João, design manager
João Mota was born thirty years ago in sunny Portugal and works as a graphic designer. He is currently the Design Manager at Phaidon Press and with some friends he runs a small independent music label called Jeff.
"You are always a foreigner in a way, a stranger to something new"
What is your story as a Foreigner?
I arrived in London 4 years ago, but I kind of fell in love with the city a long time ago. One of the reasons was music. There were a lot of good gigs happening in London, and I travelled quite often to see those gigs that weren’t touring to Portugal. After a few times coming around, one of my best friends told me “why don’t you move?” and that was one of the first times that I thought I could actually enjoy the city. After I moved, I had to prove myself that I could do it properly. I was lucky enough to be freelancing after only two weeks. And music is still part of the story: a good friend also challenged me to start a project with him and some other friends. We all had different backgrounds – and full-time jobs–, but the idea to do something as a collective was stronger than all other excuses... We started as a promoter working with both local and international acts, from a variety of music genres, always with the goal of collaborating with the bands and not just to organise a gig. Since last year we've decided to start our own music label. We have released a cassette and we're preparing some more releases as per other surprises for 2017. (jeffpresents.co.uk).
What do you like about London?
It’s the most multicultural place I have ever been to in my life. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world, and London is the place where I can do it. I met people from France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, America, Canada, everywhere. We are all here in the same place, the same hub. It’s the only place I have been where I could approach people just like that.
Where is home?
Home is here. In Portugal, people sometimes approach me and speak in English, that’s the funny thing. If I go to a café in Lisbon they say “What do you want?”, and I go like “Why are you speaking in English?”, and they say, “Oh I thought you were a foreigner!”.
Do you consider yourself a foreigner?
I always struggle with the word foreigner. Some people give it a bad connotation, but I don’t. I think you are always a foreigner in a way, you are always a stranger to something new. Even in Portugal, if I move from Lisbon to Porto, I would become a foreigner in Porto. I am always a foreigner, but I enjoy that. I enjoy that it’s new, that you bring something different from another place and try to adapt, or to learn. That is the exciting thing about being a foreigner.
Which culture influences your work the most?
My Portuguese background inspire my work. Growing up in Lisbon, I was lucky to have a big visual influence. Portugal has African roots because of its colonial history and you see a lot of that in Lisbon. Musically, rhythmically, there is something that has this typically Portuguese kind of sadness which influences me a lot. Growing up with all that around you reflects in what you do. Specifically when studying graphic design: you feel the need to look around and seek for inspiration. I think that never goes away, all those influences keep up with you. As a graphic designer you do see it, in the way that my illustrations work, or the typography I choose for a project… I can see a bit of the Portuguese in my own design work and my creative director probably thinks the same! Ok, not that I’m not a world citizen who lived through the internet and has influence from everywhere, but there is something there, definitely.
Which words do you associate with the word Foreigner?
Stranger, Newcomer. With different cultural and life backgrounds - even sometimes views - that can challenge and improve current situations and lifestyles.