Juan Antonio Ruiz, Atención Designer and Artist
By Jade Arroyo
Juan Antonio, or Toño to many of us, is part of the graphic design team of the newspaper Atención San Miguel. His work focuses on the editorial and visual design of the Qué Pasa tourist supplement, coordination of ads, placement of photographic material in each edition, and communication with the clients who advertise and their designers, orienting them towards the method of work, clarifying doubts, and solving problems between the public and the design department.
What he tries to achieve with his work is an increasingly fluid line of editorial design, experimenting with different styles, making the transmission of information (either visual or texts) to become more flowing, playful and effective.
This is the second stage of Toño’s work at the newspaper. This time he has held his position for almost four years, starting in 2013. The first time was in 1999, when he was a fresh graduate of the Faculty of Design of the University of Guanajuato.
From the social climate, to the size of the town, to the size of his waist, to his work methods, he says everything was very different 17 years ago.
The editorial processes were mostly done by hand then, as there was still no access to technological advances such as high speed internet and certain digital design programs. Many photos were still analog, and not all editorial contributors had access to a computer.
Toño had to experience the transition from analog to digital in 1999. For graphic design they had used a design table, the T square, and transfers, and the office was populated with typewriters. In addition, the Atención staff was a zoo of several different nationalities: three Mexican, one French, one English, one Australian, one Argentine, and several American. This office was a true melting pot of cultures, thoughts, and sociologies, where he learned cultural respect, idiomatic slang, and bad words from other perspectives.
Due to the “handmade” nature of the newspaper at the time, it was normal that on editorial closing days several colleagues would leave the office at 5 or 6 in the morning to eat hamburgers at the late-night stand in the Jardín.
The newspaper was printed in Guanajuato, and a disc was carried there in person. The designers lived in a state of constant stress.
In 2004 Toño left Atención and dedicated himself to design and photography for a real estate company for eight years. In 2013 a vacancy came up at the newspaper and the deja vu occurred for him.
The design process is much faster and more efficient now, thanks to technology, a new language that says not to go safely but to experiment with and reach new forms of visual communication.
Parallel to his work as a designer, Toño also paints. Since childhood he has been fascinated by two themes: bullfighting and art, passions that he combines in his work.
When he was a child, his uncle was in charge of the Plaza de Toros. That was when he discovered this world that would mark him for life. His free time is mainly dedicated to activities that have to do with bullfighting. He has participated with his paintings at bullfighting fairs, competitions, and collective exhibitions.
The daily life of the culture of the bulls is what inspires him, the color, the earth, the bucolic landscapes, the ritual, and the dress (which is another ritual). He captures these colors and moments in acrylic and pastel and several formats, with detail.
Toño comes from a family with deep sanmiguelense roots, which give him a strong sense of belonging and true knowledge of the city.
Half kidding, half in truth, we say that he is a bit like a chronicler or amateur historian in San Miguel. Whenever we have a question about a personality from the town’s history, a tradition, Toño is the one to whom we can resort for information or even architectural data and secrets.
He is the father of Paula, a 14-year- old girl, and a declared admirer of the work of the Spanish painter Carlos Ruano LLopis, the Mexican Pancho Flores, and the Colombian Diego Ramos. For him, art is a human activity that allows one to transcend beyond the aesthetic and communicate. For him, in practice design and art have an inseparable relationship.