yeah, all of that.
So I started getting more and more into that world. I’m still studying, obviously, like basic theories and stuff, but I started wanting to make things like what I was seeing within this whole little world of sick-ass designers that are on the internet. Which, a lot of them, might be people who like, have been designing for 10 years, or I’ve also found people who are like 16 or 17 years old, who are in the same flash, just totally hypnotized by this aesthetic that these people are putting out, and they want to do it too, like, something inside them tells them, “I have to make something like this.”
And this whole little world starts absorbing me, and I let myself be absorbed by it, and I put a lot of myself into it, and I start creating, creating, and making things that are similar, and start to understand the aesthetic, the shapes that are used, the colors, and why, and I start to realize that we’re all repeating these artistic patterns, similar ideas, like, all the Y2K culture stuff that’s coming back in style these days, that you can see reflected in a lot of the different aesthetics that are out there hypnotizing people these days — thinking about, like, what are people being hypnotized by today? There’s always something like, a certain idea, or concept, or several, not just one, but several concepts that seem to be denser in the collective artistic consciousness… and I love to be… to stay up on all that shit that’s hypnotizing everyone, myself included. Well, not everyone, but like, a certain group of people who just happen to be hypnotized by the same shit time and time again.
And I use the word “hypnotize” because a lot of the time you don’t know why you can’t stop looking at that thing. And well, that’s what strikes my interest, these days, in the design world.
There’s an artistic aspect as well, like, being a designer is solving problems, and I like that, too, and I like constructing personalities, and creating the whole fantasy world that is a brand. It’s like… making an avatar, no? Like in Habbo. That’s why I got into doing this, because creating brands is like creating avatars, where each one has its voice, the way it dresses, how it acts, how it walks, how it thinks… and, well, that’s really entertaining for me.
I mean, that on the one hand. And on the other, this whole aesthetic current that I was talking about. Like, I feel like I’m something in between an artist and a designer.
How do you get clients online?
Make shit, and share it. That’s the key, creating content. Creating what you want to create, what you’re able to create, what you know how to create at the time, whatever it may be. Aimed towards what you hope to achieve, what you want to show. What you know that other people could want from you. The best thing that you have to offer the world. Your best skill. And whatever it is that you want to give, at the same time. Give it. Put it out there.
And be present on the social media that you can, the ones that you use, and that potential clients could be using. Be on social media, showing them your value. What you know how to do, the value of the shit that you make. And the shit that you do on there.
How did you get your first client?
Honestly, my first client appeared kind of… magically. I mean, I got them through Instagram. Up until that time I had been sending out, without success, cover letters to people via Upwork, and I was getting desperate. I had no idea how to get a client, because honestly, if you ask me now, it’s like, at the same time, I wouldn’t know what to say exactly. I would say that you run ads, or whatever, to get a client directly. No? Like, something that you know could be like, infallible in a way. Because what I’m still doing today is, I just keep uploading content, and waiting for people to talk to me. And it happens. It happens every month.
Anyway, my first client appeared after I made this logo, that like, at the same time it was a piece or art, which is like, the foundation of a logo image, for this singer called Deko, who I was listening the shit out of at that time and was really fucking into. And I was listening to his music and I was like “I’m gonna make this thing for him.”
So I did it. And I tagged him. And this person, Deko, started following me, and I went and started jumping on the bed, it was a beautiful moment. And then a few days later, well I don’t know if it was a few days, or maybe quite a few days, like a month later, this person messages me saying they want a logo. And I said sure, I’ll do it for 40 dollars. And they said “How about I give you 80 dollars and you make it real dope?”
So suddenly, I was making what at that time was $9,000 pesos, with a single logo, which is basically a whole month’s salary for someone on minimum wage here in Argentina, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that I was really able to do something so valuable, like I hadn’t even started thinking in dollars or anything like that, all I knew was that people here work a whole week, a ton of hours, doing something they don’t like, to get paid $16,000 pesos, which is what I could make with just two logos for this person.
I was… freaking out, I mean, I couldn’t get over it. So anyway, I got the first client. And then another person showed up. And I continue creating, and putting shit out, and more and more people start to appear. And everything I would make for them, I’d upload it, and try to use hashtags, and all the shit they say you should do when you upload stuff on the internet, to drive the algorithm. And I did everything I could, and yeah, my content was out there. And people started showing up.
And I feel like, also, at that time, I was having these really mystic deliriums, which I still maintain, about attracting things with your mind, this whole quantum model of sending wishes out into the quantum universe, like requests from a machine, to a server, and the server responds. And well, I was thinking along those same lines in terms of imagining my client appearing in my mind when I posted things, and then that client appearing. So, I also recommend that, because it worked for me. Being out there, believing that that client is going to appear, that you’re going to get a message from them. And keep trying, because I tried for a lot of months before it started working. And also, well, what I do know is that it is possible.