Name : Victor BONAFONTE MORALES
Birth year : 1975
Country : Spain
Studio : Beauty & The Bit
Position : CEO, Architect, Creative Director
Website : https://www.beautyandthebit.com/
[ Sélène Vilaseca ] – Victor Bonafonte is an Architect, Art Director and Filmmaker based in Madrid. He founded Beauty and The Bit, one of the most successful architecture communication firms, in 2012.
His company has been leading the way in architecture visualization for years now, breaking rules, innovating and experimenting, always with love and passion. At the same time, Victor and his team are known for finding the time to work on non commissioned projects, where they can truly express and explore their creativity.
Let’s meet Victor!
“Crisis gave me the opportunity to leave my regular Architect job and jump into a more creative realm.”
When the crisis hit Spain in 2011, you were working as an Architect in a traditional firm and like many people at the time, you ended up unemployed. The architectural profession was badly affected but you found your way, reinventing yourself and finally building a new company.
Do you think this crisis gave you the strength to jump into this new adventure?
Yes, indeed that crisis gave me the opportunity to leave my regular Architect job and jump into a more creative realm. It was a very interesting and successful leap into the void for me.
More recently, pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian War have drawn us into an unprecedented world crisis. How have you faced it? Has it changed your mindset? Has it also brought opportunities?
In short, what have you learned from these dark days?
This new « World Order » was scary at the beginning. When pandemic hit all of us we were misplaced not only professionally but personally, but after the first shocking days we realized that professionaly speaking little had changed, in fact we were even more overwhelmed. I tend to extract the positive facts out of crisis and this one made us stronger and more reactive to problems and taught us how to solve them.
You have an architecture degree : why did you want to become an architect? How would you describe your relationship with architecture?
I think my interest in Architecture came out really early in my life. It came out of my family environment. My father was also into architecture and I was attracted to that.
Even nowadays that I work also (and majorly) as Art/Cinematic Director in the videogame industry aside from B&TB Creative Direction, Architecture is always present at what i do, I cannot detach myself from that.
“Honestly long processes kill me. That’s why I don’t miss my old days as an Architect signing projects. “
I imagine that you had other plans for yourself when you were studying architecture. How did you project yourself professionally as an architecture student and what were your goals at that time?
In all honesty I was too young at that time, and in contrast to my colleagues who were obsessed with working insane amount of hours for a shitty salary in really « important » top notch Architecture firms, I was interested in working to earn a nice amount of money to invest in expensive guitars and having fun. For me it was like « dude, I´ve been studying this career for ages so let´s earn & burn some money now ».
With time, you have chosen to work with unbuilt architecture : do you miss being involved in the design and construction of projects?
Not a single minute. Honestly long processes kill me. My brain needs to swap projects in a reasonable amount of time and if i don’t do it, then it starts to bore me to death. That is why I don’t miss my old days as an Architect signing projects. They took lots of time to be done.
Do you ever imagine living in the spaces you showcase?
Nope. I don´t have that necessity. I live happily at my house in Madrid. We live in a 14th floor looking at the park and a cool highway junction so the views are really nice. Also living with two kids doesn´t give too much headroom to have a «minimalistic » home.
“I tend to extract the positive facts out of crisis and this one made us stronger and more reactive to problems and taught us how to solve them.”
I’m curious about the name of the studio. What is the story behind it? How did you pick the name?
It was a lucky afternoon. I had clear in my mind that I didn´t want any unimaginative name on it like CG, 3D whatever. We are artists and we are supposed to have imagination. So it came out the same way you pick a name for a band. I came out with several names in a piece of paper and discussed them with my brother in law. Beauty plays with the 8bit computers pun and Beauty and The Beast so I thought it was perfect. Unfortunately after that I discovered Justin Bieber had a song called «Beauty and a Beat» so all the searches on internet lead to that. I think nowadays we beat that punk so champagne for all
“I didn’t want any unimaginative name on it like CG, 3D whatever. We are artists and we are supposed to have imagination.”
You once said that you see B&TB as a “boutique” studio, far from mass production and repetitive projects. But you have a very successful firm, with a lot of prestigious clients so I guess it would be easy to become a bigger company.
Does this mean that you have to turn down projects? In that case, what is your process of selection? Is it necessary to maintain a strong identity and also keep it under control?
Yes, we turn down lots of projects. Sure it would be easy to escalate way bigger and faster, but we believe in going little by little and also creating a strong artistic identity. It is our story and that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be the same for other studios…
I know that you care a lot about ensuring a healthy working environment for your employees. What have you done to create this non toxic environment? How do you maintain this healthy environment among tight deadlines and constant pressure from clients?
Basically since Lina and I founded B&TB, we didn´t want to repeat the same mistakes on other jobs we had, so our main goal was to build a company in which everybody felt happy, realized and growing as artists. So, ZERO egoes, all sharing knowledge. End of the day you are going to spend quite some hours in your job so it is better you feel happy to be there.
“[With Lina] our main goal was to build a company in which everybody felt happy, realized and growing as artists. “
I’m also curious about how you structure your workday. What is a regular day at Beauty & the bit? Do you have some kind of daily ‘routine’ at work or each day takes a different course?
Nothing too fancy. Normally we start days with some abs and a review session with all the team where we address issues, creative direction, etc. From that point on we work in the projects and eventually we review again. Also we find time to play some darts at the office
We live in a society saturated with images and information in general, and this is very challenging for our community.
The juries in architecture competitions have already seen so many renderings, the clients are experiencing visual communication everywhere and everyday so it’s harder to be remembered. It’s all about making impressions on the right people at the right time, and with the right content.
In your opinion as an Art Director, what makes an image unforgettable?
Clear Concept. As you mentioned we are overfed with images that always tell the same story, so the most important part of a successful image is at the planning stage, when you Art Direct the image instead of following a clients PDF.
Communication is also about the tools we use, and these tools are constantly evolving. We always need more powerful computers, new software versions, and updated technology. Do you feel that exciting or exhausting?
Super Exciting. It is great to keep evolving with tech, BUT it is also important not to be a slave to it. Being an Artist means expressing yourself and telling stories, so regardless of tech, you could potentially do that with a simple pencil, just as storyboarders do.
“If you are a writer and you write with passion, would you let other guy write for you ?
It would spoil the fun part.
Art […] is part of our DNA, so what is the point of taking out all that beauty from us and giving it to a machine… “
You have certainly heard about the new artificial intelligence program, Midjourney, that creates images from textual descriptions. It’s an incredibly powerful tool for exploring ideas and inspiration but do you think it can also disrupt visual design and more specifically architecture visualization? Have you ever tried it? What do you think about it? Do you have concerns about the archviz industry today?
Again, tech is always good. I have tested Midjourney, Dall-e and all AI stuff. If used wisely it can generate some ideas to start with quickly, but honestly (and this is a personal feeeling), if you are a writer and you write with passion, would you let other guy write for you ? Not me. It would spoil the fun part. Per se, Art is a really deep and meditated manifestation of human mankind through all the ages. It is part of our DNA, so what is the point of taking out all that beauty from us and giving it to a machine… And no, for the record, I don´t have concerns for my industry with this. My mind serves me well artistically speaking and there is no machine that can rival that.
You started very early with your team to work on non commissioned projects, such as the “image of the month” challenge or the short film “Landmark”, to name but a few. This free production zone is a constant feature at B&TB and has become your trademark.
How do you manage to find the time into your busy schedule to freewheel your creativity?
If you want something badly you manage 😉
Because they have been working on a project for a long time, clients often have a hard time giving up control and trusting the professional artist to showcase their project.
Do these non commissioned projects help you convince your clients in terms of innovation and bold decisions?
They serve to give you an artistic identity and to showcase a client what you can do when no hard constraints are imposed. Let´s be honest, nobody can do better Art Direction on images/videos than professionals since we are highly educated on that, at least @ B&TB.
“The greatest moments are always yet to come.
That is what keeps you nonconformist.
And being not conformist is the DNA of an artist.“
If you had to choose only one rendering that could express by itself the “B&TB style”, which one would it be?
This is Beauty and The Bit. (see below)
To conclude, what has been the greatest moment of your career so far?
My 2 kids and wife above all. Professionally speaking, it changes on a regular daily basis. The greatest moments are always yet to come. That is what keeps you nonconformist. And being nonconformist is the DNA of an artist.
And if you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Don´t follow the rule and trust your guts.
Baggy pants are not cool.
“For the record, I don´t have concerns for my industry with [all AI stuff]. My mind serves me well artistically speaking and there is no machine that can rival that. “
Interviz #2 – 13.02.2023 by Sélène Vilaseca