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How Giulia Virtus Azzoni uses design as a force for good (food)

“I am a strong believer that design has a great and often underestimated power to be an instrument of social change, inclusion and representation”

By day, Giulia Virtus Azzoni is a powerful force in our Content Design team — creating everything from eye-catching icons to scroll-stopping blog headers. Beyond Sketch, she takes her skills wherever her curiosity leads her. The two themes that often emerge? Social change and food!

Whether she’s reimagining how non-profit organizations market themselves or envisioning the branding for her dream business, Giulia designs what she wants to see in the world. And we’re excited to tell you all about it.


How would you describe what you do at Sketch?

I am part of the Content Design team, where we solve problems through visual design and collaborate mostly with the Marketing and Design Systems folks. Our work goes from icon design to motion — we have a diverse and dedicated team ready to tackle any challenge, I would say!

Tell us more about your background in design. How did you get started?

My parents are both professors and authors of art history in Italy, so I can say that I was lucky enough to grow up in a very creative environment: museums, art, a lot of drawing, creating stories and using our hands.

When I was 12 or 13 I got very into surfing. I lived in the middle of the Alps, so practicing was basically impossible! So I started to print a bunch of surfboard shapes and draw designs for them. I remember this as my first approach to graphic design — and I loved it! Then, choosing communication design as my academic path came very naturally, and that’s what I did! I graduated with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Milan, Italy, and then moved to Lisbon, Portugal where I’m based now.

When I was 12 or 13 I got very into surfing. I lived in the middle of the Alps, so practicing was basically impossible! So I started to print a bunch of surfboard shapes and draw designs for them.

How would you describe your style? Has it changed over the years?

Tough question! I think my style is simple and straightforward — not too eccentric, but solid and goal-oriented. To be honest I think a good designer is one that can bend their stylistic traits to accommodate the goal, direction and style of the project they’re working on.

For a designer like me, it’s much more important to have a method than a style — if that makes sense! Starting out, it’s definitely easy to fall into the emulation game, looking at all the amazing designers you can find online. What’s mostly changed about my style came from growing up as a person and a professional. I now have the confidence to look at what I’m doing with objective eyes before I judge it!

Looking at your work, it’s clear you have an interest in using design for social justice. Could you tell us more about that?

I am a strong believer that design has a great and often underestimated power to be an instrument of social change, inclusion and representation. I have a great interest in these types of issues myself — so it’s something I like to work with whenever possible. I think there are a lot of non-profit organizations and companies doing amazing jobs at helping people — but they often don’t have the interest or even the resources to invest in designing their own identities or telling their own stories. Whenever I get the chance, this is a type of challenge I really enjoy getting myself into!

An image showing Giulia Virtus Azzonis personal project of a website redesign for No Peace Without Justice — a non-profit organization.

Inspired to help non-profit organizations tell their stories through design, Giulia worked on a personal project — a website redesign for the human rights and international justice organization, No Peace Without Justice

How do you think your interest in social justice shapes your daily design work?

I’m not always actively thinking about it, but the interest in social justice is always there in the back of my head. I think it shapes my daily work by reminding me that the user we design for is a person — and that person can be out of the standard boxes we tend to put them in.

What happens if a makeup brand uses male models? What if a sports clothing brand sponsors a Paralympian? What if one of the UX designers working on an app is colorblind or dyslexic?

I think, in this case, social justice takes shape in the form of representation and it’s a concept dear to my heart. I am trying to constantly study and learn more on this subject because I believe this is what makes a good designer (and human being) today.

I think [social justice] shapes my daily work by reminding me that the user we design for is a person — and that person can be out of the standard boxes we tend to put them in.

Yes! I have always been interested in food and culinary culture. In Lisbon, I live and breathe this environment a lot. My partner works as a chef and restaurant manager — and a lot of friends do the same. So I’ve become more and more interested too.

I think food is an incredible playground for design because it’s something really rooted in our cultures. It’s one of the most direct ways to communicate with people. We go to restaurants not just for the food — but also for the music, the temperature, the smell, the colors, the way servers talk and act.

Everything plays a big role in defining an experience as positive or negative. And I love playing with these many components to create new concepts — truly, we are talking about experience design at its fullest. Last but not least, I love good food experiences myself!

An image designed by Giulia Virtus Azzoni showing her idea for restaurant, Grammi.

“One of the projects I most enjoyed working on is Grammi, a restaurant and shop concept I came up with that sells fresh-made pasta by weight.”

What are some of your favorite designs that you’ve made — both at Sketch and in general?

One of the projects I most enjoyed working on is Grammi, a restaurant and shop concept I came up with that sells fresh-made pasta by weight. Not only did I work on the restaurant’s identity but also on the entire business idea behind it — the market, supply and demand, and so on. I took quite a few marketing classes during my academic years so I guess they stuck with me! I think it turned out to be a nice project overall with design elements that still look fresh to me.

An image designed by Giulia Virtus Azzoni showing her idea for restaurant, Grammi, and its branded packaging.

Not only does Giulia love designing food-related products, but also imagining entire restaurant business plans. One day, you might just see her bring Grammi to life.

My favorite design at Sketch is definitely the blog post header animation I made for our World Emoji Day tutorial. It was great fun because it’s based on the work of our own dear Tiago Alexandrino, who created an extremely cute emoji tutorial. My job was to show the ‘behind the scenes’ process of creating the emoji in Sketch and it turned out to be lots of fun — both to make and to watch after!

“My favorite design at Sketch is definitely the blog post header animation I made for our World Emoji Day tutorial.”

Not everyone might know you were a data analyst for a few months. Could you tell us more about that time and how it might have helped you in design?

I took a job as a data analyst during a bit of a complicated moment in my life, where I was struggling to land a job that satisfied me in the design field — while COVID-19 had just hit Portugal.

Although it’s a path I have no interest in pursuing, it helped me interpret the human intention behind digital content. In that role, I needed to analyze lots of social media content and understand if the person behind the post was being serious, critical or ironic.

What are some of your favorite things about working at Sketch so far?

Well, I started working at Sketch just a few months ago but so far it’s been a wonderful experience. I really love the company culture and the trust you feel between people. I was lucky enough to make it to our annual meetup in Porto where I had the chance to meet everybody — that was pure joy!

What I love about Sketch is the light (but very professional) and fun approach to work, the respect for the people that give their everything to make the company better each day and the feeling of community. Ah — and the swag of course 😛

An image showing tote bags Giulia Virtus Azzoni designed for Grammi — business idea she came up with.

When Giulia isn’t gushing over her Sketch swag, she’s designing her own company merchandise for Grammi — a fresh-made pasta business she imagines running one day.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give designers who might be feeling stuck in their careers?

Don’t let any professional failure or success define you as a person. If you don’t get the position you wanted it doesn’t mean you’re bad or unworthy — it just means it wasn’t a good match at that exact moment.

Also, feeling stuck can just mean that you need a breath of fresh air. Think about what really excites you and take a step in that direction! Don’t be scared to find paths that might sound strange to the masses. Every job and experience that might look far from your ideal design career is something precious that can teach you a lot — and that makes you a better and more interesting designer.

Don’t let any professional failure or success define you as a person. If you don’t get the position you wanted it doesn’t mean you’re bad or unworthy — it just means it wasn’t a good match at that exact moment.

And to wrap up, what’s one piece of advice you have for designers starting out in their careers?

Nobody is irreplaceable, but everybody is unique. It can be easy to try to emulate those big designers we see online and hear about. But focusing on what makes you you is what’s going to be attractive to companies and studios — and that’s what makes you special. Sounds cheesy, I know!

Beyond that, try to burst your bubble every day — always take a look around and pay attention to what’s happening in technology, art, cinema, politics and so on. I think a good designer should first and foremost be a conscious and responsible citizen of the world.


Want to stay tuned to Giulia’s designs? You can follow her on Behance and Instagram — and of course visit our blog again and check out our header images!