How I Got Here: Raul Aguila

From the New York Times to Esquire, Raul Aguila has cut his teeth at some of the biggest names in magazines. As he unveils one of his most exciting projects to date, a redesign of Variety to mark its 115th anniversary, the designer discusses what he’s learned along the way

If you are at all into magazines, chances are you will have come across the work of Raul Aguila. Since graduating in 2009, the Cuban-born designer’s intricate infographics and striking, type-heavy designs have caught the attention of creative directors and editors across the publishing world, earning him gigs everywhere from New York magazine to Wired.

Growing up in Havana to two engineer parents, Aguila wasn’t always destined to work in magazines. It was only after moving to the US, aged nine, that he was first exposed to design’s ability to transform the mundanity of the everyday. After a brief spell studying accounting at the University of Florida, he headed to the School of Visual Arts in New York, and the rest is history.

Aguila’s latest role is as creative director of historic showbiz title Variety, for which he just unveiled a major redesign to mark its 115th anniversary. Here, he tells CR about discovering his love of mags at art school, putting his stamp on Variety to mark a new era, and why teamwork is the secret to making a successful magazine.

Variety’s 115th anniversary issue

On discovering his creative streak I was one of those restless kids that didn’t really pay attention to maths class and drew characters in the back of my notebooks. Then we moved to South Florida in the early 90s. It was a difficult time, being an immigrant kid not speaking English, moving to a completely different country, going from a communist country to the States.

I remember the first thing that stood out to me was that in Cuba at the time, if you went to a supermarket nothing had logos, everything was in a brown bag that said ‘rice’, and everything was rationed. I remember entering an American supermarket and seeing all these logos and things like Tony the Tiger screaming at me. I was really intrigued by those graphics – you can imagine, never having seen something like that before – and all of a sudden everything seemed very bright. From that time I had an interest in comic books, design and art.