I invited BG for coffee and had the priviledge of learning from him. Read our conversation below.

Name: BG Hernandez, Multi-awarded Creative Director/Graphic Designer
Company: Studio 5 Designs – a pioneer in the graphic design industry
Awards: Almost 200 awards from the following institutions:

Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA)
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)
Public Relations of the Philippines (PRSP)
National Book Awards (Manila Critics Circle)
Gintong Aklat Awards

Legacy: His team designed what the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas calls the "new generation bills" which also won several awards internationally.

Among his current clients are Petron Corporation, Pepsi Philippines, Meralco, PSE, PLDT and The Office of the President (Malacanang).

Yeng: When you were a kid, what was your answer when you were asked, "What do you want to become when you grow up?"

BG: My first impulse was "I wanna be somebody." Kaya lang yung 'somebody' na yon, I needed to think, "Ano ba talaga? Do I want to be a fireman, a lawyer, or a doctor?" Pero pakonti ng pakonti yung choices... 

At that time, I didn't know what my strength was. Maybe  I thought I'd do something in sports or will be an athlete. When I was young, I was more successful in sports and studying. Pero na-trauma ako sa studying! (jokingly)

Yeng: What was the name of your teacher?

BG: Di ko na maalala eh! 

At that time, I didn't believe that school was the only way to gauge success. But most of your teachers and classmates valued you through your grades. So if you had low grades, that meant you're going to be an average person. But I didn't look at it that way.

Di ko naisip na maging designer. Although, I grew up in a design office because my mom would bring us to her office after school to wait for her to finish her work. 

I didn't aspire to become a graphic designer. It was all accidental. 

Yeng: So, how did you become a graphic designer?

BG: My dad was one of the first few who invested in a first gen Apple computer, which was unheard of, because everything was done manually at that time. You have to use your hands to paint, to airbrush or to draw. There wasn't any "photoshop" yet.

But unfortunately, my dad passed away after he bought the computers. It was just kept/stored in the bathroom because nobody knew how to use it.  

I was 17 years old and I saw the computer in the bathroom. I knew there were games in it. I turned it on and looked for the games. 

That made me want to go to the office everyday – just to play Load Runner. I got tired of it eventually so I started exploring the desktop softwares such as Ventura Publisher, Aldus Pagemaker that my dad bought with the computers.

Yeng: Floppy disk?

BG: Yes, imagine installing softwares from a floppy disk?! That was version Beta. Di pa binibili ng Adobe yung Photoshop nun. 

Slowly, I became interested. I thought if learned to use this, I could help the artists in our office. Because everything was done manually, when a client says, "I don't like the color", you'll have do it all over again. Everything had to be perfect the first time.

I was 18 when I started working in Studio 5. Immediately, I introduced the use of the computer in our office and that changed a lot of things including the mindset of the management and its employees.

Yeng: What was your first project? What was it like?

BG: 1989. For my first project, I wasn't even hired. I was just playing around with the computer then. I made the packaging for Ponstan. Di ko pa alam na famous pala yung Ponstan nun. We designed the foil, the box, and the posters. Alam mo yung Caladryl? I was also part of the group who designed that.

Nobody wanted to use the computer. Until I designed and printed the mock-up and gave it to them. That was the turning point. They knew that this is going to change a lot in our business. 

At least once in your lifetime, you'll be given the opportunity to revolutionize something. Go for it.

Yeng: What was the most prestigious project you've done?

BG: We have done a lot of prestigious and/or important projects already but a memorable yet challenging one was designing the Ayala Corporation's annual report. The Annual Report is one of the most important publications a listed company has. It is the face of the chairman, CEO and/or president, on print, to the world. When you win the annual report project for Ayala Corporation, you end up designing all their seven subsidiaries/companies as well.

And you have to be invited. You can't knock on their door to give a proposal. It took us two years to get invited to bid. Pagkatapos nun, we went through the whole bidding process, it was nerve-wracking, because those guys knew the process. 

Ang exciting dun was the presenting of the design concepts. It was on the top floor of their corporate headquarters. Lahat ng CEOs ng Ayala nandun. Including the Presidents of each company. You have the whole communications department of each company too. And it was just the three of us – all from top advertising and graphic design agencies in Manila.

Sabi ko sa boss ko, "We have nothing to lose." Our business was doing so well that time. 

Five minutes into the presentation, Don Jaime, leaned to one of his sons and says, "Porque esto esta…" My boss and I were already swallowing our laway, we were so nervous. 

I was thinking, "Did I say something wrong?" I was in the middle of my presentation. Thirty people were in the room. Dead silence. Ang maririnig mo lang yung ulan sa labas at yung aircon. Everybody was quiet. 

Yeng: So what happened?

BG: My boss asked, "Is there anything wrong?"

"No, sorry we just .. We like the design, but that's not the direction that we discussed about." 

So, we panicked and thought we were wrong. But later on we realized, we were right, because the strategy came from the committee. 

They were gentlemen and told us, "We apologize. Please excuse us for a few minutes." 

We were in the holding room. We were saying words like, "I knew this was a bad idea!" We were already feeling sorry for ourselves. We wanted to go home! 

The committee head came back and told us, "You know there was a miscommunication…We'll call you"

They gave us a chance again and gave us three days to redo everything based on the new direction. "What!?! Three days?"

It took us two days to just feel sorry for ourselves. Di kami makaconcentrate! On the last day, we came up with something. 

Out of frustration, ginawa kong black yung cover. Syempre, you can't do that because clients think it's bad luck for business. It's just a black cover na may square and in it was a photo image sa gitna. Initially, my boss was furious and thought that using black was a bad idea, too. 

But of all the designs that we submitted, yun pa ang na-approve! Don Jaime said "Let's not make it black, ok? I love it. It's fantastic! That's me! But make it a little bit grey."

That annual report won seven awards. After that, we were known as a company that made award-winning reports. Since then, we started working with more Top 100 companies.

Yeng: That must have been really exciting! Sige, on a lighter note... May I ask what makes your work fun?

BG: In my work, I get to think of so many ideas and solutions. I find that enjoyable. There is a sense of fulfillment when abstract virtual thoughts become realities and impacts people to make decisions.

Yeng: What's your best advice for overcoming procrastination?

BG: Normally, we procrastinate on things we already know and simple enough to do so the tendency to put it aside and deal with it later is paramount. But with 100 other multitasking tasks all at the same time, what we knew is simple builds and builds into a bigger problem coz we didn’t deal with it the first time.

The speed of implementation is the key to remove any chance of procrastination.

Yeng: Where do you get your inspiration?

BG: In my field, it's really interesting. Nasanay na ko na the clients that I work for, they always have a goal, a dream, or a vision. I find it very satisfying that I can be a part of that vision. 

When your client is happy, grateful,  appreciative, and you're able to add value to them, yun ang nakaka-inspire sa akin.

Yeng: How do you stay organized?

BG: Meron bang artist na organized?

Yeng: Good point!

BG: Lahat dapat! 

Yeng: Yeah, that's a misconception. I know creatives or artists that are well organized.

BG: Design is a process thus detailed steps are needed to insure that solutions are well tested and suited for a specific reason. It is easy to splash color and put a pretty picture but if its not making a delightful experience that design proposal didn’t go through the discipline of organization.

As a designer I visualize and speak to myself on a constant rhythm the whole day (awake or asleep). A notebook or a sound recorder puts my feet on the ground and keeps the deadline reminders present.

Yeng: How do you relax at the end of the day?

BG: Food.

Yeng: Pareho tayo.

BG: I'm a fitness buff also. As a triathlete I ride the bike and run always in different routes to get a detox fix. I also play golf to teach me how to calm down. "Anything new" to clear my head and change my mindsets is always cool for me.

Yeng: Me too. I'll go to a restaurant and order "anything new." 

Yeng: Greatest teacher?

BG: [thinking…]


Somebody can just tell you what to do, or give motivation, but unless you have experiences that are nerve-wracking, or when you make a fool of yourself, or when you're so happy, unless na mafeel mo yun, dun ka lang matututo.

Yeng: A mantra to live by?

BG: World peace but pageantry aside…..I’d say “Taste and chew your food…don’t just swallow the whole thing.” I believe that in anything, take time and enjoy the moment.

Yeng: What would you do differently if you were to start all over?

BG: The past is done and you can’t go back anymore and anything can happen in the future. So what is important is making decisions now.

Yeng: What advice would you give to young (starting) graphic designer or to anyone with a similar profession?

BG: My advice? 

There are only a few designers in Manila who are vocal. They'd rather have their design speak for itself.

Yeng: Baka they can't explain it?

BG: Yes, isa na yon. They can't explain it. Kaya lagi kong sinasabi sa kanila "You have to voice out what is inside your heart"

Good or bad, there is power in what you say. 

You have to give me a good reason why you thought about this. Kasi pag sinabi mong "Wala lang, nakita ko lang sa internet. Eh maganda, kaya kinopya ko." I can't say that to my client! 

Kaya I tell the artist, when you're conceptualizing, "Shut off your computer." Go somewhere, under a mango tree. That's where you think. And then paglaban mo yan, paglaban mo sa akin yan.

If somebody shows me something na walang value, di ko yun papansinin, I won't approve it. I'm sure my boss and my client won't approve it, because I don't believe in it.

Pero pag nakita ko na this guy really believes in it, pag pinaglaban nya, there's value in it. Tapos he's willing to improve it or learn some more. Yan ang mga gusto kong ka-trabaho!

Maraming kabataan ngayon, mga new hires, they can't take criticisms. Parang pag sinabihan mong "mali yan" magre-resign na agad! 

I always advice them na "Kailangan teachable ka." They have to accept criticisms. 

If you go to our office, we have close to about 200 trophies or awards. Those are prestigious awards. Kaya lang for me, yes, a trophy is a trophy, pero ang trophy ko actually is the project, the process and the relationship with my client. 

Yeng: Thank you BG for your time. I appreciate it! 

BG: Thanks Yeng!

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