Serious Studio

Our chat with Serious Studio partners Deane Miguel-Cruz, Kookie Santos & Lester Cruz is full of great nuggets of advice & wisdom for newbie designers! We talk through every step of the application process, and the opportunities that come with each step, and we hear about their team bonding — 'Serious Fridays', where they grab a drink, watch a movie and try to grow as a team outside of client work.

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

The three of us have varied experiences on how we started and fell in love with design. But if there's anything we have in common, we fell in love with design because of our general need and desire to create; to get our hands dirty and to be involved in the process. We also got to broaden our view on design through travelling. We were able to compare a lot of our experiences: our own versus the new ones we were being immersed into. We learned how there are things that work, and things that don't, simply because of how close their solutions are to solving the problem.

It was through travelling that we uncovered the world of functionality and beauty coming together. We also started out of a frustration that people weren't getting what they deserved and how things and services could always be better. We serendipitously found each other, all with the desire for our country to deserve better and nicer things. Running the studio has been a self-taught journey, with the world teaching us to grow further into our craft.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

We love elevator pitches because you can be on so many levels. Serious Studio envisions a well-designed life for everyone regardless of class and location. We achieve this level of design by staying true to our core manifesto, Make Sense & Look Good™.

Design work by Serious Studio The Design Kids interviews Serious Studio work-2

What do you look for in a great client?

First and foremost, we love clients who already know the value of what we do. It's hard to gain the trust of someone who doesn't fully understand why you're important—because then the whole process will entail you having to justify why they spent for you in the first place.

A great client knows when to input, collaborate, and when to leave room for the team to do their job. | always make it a point to say, "you hired us for a reason, so let us do the work we need to do."

A great client knows how to listen— not just to us, and more importantly their customers needs and wants. A great client respects the creative process, and the time and effort it takes from start to finish. The best work always comes from clients who are on the same page.

What do you look for in a great portfolio?

We like portfolios that have character and a great grasp of design principles. The way you display your work shows us how well you curate. Self-initiated work shows us how you think on an uncompromised creative space. Client work shows us how you can create work with restrictions and compromises. How often you post work shows us how well you manage your time. Showing us your creative process shows us how you think. Designing your CV shows us your character. Not sending a blank e-mail with a portfolio attachment shows us your brain is working.

Design work by Serious Studio The Design Kids interviews Serious Studio work-4
Design work by Serious Studio The Design Kids interviews Serious Studio work-4

The way you display your work shows us how well you curate

What advice would you give students starting out?

1. Three E's! Efficiency, Excellency, and Effectivity. If you can make great work at a fair amount of time while at the same time making sure it packs a punch, then you are a good candidate. We look for someone who can pull off a great balancing act between the client, the team, and the universe. The universe is amazing because it's always random and it never tells you how it's gonna turn out. It is always a rollercoaster ride.

2. We know that creativity isn't a 9-5 affair, but don't overwork yourself. Being overworked isn't really an award-worthy thing. Quality of ideas degrade as you tire yourself throughout the day. Being overworked can alter your predisposition towards things.

3. Learn to say no. People will try to exploit your 'freshness' by making you do really cheap work or free work for "exposure". Don't let people waste your time. Time is something you can't get back so as cliché as it sounds, spend it wisely.

4. Try to find clients who see your potential and can help you grow. Try to look for clients who treat people nicely because it shows how they do business. We've had clients who knew we were starting out so they mentored us along the way since they were good people. When you find really good natured clients, take care of them because clients like these are hard to find.

5. Have initiative. Try to find a working environment that allows you to have a safe place for psychological safety. Big words aside, it's really just making sure you are in a space that allows you to take risks and make experiments. People with initiative and drive get retained real quick.

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

  1. We come in at any time in the morning. We end 8 hours from the time we come in. Manila traffic is horrible so we don't really consider anyone late.

  2. We usually answer e-mails at a fixed time period because you can't let e-mail eat your whole day up

  3. We make sure to eat lunch together every day. Food is such a communal experience at the workplace. It reminds us that we are not computers (or are we?).

  4. We have some clients come over if they want to discuss things. We have a client-only bar where we serve them drinks when the need arises.

  5. We noticed that every 4pm our team finds their way in the pantry to snack on some random thing. It's just that time of the day. Some days have us rejoicing over pizza and/or burritos. I think food plays a huge part in our culture.

  6. Aside from the day-to-day, we have Serious Fridays where we either go out (or stay in) for drinks, watch movies, and the like. In our most recent Serious Friday, we had a workshop on why some brands work. There's so much growth outside client work so it's something we push for every Friday.

Design work by Serious Studio The Design Kids interviews Serious Studio work-6
Design work by Serious Studio The Design Kids interviews Serious Studio work-6

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