Is­abel Ga­tus­lao spells out a hum­ble per­spec­tive to adorn­ment.

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is­abel Ga­tus­lao’s first en­counter with jew­elry was as a lit­tle girl ac­com­pa­ny­ing her mother to jew­eler ap­point­ments, so as she grew into a woman with an in­tact sense of self—honed as one of the coun­try’s most sought-af­ter graphic de­sign­ers fo­cused on lo­gos and vis­ual iden­tity—she too looked around only to find that noth­ing in re­tail, it would ap­pear, was made for her.

There has to be a feel­ing of affin­ity for fine jew­elry, like the brand­ing that in­tro­duces you. Af­ter all, they de­scribe you and who you want to be­come. Jew­elry is such a per­sonal thing that even if you wear it for show, it is one with you; you wear it right next to your skin.

Then there are the pieces that are a lit­tle more up­front about es­tab­lish­ing iden­tity: al­pha­bet jew­elry. Is­abel’s per­sonal taste—low-key, clean, sen­sual (qual­i­ties that are con­sis­tent with every­thing she re­gards and does)—are lost on loud, squig­gly type­faces. “Let­ter­forms are so much more so­phis­ti­cated than how it was be­ing in­ter­preted in the jew­elry world,” she points out.

Be­ing com­mis­sioned to do logo de­sign for a jew­elry brand five years ago chal­lenged this. She later worked with them for her own jew­elry, con­fess­ing, “Most of the time I’m a com­posed per­son, but when jew­elry is in­volved, I al­low my­self to get a lit­tle weak in the knees.” It was only a mat­ter of time.

Is­abel is cur­rently based in Barcelona, where she re­ceived her mas­ter’s de­gree in graphic de­sign from EINA, which of­fers one of the best de­sign pro­grams in Europe. She is now fin­ish­ing her sec­ond mas­ter’s de­gree in ad­vanced ty­pog­ra­phy, but ed­u­ca­tion by in­spi­ra­tion presents it­self ev­ery­where. “This place is de­signed for pedes­tri­ans, for you to look straight ahead (the men are gor­geous) or look up (the build­ings are so well-de­signed) or to look down (the floor tiles are a pat­tern-lover’s dream). And I love food, so to be in a city where food is ob­sessed upon makes me feel like I hit the jack­pot ev­ery sin­gle day.”

“I chose to study here be­cause I am aligned with the es­sen­tial and hum­ble Cata­lan approach to­ward de­sign, and not just graphic de­sign—in­dus­trial de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture as well. It does not sub­mit to the wild mess that is the look-at-me hys­te­ria, which I find I am highly al­ler­gic to,” she says. “Barcelona has un­wa­ver­ing de­sign stan­dards; it is not pa­tient to­ward ego-driven de­sign. Work has to be thought-pro­vok­ing and stripped to its essence, which I love be­cause it forces you to think hard, see sharply and rea­son prop­erly.”

Half of the time she is do­ing graphic de­sign; the other half, she is work­ing with her tough­est client yet: her­self, de­sign­ing for Lluc—the Cata­lan equiv­a­lent for the English name Luke, pro­nounced ex­actly the same way—her con­tem­po­rary fine jew­elry line.

She sums up the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween graphic de­sign and jew­elry de­sign as vis­ual amal­ga­ma­tion. “If a per­son has a de­signer’s mind, he will be sen­si­tive to all forms of de­sign,” she says. Quot­ing Mas­simo Vignelli: “If you can de­sign one thing, you can de­sign every­thing.”

Where the friv­o­lous and or­na­men­tal con­no­ta­tions of jew­elry are lost, Lluc draws un­der­stated shine in be­ing de­signed to be “true to con­cept, with­out ar­ti­fice and in har­mony with the hu­man body,” its web­site de­scribes. A high re­gard for shape, space, scale and ty­pog­ra­phy makes each piece time­less. Ev­ery mil­lime­ter is in­ten­tional as Is­abel labors through par­ing and re­mov­ing. “Noth­ing is left to chance. It’s a bit ob­ses­sive, but iron­i­cally my ob­ses­sive­ness is out of my con­trol and Barcelona just made it even more in­tense.”

The de­sign is then sent to Manila to be cus­tom­made by fine jew­elry ar­ti­sans us­ing ad­justable Ital­ian chains and 14-karat yel­low gold, white gold and rose gold from the Philip­pines. “The jew­elry ex­perts I work with make sug­ges­tions out­side of my ideas even when I don’t ask, and I love that,” she shares.

From studs and conches ref­er­enc­ing paper clips and punch­ers for a col­lec­tion called Ofic­ina, there’s an in­tel­lec­tual el­e­gance to Lluc. But Is­abel is yet more punc­til­ious in Cap­i­tal, another col­lec­tion of minis­cule ini­tial pen­dants set in a ro­man­tic 18th-cen­tury type­face. “Cap­i­tal can also be quite fem­i­nine be­cause its size is wildly minia­ture. Charm­ing, re­ally,” she ob­serves. “Barcelona im­posed on me the im­por­tance of sim­plic­ity and hu­mil­ity in life and in work. I’ve be­come ex­tremely pri­vate and se­lec­tive. It’s al­most em­bar­rass­ing for peo­ple to show off here,” she shares. “I once asked a cab driver why ev­ery­one is so hum­ble in Barcelona and his re­sponse was, ‘Is there any other way to be?’”

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