Papanapa founder, partner and head of design, Gustavo Garcia, didn't have design as his top choice when considering his career path — it was a bit by chance/accidental discovery of what design actually is/originally wanted to get into advertising. Gustavo shares his take on internships, what he looks for in a portfolio and his top 5 design crushes at the moment

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?

Going to a design school was not my first choice when considering a career. Although I very much enjoyed drawing as a kid, I had, for some reason, a strong connection with the advertising world. I used to collect print ads and archive them into folders, labelling them with the agency’s name and the year they were out. I was fascinated about how clever and how well crafted they were. Nowadays it easy to understand the relationship between those ads and the things I like in design but at the time (I was probably 13) I really wanted to be an Art Director at one of those ad agencies. To make a long story short, I failed twice trying to get into an advertising school and right before my third attempt I decided that in case I didn’t make it I couldn’t wait any longer so I got this random book that talked about some other creative careers and the only thing I remember about the description about being a designer was that it mentioned that designers create posters and that was it. In some way I got curious about it and a few months later I’ve ended up entering the design program at Senac University (I also failed at my third attempt into the advertising school) and that was when I fell deeply in love with design. At that time, going to school was, everyday, a very exciting day for me and I ended up building a solid relationship with the design world, as I still have. As far as my advertising career that never happened, well, I couldn’t be happier.

What does a typical working day include for you right now?

I try to get at the studio around 9AM. The first person to arrive makes the first batch of coffee, opens all the blinds and puts some music on. Till lunch I try to get all the not-so-creative work done which involves basically answering and organising emails and writing proposals to clients. If I have some spare time I try to write or draw a bit. Sometimes people go out for lunch together, sometimes I enjoy grabbing something to eat at my desk while I catch up with my reading or Netflix. After lunch my day gets busier and I split the afternoon between team meetings and design work. Since the studio is one big open space, people usually get involved in design debates as they pop up, so it’s hard to follow a script but that’s a creative vibe that I really enjoy. At the end of the day, before commuting back home, I usually save some time to share business thoughts and strategy with André, my business partner, when things calm down.

Design work by Papanapa The Design Kids interviews Papanapa work-2

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

We love having interns at Papanapa and we’re constantly looking for new ones (drop me an email if you feel like joining us). As a teacher and coordinator of the design program at Miami Ad School in Brazil, I’m constantly thinking about how I can help the students to become better designers in many other ways and improve their abilities and values about design and I guess we ended up bringing this philosophy to our interns. We encourage them to move freely around the studio, listening and bringing insights to the debates, to get involved in as many projects as they can and specially to have a close work relationship with them so we can share some of our creative process and give them the best advices that we can, specially about killing ego and being patient.

Design work by Papanapa The Design Kids interviews Papanapa work-4
Design work by Papanapa The Design Kids interviews Papanapa work-4

Character and quality: two things you should never negotiate.

What do you look for in a great portfolio?

Well taken pictures, excellent color and typography choices in a well crafted project narrative. Some (real) sketches/experiments are also nice to see. It helps you to show about your creative process. Oh, and please, do not go for quantity. Some people feel like they must have 15-20 projects in their portfolio to show they have experience and specially that they can handle all kinds of projects but I think the magic number should be 6! You have to be able to show what kind of designer you are with just a few projects and besides, studios usually don’t have much time to look at all portfolios they receive (last time we opened a position here at the studio we received 250+ portfolios) so you have to make sure you stand out!

What advice would you give students starting out?

Be thankful and open minded.

Design should be fun. Enjoy it!

Don’t try to define yourself. You may never get to that point anyway and you’ll be just fine.

Character and quality: two things you should never negotiate.

Design work by Papanapa The Design Kids interviews Papanapa work-6
Design work by Papanapa The Design Kids interviews Papanapa work-6

Where to find Papanapa online.


Instagram: @papanapadesign

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