2024 Hot New Things: Maysa Lopes, Ara

5 months ago by

Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future.

Today we speak with Maysa Lopes, who recently graduated from the Visual Communication programme at Ara. You can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, I’m Maysa! I’m a graduating Graphic Designer from São Paulo, Brazil. I moved to New Zealand at the start of 2020 (just before COVID!) and I’ve been studying at Ara ever since. I’m passionate about typography, illustration and editorial design.

What did your graduating project focus on?

For my final project, I wanted to challenge myself both professionally and personally, so I decided to make a typeface that visually explored my journey as an immigrant in New Zealand for the past four years. Ouroboros is a funky display typeface named after the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail – a representation of life through an eternal cycle of self-destruction and rebirth. I’ve never done type design before, so it was a very technically challenging project to work on, besides the obviously deep self-reflection I went through exploring my concept. This has been my favourite project to date, and I got to learn a lot about both typography and myself. 

image of final project Ouroboros - a typeface exploring Maysa's journey as an immigrant in New Zealand
image of final project Ouroboros - flat lay of an open book with 'life is a mess'

Why did you choose to study at Ara?

I’ve always been a hands-on learner. I feel like there’s only so much you can learn from reading about things. I like to try, and fail, and try again until I eventually get the hang of it and that’s what really appealed to me about Ara. We had some theory as well, of course, but the course is centred around learning and developing skills by doing it, which was amazing! I got to explore my own style and learn what works and what doesn’t by actually crafting things and it’s great.

What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?

I really enjoyed the ‘freedom’ that was given to us, in terms of self-management. Especially on the last two years, we were given a lot of space to manage our own time and process, which helped me a lot in developing my time-management and prioritising skills. I got to learn about how I worked best and how to get the most out of my time and I think that’s one of the best take-aways I got.

Graphic poster designs featuring piano, hands holding wine glasses, and hands reaching for each other  for 'The Romance of New Regency'
'The Romance of New Regent' poster design of graphic hands holding wine glasses, instruments, and film.

Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?

That I’m a morning person! Teenage me would have never believed it but I found out that I’m a lot more productive creatively in the morning. And also that type design is a lot more hard than it seems, but that was a fun discovery to make.

What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?

I think self-doubt, for sure. A lot of times I would look at what my classmates were doing and couldn’t help but think ‘I’m not good enough to be here’, and it always seemed like I would hit a creative block at the worst times. I feel like that’s a common struggle in the creative industry, but it can be quite overwhelming. We often believe that creativity is something that comes naturally when it feels like it, but I’ve learnt for the past three years that it’s actually a muscle! And once you learn how to exercise it, there’s no stopping you.

Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick Graphic Design as a career path?

Book covers, actually. I was a big bookworm as a young teen, and I would beg my mum to drop me off at the mall so I could spend hours in the bookstore admiring the book covers. I just loved looking at the typography, illustrations and layout of the covers. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think you can say so many things about a story just for the cover. I then found out that that’s something some people do for a living and there’s a whole universe of graphic design, so I immediately knew.

flatlay of magazine designs
flatlay of cover page of magazine design

Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?

It’s hard to pick one, but I would say Ouroboros, my typeface. It was not only the project that took the longest, but the most technically challenging one – and I made it! It has a lot of personal meaning, and it is my first typeface which only deepened my love for typography.

What’s next for you?

Well, I’m currently doing an internship, which is very exciting.  And I’m going home to Brazil in mid-December to see my family – who I haven’t seen in 4 years! I think it’s a good way to finish this cycle of my life. I’m then coming back at the end of February and I’ll be looking for a full-time position in a creative agency, or as an in-house designer. 

How can people get in touch or see more of your work? 

You can check out my online portfolio at: maysalopes.myportfolio.com

I also post a lot on Instagram at @akki.e 

And always feel free to email me at hello@maysalopes.com

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