ZG: Okay, icebreaker time. Imagine you are on the biggest, tallest, craziest waterslide you can imagine. But instead of water, it’s pasta sauce. What pasta sauce would it be, and what pasta would you use to slide down?
OV: Definitely marinara sauce. I’m not an alfredo guy. And linguine would be my pasta.
ZG: Wait. Would you use the linguine as a pool noodle?
OV: No, I would encase myself in as much of it as possible. Like a linguine mummy. I am terrified of heights. I don’t like rollercoasters or tall waterslides. The less I can see as I am going down, the better.
ZG: Wow. That was not the answer I was expecting. I would go down a slide of olive oil face-first in a pasta shell.
Editor’s note: Zack also does really scary BMX bike tricks in unexpected places. He’s also broken a lot of bones.
OV: Risk-taking is not my comfort zone.
ZG: Okay. Here’s the real first question. When did you first start designing?
OV: I was the meme guy in high school. That’s when I started learning. But I didn’t know Photoshop or Illustrator at the time. I used whatever was free.
ZG: Like Gimp?
OV: I didn’t know about that one at the time. Believe it or not, I used Microsoft Paint or Google Drawing. It was fun discovering different ways to use the apps. The limitations force you to think about how to use the tools you have. I still use them from time to time.
ZG: When did the memes become a job?
OV: When I was 16, I got a job fixing phones and other electronics.
ZG: The infamous broken screen repair guy?
OV: Yep. I even had my own side hustle in high school, fixing people’s phones.
ZG: Good gig. But how does this have to do with design?
OV: My path to design was nontraditional. That repair job turned into sales. Because I live in El Paso, our primary market is Spanish-speaking. But the sales materials were in English. But it wasn’t just a simple translation. It takes more Spanish words to say the same thing in English. They didn’t fit in the template. So I had to figure out how to redesign the materials. I came up with new headlines and changed things myself. Reverse engineering. That’s when I learned Illustrator.
ZG: What did the company think of the redesigned guides?
OV: They started using my files instead of theirs. They gave me feedback and taught me some essentials, like the difference between CMYK and RGB. And that’s when I started getting more into coding and websites. And then, later, I got my first real design gig at an agency.
ZG: You’re not scared to jump in and figure things out.
OV: I don’t see it as scary. Someone’s got to do it. I will always try to see if I can figure it out myself.
ZG: But you said you’re not a big risk-taker.
OV: That’s funny. I guess I sort of am when it comes to the digital world. It’s like a puzzle I can take apart and put back together. But in a way that makes more sense or serves a better purpose.
ZG: Speaking of building things. Tell me about your current office setup. I have heard things.
OV: Ha. When we moved into this house, my girlfriend made me promise to keep all my “gadgets” in one room. So, I am in this tiny office filled with them. One side is full of charging stations with my tablets, my VR headset, my 3D printer, my vacuum forming machine.
ZG: Whoa. That’s a lot of gadgets.
OV: And on the other side is a giant computer I built myself. With a fire extinguisher sitting right next to it.
ZG: Wait, what?
OV: It’s really more like two computers in one. I started building it in 2017 and kept upgrading and upgrading. And it got bigger and bigger. I am still improving it. Technology changes so fast, and I try to keep up. I will be at Best Buy at six in the morning to get the new GPUs that just came out.
Editor’s note: We conducted this interview back when new GPUs were being released the next day.
ZG: Dedication. But why the fire extinguisher? That sounds dangerous.
OV: The computer exceeds the capacity of one circuit, so I had to split the electricity into two different circuits. Last year, one of the power supply cables started burning. I replaced it, but I don’t want that happening again.
ZG: Definitely not. I never thought of our work as hazardous. What do you use the giant computer for?
OV: Mostly rendering and crypto mining.
ZG: Is there anything you can’t do?
OV: There’s a ton I want to learn about: game development, databases. I spent way too much time last weekend working in a new database system for Webflow. I was trying to learn more about creating customer portals, client portals, and web apps.
ZG: Sounds like a wild weekend.
OV: I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. But often with my seven-year-old son. He’s actually learning to code.
ZG: It’s in the genes. Switching gears. You live in El Paso. Describe the city in 30 seconds or less.
OV: Hot. Sand that gets everywhere even if it’s sealed. Enjoyable, welcoming. I’m from Juaréz, so El Paso is a great place to be if you want to jump into Mexico.
OV: This is the hardest question ever. I’m afraid to answer. My girlfriend’s favorite Pokémon is Squirtle. And my son’s favorite is Blastoise. If I had to choose from those three, I would say Charmander.
ZG: Final answer?
OV: Final answer.
Oscar is a versatile designer with a particular knack for UX and web development.