How lucky are we! We got to have a bit of a chat with the legendary Borja Martinez, creative director and founder of the studio Lo Siento. Borja loves to get his hands dirty and play with nature—clearly this has had some inspiration into the playfulness that comes across in the studios work 😀 Read on to hear some of Borja’s awesome advice on being a young designer and some good tips on who to keep and eye on and who you should be reading.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? I’ve been very curious since I was a kid, touching, exploring and examining all kinds of objects and things… also I like to invent things in the surroundings of my place in Barcelona, creating natural structures in the garden. I’ve been a free kid— playing with nature all the time . At the age of 24 I started to study Product design first and then move to London to do a BA in Graphic Design. I started late because I wanted to be a musician but I failed.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? That was in London. When I move to London in 2000, I suddenly opened my eyes and reacted to what design can give to you. I fell in love with the city, totally attracted by the intense rhythm of creativity.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? I moved to London in 2000, started to learn english and during the first year I did a Creative program course in LCP (London College of Printing / now London College of Communication). This was very important to me, to get in touch with the university and explore the facilities and area at Elephant & Castle. To pay for my studies, I found some freelance work as a designer (self initiated designer) helping freelancers and later on in an Architecture+Design agency working as a junior designer. This put me in a comfortable position to pay all my 4 years of experience in London, studying and working at the same time. This experience gave me strong confidence to keep my enthusiasm for graphic design.
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened? I did three intense years of Experimental typography and graduated in 2004. Then I started looking to find a job in some selected agencies that I had on mind… but did not get the chance to enter one.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. Experimental crafted graphic design for artisan and not artisan companies.
What does a typical working day include for you right now? Intense rhythm of work, thinking, creating and making the transformation of ideas into real graphic proposals for clients and also self initiated works.
What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why? Ways of seeing by John Berger (Essential) this one changed my perception of thinking and creating anything.
Whats your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)
Yes we do, all the time, a couple during three months.
What do you look for in a great portfolio?
Honest work, out of the box with fresh ideas well produced.
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate? Good sense, control and touch for good typography instead of spectacular illusions. Don’t need to see a lot of things, but good ideas at the end. Students need to know that it is not about what they’ve done so far in their portfolio but the need to express their skills and their ideas.
“Having fun is so important during the process of working sometimes… :)”
Tell us a bit about yourself and the studio that you work for. I founded Lo Siento 10 years ago, and today we are 6 people working on commercial and self initiated projects. We are based in Barcelona in the borough of Gracia. One of the things that we enjoy the most is the connection between humour and graphic design. Having fun is so important during the process of working sometimes… 🙂
How do you solve conflicting ideas within a group of collaborators? We sit at the table to discuss and listen to all the collaborators ideas and proposals and finally get to the correct one. Debate it is very important when solving problems.
“Debate it is very important when solving problems.”
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice? Yes, we do mentoring, teaching and workshops all around the globe. I personally teach a masters course in packaging, editorial and brand design at IDEP school of design, also teaching the BA for ELISAVA university students, some workshops in Italy for AIAP (The Italian graphic design association), a branding course in Urbino (italy) every year at ISIA, and several workshops we did in Spain (Valencia, Madrid, Bilbao, Soria, Seville…). We also did talks around the world for festivals like: OFFF (Barcelona, Fortaleza, Antwerp, London, Milano Cincinnati) , UDEM fest (Mexico) DESIGFEST (Guadalajara), FESTARCH (italy) or DESIGN CAMP (Lima PERU).
Any passion projects you would like to share? We are happy to start working for BCC (Basque culinary center) creating the branding for a new collaboration with a great fashion designer: Boris Bidjan Saberi…
Do you ever wish you were a freelancer or in-house designer? I started as in-house designer, then I become a freelancer and finally found my own studio
Who’s on the team, what are their roles. Pablo Salas (Studio Manager).
Gerard Miró (Craft producer).
Edgar Mestre (Designer)
Carlota Quintero (Designer)
Borja Martinez (Creative director and designer)
How did you develop your style, and what tips would you have for others? I always wanted to build my ideas through the crafted medium, trying to transmit the sense of touch in the graphic pieces we do. At the beginning I was very focused on the idea of taking graphic design to a different perspective, adding something else to the discipline. The main idea was to mix 3D physical design constructions with 2D as a final result.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self? Believe in your ideas, work hard and convert your student work into your passion. Passion is the reason of doing what I am doing today.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
To have the opportunity to run a studio with a bunch of nice people. To teach in the some of the Design schools, to talk in front of 3000 people, and to be part of the AGI (Alliance Graphique International) probably the most prestigious association for graphic designers in the world.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? —Listen to the client, but don´t leave them to design
—Believe in what you do as much as you can.
—Don´t leave your ideas in a sketchbook, make them real! now!
—Try and fail and try and fail and try and finally find it!
—Be curious of everything that surrounds you.
—Work with people better than you.
—Have fun during the creative process.
—Don´t consider what you do a Job, consider it as a way of life.
“Be curious of everything that surrounds you”
Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt? The digital power and technology it is very strong and is now converting graphic design into a three dimensional layer, where anything could be possible. Digital design is the new wave but I personally think that old processes and artisan work can perfectly mix with the new technologies. That is what we try to do.
What advice would you give students starting out? Learn, learn, watch, create, mix, do, play, have fun!
Learn about other disciplines, not just graphics, mix them together, experiment all the time!
Make things real, don’t wait for the client to come, invent your own projects, be the client yourself! Then the the clients will come, because if you do what you really want to do, the work will stand out and catch the clients attention.
What role does digital design play in your studio in 2017, and how to you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age? We are not yet into digital design, but we are trying to investigate it in terms of experimentation.
What is the design landscape like on your city and where do you fit in? There are a bunch of good companies and designers doing great work, it’s a good moment for Barcelona in terms of creativity, we fit into a different perception of understanding graphic design in the artisan side more than the digital computer based work.
Whats the big goal in the next five years? To work on more interesting projects, and get to know amazing collaborators and artists.
How important is networking to you? Very important to keep updated and fresh in contemporary graphic design. Relationships are pretty important, and networking gives you the possibility to work with nice and talented group of professionals.
Who would be the “dream client” that you would do anything to work for? Someone who loves what you do and respects your vision to improve his project.
What do you think the design community could do more of to give back? Be more aware of the climate change as much as we can and sustainable with the process of making and thinking to leave a good scenario to the next generations.
2017 for you in a sentence… Improve and learn more and more