Luis Vaz

Featured Interview ~ Luis Vaz


Father, Surfer, Designer, CSSDA Judge and founder of & Luis started out as an Art Director Intern growing up into a senior digital designer and spent the last 12 years designing experiences, focusing on users, welcoming great clients, releasing internal products and surfing in-between.

In The Beginning:

1. Who or what gave you the idea to begin a career in design?

It was a combination of both, the who was a long time crafts teacher and the what was a serious deep thinking sessions on why I shouldn't become a veterinarian.

2. What was the first website you were involved in designing and / or developing and how well did it go?

I remember it perfectly, I had just enrolled on a Multimedia Production course and on the HTML class, using Dreamweaver (yeah I know, but this was in 2003 so I have an excuse), I had to design and develop a website. This was an open book project so I went all out, way above my development skills. I went home, grabbed my camera, went to my backyard and took some close up photos of the grass, this was my fullscreen background with a repeated pattern. Then I added in a toilet paper roll laying there, so it would become the menu that unrolled for navigation and opened up holes in the grass to showcase the content.. Was a weird concept that was mostly related to avoiding walking my dogs out when it was raining and just let them go for it in the garden...sad but true.

Luis' first computer was an Amstrad PC1512, 512MB Ram, 8MHz Intel 8086 processor, 20MB HDD and two 360 KB 51⁄4-inch floppy disks drives with MS-DOS 3.2.

3. How would you describe your career thus far? Is it all going to plan or is there no plan?

Well fortunately better than planned, mostly by being open minded and understanding the risk and power of saying no. The master plan was to work on challenging projects that require brain work and creativity and for that to happen I had two options: wait for one of those projects to hit my desk on my full-time job as a web designer or go find them myself, even if it meant creating them for myself. This was why I left advertising agency, quitted my full-time job as a web designer and started on my own design career... and it has been a roller coaster. Since that point I've co-founded 3 tech companies (Muchbeta, Niiiws and Onebiller), founded Canvaz Design Studio, created a backpack for surf and travel, I've experienced success, failure, great times, tough times, it's the combination of all this experience that makes us ready for most situations and this reflects the projects we deliver, the trust of the clients that join our family and the projects we also create for ourselves.

4. What advice would you give to yourself if you could send yourself a "temporal text” back to the beginning of your career?

"Forget about the Adobe Flash course, go surfing instead."

Favorite Things:

1. What are your favorite aspects about working in design?

The "Design High"...the mix of feelings that starts when frustration takes over, you can't get it right followed by a series of dead ends, you go into a down spiral but then you have that moment, triggered by the most unexpected input, where you see the light and accomplish your goal. I live for this Design High.

2. If you could pick only one favorite project from your experience thus far, which would it be and why?

Breeze Surf Forecast Mobile App, this was a personal project I created back in the days when I had to use a bunch of websites shortcuts on my phone and all the surf apps where overcomplicated. I hired myself for the job and came up with this design that had a boom online and led to several awesome things, one of them meeting Jake Edwards that gave me the possibility of designing apps for Dwyane Wade (NBA), Adrian peterson (NFL), Ernie Els (PGA), as well as ongoing work in the sports area.

3. What would be your favorite trend in web design and development from the last 5 years?

Animation, you can tell a story, illustrate a thought and play with reactions, obviously this is sometimes overused and can easily go the other way but for me was, and is, one of the trends with most impact.

4. Are there any favorite trends you would like to see more of in 2017?

Yes, User Centered Design. I know it's not an actual trend but it has been my focus from the past few years and finally evolving to a mandatory thing in 2017.

Life Hacks:

1. Did you always want to work in the creative industries or did you consider any other career options?

Yes, was either that or professional surfer but I only had skills for one of them and here we are.

2. Do you have a good work and life balance or is it a work in progress? Any tips?

Well not as much as I wanted but honestly I can't complain...this is the designer's lifestyle, I manage to do everything by sleeping less, not taking weekends for granted, skipping lunches, pulling one nighters but still balance with some personal time and surfing only possible but with the amazing team work at home, this is a special thank you note and recognition of my awesome wife that always has my back!

3. What advice would you give to younger professionals wanting to find success in design?

Honestly finding what you are passionate about is crucial, after that is going all in. This will reflect on your attitude with your clients and projects, motivation and overall mood. One other thing I would recommend is to treat your clients as users, stop blaming them if they don't agree with you or don't like what you've built, that is on you too. You need to be really good at profiling clients and projects... Learn the power of "No thank you".

4. If you had all the money you would ever need, what would you do with your life?

That is a tough question because I don't need that much, but for starters I would create and release a lot more products to test the market, would have a few more kids and would start crossing items left on my bucket list:

  • - Attending WSL Event
  • - Billabong Pro Tahiti on a boat
  • - Learn to kern
  • - Buy Mac Pro with Thunderbolt display 27"
  • - Cast for "The Lonely Island"
  • - ... better if I stop here...


1. What type of projects and what industries do you prefer to work in?

I absolutely love the sports industry and always wanted to work closer to the surf industry but I love to work on challenging projects that I provide a real value and that has no specific industry... I just like a good challenge.

2. What memorable challenges or highlights have you experienced from the projects you have worked on?

One memorable challenge was when I was talking to a potential client that wanted some mobile UI/UX work done on the sports area but didn't disclose much, later I found we were talking about creating mobile apps for professional athletes like Dwyane Wade (NBA), Adrian Peterson (NFL), Ernie Els (PGA), etc.. this was a "step up your game" moment and it turned into an ongoing relationship. On the personal side one of my biggest challenges was when I decided to create a multifunction backpack for my surf gear and got out of my comfort digital zone. The methodology is pretty much the same as a digital product but you take on fabric and sewing instead of design and code.

As for highlights I'm proud of all the love that our work gets, being featured by Apple, Behance, CSS Design Awards, Abduzeedo, etc but also seeing your internal products and ideas take off and get their own life. Having millions of users playing around with my work is overwhelming but having sold out the first version of this backpack, my surf forecast app highlighted by Apple on over 30 countries, and the job offers from around the world... just makes me feel humble and thankful... Also my first barrel (while surfing)...that was a memorable challenge and highlight too :)

3. What are your company's greatest strengths?

I would have to say the knowledge and understanding of the full scope of a product cycle that goes beyond a great UI. We do that too, don't get me wrong, but the success of a product/service needs way more than just pretty screens. As we have delivered and built for clients and for ourselves, we have the overall understanding of users needs but also the will and guts to try new things, to create new experiences that have a real impact.

4. What is the latest project you worked on or what are you working on right now?

Besides the ongoing client work that I can't specify (let's just say sports industry and creative computing) we have these two new internal that led to a new category called "Design Exercises". One for World Surf League - Apple TV and the other the Bedtime Stories - Smart Home that is now going into production :) ...Next we are going for Car UI with a product called "Shotgun".

Thank you for sharing an insight into your world. Any last words?

Thank you once again and as I told you before it's awesome to see the impact CSS Design Awards has on raising the bar and making sure excellent work is recognized and shared, we have now, more than ever, great designers and creatives!

Luis is a founder and designer at Canvaz Design Studio, this Porto based, amateur surfer and a professional designer has spent the past 13 years focusing on UI/UX design delivering real digital experiences that impact users around the globe.

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