Featured in the book and exhibition We Love Books: A world tour, Echirolles, France, 2008 

Graphic designers are very good at complaining. They complain about deadlines, about small budgets, about being brought into the project too late, about not being valued sufficiently, and especially, they complain about clients. Most of the time, they say, clients don’t really understand anything about design, they’re conservative in their outlook and in general seem to approach the design process as if they were engaged in an act akin to decorating their front room.

It may be true that communication design is still a little misunderstood in Portugal, but what designers need to recognise is that behind every good design work there is a good client. Behind every creative design solution that challenges preconceptions about what things should look like there is a client that has the vision and the courage to take risks. Good design is only possible through partnership and mutual collaboration. And it’s these qualities that make Mesquita a good client.

The job of any graphic designer is to give voice to ideas and information by creating visual forms and languages that act as an interface between content and audience. Design in this sense is never simply a form of packaging – a way of creating visual forms to ‘carry’ content, like a basket to carry fruit. Good design becomes part of the message itself because it constructs a way of telling that adds to what is being told, similar perhaps, to the way in which the direction of a film is part of the story and, depending on the directors vision, can lead us to understand it in one way, or another – or not at all. And because it isn’t possible to create strong, memorable design solutions from confused ideas, the first task in the design process is intellectual and conceptual organisation.

When I was invited to design this book I began in the most obvious place. I looked at what this company produces. And what it produces are tangible, physical constructions – buildings and roads. It would have been easy then, to conclude that a book about the company ought to be based upon a documentation of these constructions – a book containing lots of photographs of buildings. But this would have missed the point because Mesquita is not a firm of architects and to concentrate wholly on the final product of their work would have overlooked the essence of what they do.

Mesquita is a construction company. Its products may come in the form of architectural projects but it doesn’t usually design these projects. Instead, through its skills, experience and labour, it enables these projects to be realised. Mesquita is not simply a means to achieve a specific end, it is a place of work that gives employment to many people. These people and their skills, at all levels, are what makes Mesquita what it is and give the company its particular identity and value. Above all, there is a process involved in what the company does that is often hidden from view. It is the process of construction and the nature of that process had to occupy a place in this book equal to its importance in the life of the company.

To visit a construction site is to have ones senses filled with sights, sounds and smells. Huge trucks with wheels bigger than your car, earth-moving, rock-crunching machinery with animal-like power, hectares of mud and dust, the smell of steel and iron and sawdust, the fascinating mosaic of colours and textures of countless industrial materials, the weather-beaten faces of the bull-dozer drivers, metal-welders, brick-layers and scaffolders. And back at the offices and workshops, the mountains of archive files and paperwork, the storage rooms with their wonderland inventory of nuts and bolts and rubber tubes and who knows what else. And finally, the result of all this work – the finished buildings and roads, free at last from all the clutter and confusion that gave them life.

And what better way to tell this story than in pictures. Central to this endeavour in consequence, is the work, experience and skills of the photographer Luis Ferreira Alves. Furthermore, given the nature of other books that attempt to tell company stories and the conventional expectations of what these books should look like, this project would not have been possible had it not been for the vision and willingness of Mesquita, and Ana Paula Mesquita in particular, to accept and embrace the idea that the design for this book could break from traditional designs and take the form of a pictorial narrative, and that the essence of what Mesquita is, could essentially be told through picture editing. Proof, if any were needed, that communication design always rests on the nature of the relationship between client and designer. 


Date 2007
Mesquita Construção
Format 20cm x 22cm

Pages 360