What Matters to Leonardo Rocha

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Leonardo Rocha is a dad, design executive, and illustrator based in Silicon Valley. He’s the Head of Design for Spotify Advertising and a judge in the In-House category of the PRINT Awards.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Besides hearing my kids’ laughter? Designing is my true joy. I’m happiest when I’ve delivered something useful, from frameworks and processes that help my work friends thrive to logos and illustrations that give small businesses a creative spark. I am blissful that something I can craft can make someone’s world a little better.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

My middle school years were ripe with creative outlets for a budding graffiti artist. That’s how I started my design path: with lettering/typography and character illustration. I recall being the center of attention occasionally during lunch and recess. I would have my sketchbook in hand and volunteer to sketch the names of friends and strangers in bubble letters and wildstyle graffiti lettering. That was my earliest memory of being fueled by making others happy, by simply drawing in a notebook.

What is your biggest regret?

Honestly, it’s hard to regret anything at this phase of my life. On the contrary, I’m grateful for where I am in life. My path has been paved with choices that led to successes and missteps, the latter of which taught me how to get better at making choices. I’m proud of that road, even the challenges, because they taught me some great lessons. I suppose not seeing life as an iterative process sooner is regrettable.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

I believe the feeling we call “heartbreak” is more aptly defined as our body’s reaction when we can’t assign love where it belongs. “Getting over it” can happen when you thoughtfully realign that love to new, worthy things or people that somehow honor or acknowledge what was lost.

What makes you cry?

I’ve cried a mix of happy and sorrowful tears at the thought of my rapidly growing children. I cherish the memories we’ve made together but, at the same time, feel anguish thinking about how fleeting those great moments are and wishing I was more immersed or present for them.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

I generally don’t have much time to revel in my work before moving on to the next project. But I’m also an obsessive, real-time documenter of my design projects. That has allowed me to reflect and relive the joy anytime the mood strikes.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I believe we came from the stars, and the energy our bodies contain always makes its way back to the universe. But I also think that our consciousness— that advanced electromagnetic energy inside our brains that gives us the ability to be aware and navigate the world with voluntary actions— continues in some form toward an unfathomable and fantastic place.

What do you hate most about yourself?

My lack of discipline on matters other than design and leadership.

What do you love most about yourself?

My lack of discipline on matters other than design and leadership.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

If you’ve ever eaten in Denver, Colorado, where I was born and raised, or anywhere along the Colorado front range, you’ve probably been blessed with one of the state’s best foods. Fire-roasted chilis, generally from Hatch, New Mexico, are commonly cooked into stews and sauces. This Colorado “green chile” has been smothering and elevating numerous dishes in Mexican and Southwest restaurants throughout the region.

So my go-to experience whenever I go back home: A smothered bean, cheese, and chicharrón burrito from El Taco De Mexico. It’s a women-run kitchen in the Art District on Santa Fe Drive, just outside beautiful downtown Denver.