mishmash® — Inside the notebook: Xesta

19 Jul 2021

Inside the notebook: Xesta

Hugo Moura, also known as Xesta, is a well-recognised graphic designer and calligrapher based in Porto, who has been filling up the city with his beautiful, easy to spot, hand lettering.

First things first. We will have a sneak peek into some of your most personal objects, we believe. How does that make you feel?

I have zero worries about that! Even though they are very personal objects, particularly in my case as they are my day-to-day notebooks for everything, from daily thoughts to type experiments. Sometimes I go through them in a more public context, such as Instagram lives and I don’t even remember things I’ve written, but that’s okay. I don’t have secrets.

Pens, inks, notebooks and everything stationery. We heard you are in a deep relationship with all of them. How do you think that grew into a full-fledged passion?

I believe it comes from a passion for drawing. I’ve always drawn things since I was little. For me being at the restaurant table inevitably meant drawing on the table paper. My father always did that, and perhaps I took some inspiration from it as well. Also, it helps that my parents looked at it with a very open mind, never telling me off for drawing on everything I could reach. When I joined college I also gained a certain cult for the sketchbook and it just started from there. I also love pens and writing materials. My type of work is great because it allows me to always be on the lookout for something different. From spray inks to different types of papers, I like to explore it all.

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I believe it comes from a passion for drawing. I’ve always drawn things since I was little.

Xesta, Graphic Designer and Calligrapher

It’s pretty straightforward — you have a lettering crush. How does that show on your daily notebooks?

Always, at every moment. I used to say “calligraphy is beautiful handwriting” but beauty is very subjective. I consider all handwriting beautiful. If I’m not making lettering in my notebook, I am scribbling down some notes, making use of handwriting and therefore calligraphy. Considering this, you are always making use of calligraphy.

Do you collect them? Can we see them?

I have never thought about it as a collection because my need is a very basic one: to draw. I need to draw and I always do it with pen and paper. I never draw digitally, it’s just not for me. I collect them, but as a direct tool that will be used or it’s already used. I never throw anything away. I’m quite thoughtful about that.

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How important is the role of paper in your work?

I don’t work digitally unless expressly needed. The paper doesn’t always need to be the best one, I can work with something scrappy too, but the paper is my number one tool, independently of the project. I could never do without paper because my process starts right there. Depending on the project, I always visualize some kind of idea, bring it to the paper, understand its composition and explore different styles. In the case of lettering, the next step is refining the letters and only on the last step do I bring it to a digital form, if necessary. Most of the process is indeed on paper. 

At what stage of your creative process do you tend to grab your notebook more than any other tool?

Even when I am at the computer, right beside the keyboard, it’s my notebook. Whether I see a book reference I want to buy, an idea that just came to my mind, I immediately jot down all my notes. I even have a particular shelf spot for random post-it notes that I always need at hands-reach. But I would definitely say the first stage of drawing an idea is the most important to me, since I can’t start drawing digitally right away.

I usually say to friends that, when someone truly knows how to draw and the basic principles of sketching, they’re here to stay no matter what.

Xesta, Graphic Designer and Calligrapher

And lastly, we believe paper has a bright future ahead. How do you think paper fits in a world that’s constantly going more digital?

I usually say to friends that, when someone truly knows how to draw and the basic principles of sketching, they’re here to stay no matter what. Digital tools can complement them, but they will never unlearn how to draw or lose their skill. However, digital tools have the immediacy of an instant, can be frequently updated and sometimes we can be thrown out of our groove for a split second. If you can draw on paper, you will always have a place in the creative world. 

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