Master Series: João Machado


João Machado — Portuguese Design Master

When João Machado was 13, he filled all of the white space in his school exercise books with comic strips, caricatures of teachers and anything else that popped into his mind. His drawings were a harbinger of his life’s work.

Machado was born in Coimbra, Portugal and has spent most of his life in the country. Portugal changed drastically after its 1974 revolution, which allowed him to connect with other designers and travel abroad more frequently.

Machado, 72, studied sculpture at the Oporto School of Fine Arts. In 1975, he started teaching at the school and he lectured on the graphic arts for six years. However, the politics of the academic world sullied his teaching experience, which he said was not gratifying.

“I can say I gave up that career to dedicate myself, mind and soul to graphic design,” he said.

Machado’s first foray into graphic design was working with children’s book illustrations.

“Graphic design gradually appeared in my path, not suddenly,” he said. “There was a time when I made the option to dedicate myself to it, studying, observing and creating my own language.”


In 1982, Machado opened his own studio in Porto. He is known for his use of color, a consistent characteristic in his posters, and chromatism, a tool which provides his posters with texture, volume and density. Those techniques, along with utilizing identifiable elements of the subject, allow for a concise reading of a poster’s message, Machado said.

Among his greatest awards, winning the Icograda Excellence Award in 1999 for his work at ZGRAF 8, an international exhibition of graphic design and visual communications, stands out, he said. He also received the First National Design Prize in 1985 in Portugal.

Machado offered advice to students aspiring to work in graphic design by quoting Portuguese physician and medical professor Abel Salazar, who also designed posters and painted:

“medico que só sabe Medicinia, nem Medicina sabe…”

This translates to: “a doctor who only knows medicine, doesn’t even know medicine.”

For Machado, connecting with others is vital for professional growth. “We live in an interaction society and only when well integrated can we make and create our path,” he told Graphis.

To view João Machado’s website, click here.

Machado was one of six Graphis Masters featured in the Design Annual 2015. The other Masters were Alan Fletcher, Takenobu Igarashi, Werner Jeker, Gunter Rambow and Massimo Vignelli.
To pre-order a copy of the Design Annual 2015, click here.

The Graphis Design Competition features the most compelling and influential design of the year. To submit your work to the Design Annual 2016 competition, click here.

Author: Matt Castello

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