Young Guns 17: Leo Porto

By Brett McKenzie on Nov 04, 2019

Shining a light on the amazing class of Young Guns 17

What happens when you take a jury of 60+ respected creatives, more than 500 entries from all over the globe, and mix them all together for two months of serious consideration, debate and decision-making? Eventually you get the winners of Young Guns 17! This year, The One Club for Creativity is honoring a creatively diverse class of 28 winners, including animators, designers, photographers, illustrators, film directors and editors, all of whom came out of this process as true champions of their craft.

Ahead of the Young Guns 17 Ceremony + Party taking place on November 20, we are featuring the various superstars who will be taking the stage that evening.

Leo Porto


Brooklyn, NY


São Paulo, Brazil



First of all, congratulations! Now how did you first discover Young Guns? 

I first heard about Young Guns when I was a student at SVA. I remember that people would talk about it when an SVA alumnus would win. I guess Young Guns has always been a reference for me and something I looked up to. It felt different from most awards out there because it actually recognized good work across a wide range of disciplines. It is probably what sparked my interest to apply one day.

This was your second time entering Young Guns, the first being two years ago. What did you do differently that might've pushed you into the winners' circle this time around?

For this year's application, I included two newer projects that had come out since the last time I entered. I also wrote a much more comprehensive biography — last time I kept it very short with fewer details.

Which of the projects that you entered is your personal favorite and why?

My favorite project is probably Bonde, a personal project that I started with my partner Felipe Rocha. It started with the desire to connect Brazilian creatives living in New York, to bring Brazilian design to a global stage while giving it the recognition it deserved, and to show the importance of immigrant talent in the creative field. The first edition of Bonde took place in 2017 in Brooklyn, and brought together over 350 people, 10 speakers, 80 publications and two pop-up exhibitions. It was super-gratifying to start a project from scratch and see it come to life on stage. It is especially rewarding to see all the different connections that are made as the Bonde community grows.

What was it like to discover that you won YG17?

Honestly, it was a little bittersweet. I was obviously happy about winning, and I thought it would be a nice addition to my green card application. At the same time, I was sad that my partner Felipe also didn't get in. I knew that he deserved it just as much as me. 

How would you describe your creative style?

I guess my work tends to be more type-driven and on the modern or brutalist side of things, but I wouldn't say I have a particular style. I always approach each project differently and try to come up with solutions that work best for the client, their goals and unique contexts. 

What is your favorite tool when it comes to making what you do, something you’d feel naked without? 

InDesign is my favorite, it's the tool I use every day in almost every project I do. I like it because it's super precise, good for typesetting and keeps me organized.

What do you do when you hit a creative wall, when you are stuck for ideas and solutions?

I try to put down as many different ideas and sketches, even if they suck — most of them will suck — so they are out of my mind and onto the paper or screen. I've always found it easier to eliminate options until you find the best one, as opposed to staring at the screen in the hope that you'll come up with a winning idea.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career? 

Definitely all of my instructors at SVA, including Natasha Jen (YG4), Carin Goldberg, Joe Marianek and Dinah Fried. There are all of the studios I've worked at, including Sub Rosa, Mother, Chermayeff&Geismar&Haviv, Pentagram, and Collins. In particular, I'd like to acknowledge Brian Collins, who taught me so much and always gave me opportunities that challenged me to grow over my four years at Collins. 

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners that you look up to and admire?

I'm sure there are more, but from the top of my head: Ben Crick (YG15), Jonas Lindstroem (YG16), Tracy Ma (YG11), Pablo Delcan (YG14), Noemie Le Coz and Ben Grandgenett (YG15). 

Name a creative dream that you have yet to fulfill.

I just recently fulfilled a dream of mine, opening my own studio with my partner Felipe. Now the dream is to see the business thrive and to do the best work possible for clients we like.


"Leo Porto's work is about essentialism. He achieves a frequency that is quite surprising. On first glance, his work appears minimal, but then it reveals layers through time, often through a deliberate absence of information. I find it rare to come across contemporary design work that marries aesthetic refinement with a humanistic language — probably the key to why his designs are so seductive. Leo is just getting started, and I look forward to following his work as he develops as a Young Guns winner.”

Andrew Zuckerman
The Slowdown
Young Guns 3 Winner

“There’s immense power in consistency as a creative. For your agency. For your clients. For your team that relies on you. Delivering time and time (and time) again is not easy. It is not common. It takes more than just top-shelf talent and the opportunity to execute. It takes drive, tenacity, and a true passion for the craft. More often than not a portfolio is peppered with the biggest hits, and what you don’t see are the majority of misses. That’s just not who Leo is. Behind his winning submission selects you’ll find even more killer work. Leo's work is always tight. Often it may be the vis systems that you could take for granted — simply because the solutions are so spot on that they feel like a natural fit for whatever brand that he touches. But, if you look closer, it is design perfection. Consistently excellent. And when a creative is consistently excellent — it should be recognized. That is why Leo is a Young Guns winner. After years of delivering stellar, spot-on, design excellence for clients across multiple categories; Leo Porto couldn’t deserve this award more.”

Jacqueline DeJesu

The Young Guns 17 Ceremony & Party takes place on Thursday, November 20 in New York City. 




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