Daniel Cardoza (B.F.A. Graphic Design ’16) didn’t always dream of being a designer. Though he gravitated toward creative practices — writing, drawing and painting — he had only taken one art class before attending the University of Houston. Once here, he dabbled in everything from forensic psychology to anthropology and communication before stumbling upon graphic design.
“It just ‘clicked,’” he recalls. “Design is a synthesis of creativity, methodical thinking and language, so it connected all my interests.”
It also encouraged him to take on challenges and step outside of his comfort zone — which is paying off in a big way. Case in point: Cardoza won first place in this year’s live design competition Command X.
Hosted by AIGA, the professional association for design, at their national conference, Command X is a grueling three-day competition that challenges seven select up-and-coming designers to create and present projects on the spot. Two designers are eliminated each round, with the remaining competitors assigned a new project — called a design brief — and given 24 hours to complete it. Then, they present their solutions onstage to a live audience that determines which designers advance to the next day. This year’s projects ranged from the practical to the conceptual, with Cardoza tackling a redesign of the City of Minneapolis’ logo, packaging for edibles and an open-ended campaign that presented an assault on lies.
“It was a whole spectrum of projects,” he says, adding that the final brief was the most challenging. His solution addressed lies people tell themselves, presented as a distilled typographic work. Cardoza says he had to dig deep for the work, pushing himself to be vulnerable in a way he hadn’t done before. “Some people were crying, some were even angry,” he says of the response to his presentation. “I think it resonated with the audience because it was completely honest.”
Cardoza describes creativity as “raw energy” and, as a designer, says he works to harness and channel that energy. The ability to be vulnerable adds a new layer to his creative process. “[Command X] really changed my perspective. It taught me how to incorporate my own personal experiences into my work and stand up to fear. The self-doubt dissipates when you’re honest with yourself.”