Simón Torres: Surf’s Up

LA-based ADC Member's type design is inspired by the sea

 ADC and Monotype‘s Typography & Lettering Month continues — right on into a second month. Yes, there too many type geeks and lettering nerds within the ADC community to squeeze into April, and so we have expanded this celebration of letterforms into May. Whether you’re designing brand new digital fonts for the world to use, or whether you’re creating free-flowing calligraphy to adorn a wall, you guys know that there is more to written words than just their meaning.

Our next featured ADC Member is a Venezuelan-born art director based in Los Angeles , who draws inspiration from the ocean and urban art.


Art Director/Type Lover/Surfer
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 283-6941



Where did this crazy adventure in lettering all begin?

My introduction to the world of letterforms was through graffiti. As a kid I was very attracted to urban art, so I started learning the practice of drawing letters on the wall with spray paint. This eventually led me to study graphic design at the Institute of Design of Caracas, the city where I was born and raised.

What made you realize that you wanted to make a career out of this, and what convinced you it was even possible?

After finishing school, I got a job as a designer in a small advertising agency, where I fell in love with the advertising world. I decided to continue my studies in advertising and received an international scholarship to study Advertising design at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Now I am currently working full-time as an art director at an advertising agency in Santa Monica.

How would you best describe your style in a sentence? Do you fight against having a telltale style, or do you embrace it as your brand?

I like to experiment with different styles and I always try to use the style that best communicates the concept with which I am working.

Walk us through your usual creative process.

I always start generating ideas on paper. Freehand drawing is more natural for me to bring down the ideas I have in my head, but after that I’ll try to use all kinds of digital resources to improve the work.

What is your favorite ‘practical’ typeface, one for everyday use? What is it that you love about it so much?

I think one of the most practical typefaces is Helvetica. I know it is a bit cliché but it’s truly versatile. However I think Bodoni is the most beautiful and best built typeface of all.

Everybody’s got a favorite brand of marker, a favorite kind of ink, that pencil with just the right amount of heft. What are yours, and why do you swear by them?

Today there are excellent marker brands. POSCA, Molotov and Montana are some that I like, but I always feel more comfortable designing with a classic Sharpie.

What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design? Why is that your favorite? (Ampersands don’t count!)

My favorite letter of the alphabet is the “R” because apart from being a morphologically beautiful letter, I think that by designing the “R” you can figure out the rest of the letters of the alphabet.

Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?

Serif and sans serif would not fight, they’ll make love and their children would be beautiful typefaces.

“Wait, what is that you do again?” How do you explain what you do for a living to people who aren’t in creative fields?

Basically I tell them I draw pretty things for brands.

Tell us about your favorite project to date. What set it apart from everything else?

I am currently working on the design and conceptualization of an altruistic brand that focus on the surf industry. It’s called SPIRIT OF SURFING. I love working in this project because I had the opportunity to start working on it from the very beginning, even before it had a name. Besides I love working on projects that seek to generate a positive impact.

What would be your dream project/assignment/client? What’s something you’ve never had the opportunity to do thus far, but would kill for that chance?

I think SPIRIT OF SURFING could be the project of my dreams. I would love to see it grow and have the opportunity to create wonderful things with it.

What is the most difficult thing about making a career out of what you do? How do you get around that, and what advice would give to others facing similar challenges?

The most challenging thing about what I do is the communication with the clients or account executives. They usually have a different perspective to the project, which is a good thing. I try to take their view and use it for the greater good of the project (which is much harder to do than it sounds). I think the key is to let go of the artistic ego and try to see things neutrally (which is even much more difficult to do than it sounds).

What other creative outlets do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?

Surfing is one of the things that inspires me and influences me, not only in my job but in my life in general.

“Surfing is one of the things that inspires me and influences me, not only in my job but in my life in general.”

Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world and why? Have you had any creative mentors?

I usually follow the work of Gemma O’Brien, she’s just too good. I also look at the work of David Carson, I really like his approach.

When all is said and done, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?

What I love most about being a typographer or letterer is that I am not a typographer or letterer, but I have a lot of fun trying to be one.


Typography & Lettering Month takes place throughout April and May, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!