Featured Studio

Gris

September 2019

We spoke to founder and creative director of Gris, Griselda Martí, whose studio branding is about capturing the nuance in great design. She gave us the tip to not be scared of specialising as a designer, chats to us about taking on jobs to pay the bills, and the importance of relationships in a studio.

Any hilarious stories about you as a kid being creative?

When I was a child, in the school we had to work with French school notebooks, and they were quite particular due to the combination of lined sheets and white sheets. There was a teacher who usually asked us to add extra information about the topic we were working on. In my case, those white pages became the excuse to have fun and ‘design’ by sticking in pictures, handwriting titles, lines...

Then, when I delivered my school notebook to my teacher, he used to show it to all the other students of my course, as an example of a good presentation. I felt ashamed every time he did that in front of everybody, and sometimes I even thought about not continuing with it. However, I had so much fun collecting the images, photocopying them, and so on.

To be honest, my mother was also a kind of influence on that — for her, the presentation and details on everything has always been very important.

In fact, after many years, sometimes I still think I started as a ‘pre-graphic designer’ at that time and not even being aware of it! Those wonderful white pages represented a lot for me.

What's the worst design job you’ve ever had and how does that make you a better designer?

In my previous job, we usually worked on really nice projects, but we also had a very big commerical brand as a client. They made us add flashes, make the logo as big as possible, add gradients and all those clichés that we, as graphic designers, hate using, but some clients are crazy about. The client always asked for more than just one proposal, and wanted to know which option we preferred; we would select A, they'd choose D.

For me that was kind of frustrating. I hated going to the studio thinking that I had to work on that. Fortunately it was not the only project we had. It required too many hours.

When I founded Gris - Careful Design, I always had this experience in my mind, and have always tried to find a balance in between. Unfortunately, sometimes when running a studio, you need to accept some projects that are more lucrative but maybe less creative. I need motivation to feel like I am alive and to go to sleep proud of what we are working on. Consequently, I want the same for the people who are part of my team. My wish is that we all feel proud of what we do, that’s the reason to wake up every day in the morning and go to the studio happy!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When I founded Gris I didn’t have any clients. I was working as a lecturer of Identity and Brand in Elisava, Barcelona School of Design and Engineering. But I knew myself. If I worked hard, I was sure I would get projects, and if not, I had a plan B: to move to London as a freelancer. This might work — I had previously had an interview with a design recruiter from there, so I knew I had the option. My uncle had a friend who works as a marketing specialist and when she saw my portfolio, she described it as sophisticated, with attention to details, creative. She told me not to be scared of specialising. I believed in that, and decided to brand Gris as providing added value to brands, a thoughtful approach in brand concept and communication within art, gastronomy, beauty and luxury... these are topics I really enjoyed working on.

I have always been so grateful for those words. After a few years, I realised we were seeing the results of my decision. Now I give the same advice. In fact, nowadays, most of the projects that come to the studio are the kind of projects we have been fighting to work on, so it was a good advice!

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My wish is that we all feel proud of what we do, that’s the reason to wake up every day in the morning and go to the studio happy!

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2019 for you in a sentence.

The best and the hardest!

We have won and award for the graphic campaign Lee Miller and Surrealism in Great Britain an exhibition organized by Fundació Miró Barcelona. Plus Fundació La Caixa contacted us for a similar project that involved Pompidou Centre, we need to get our hands dirty, and we are loving it! They expect the best and we’ll work the hardest.

What’s your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)

Yes I do. I look for students who think in a different way, with sensibility for typography, who are motivated and nice people. We are human, and relationships are as important as design itself.

How did you name your practice and what does the name represent to you?

It is quite difficult to find the name for something that is so yours, and in the end the one I selected was Gris. Careful Design. In Spanish, Gris means grey, and many people call me Gris as a nickname, but my aim was to give it a deeper meaning. I wanted the name to make reference to the way we work at Gris; "When black gets lighter and white becomes darker," — a poetic way to talk about the nuances that turn a good job into an excellent project.

Website: griseldamarti.com

Instagram: @gris_carefuldesign

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