Design Around the World: Argentina

To coincide with this year’s April International Design Annual, we decided to pull back the grid of latitude and longitude even further and hear, firsthand, what designers in these different countries have to say about design—how their location impacts their work, how clients embrace their creativity, what’s inspiring them and what kinds of projects keep them busy.

Here, Guillermo Stein from Steinbranding talks about what design’s like in the city that’s been called The Paris of the Americas.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Where are you located, and why do you enjoy being there?
We started in Buenos Aires, but today we are also in New York and Miami, and we are heading to India and Armenia.

What kinds of design does your firm specialize in?
After specializing in television branding and branding for passengers, we turned to multidisciplinary design.

What’s a favorite project you’ve worked on?
One of our favorite projects, which we have been working on for the last two years, is rebranding for Discovery Kids. The channel requested to develop its new regional image. As part of that creative process we conceived a mascot named Doki, who was born to accompany children in their growth and discovery as he went through that discovery himself.

Is there any recurring element that usually ends up in your designs?
The only fad we have not been able to avoid is the cross-shoulder bags that designers use.

What things influence your work? Where do you get your inspiration?
There is a popular saying among the staff at the studio, one that pokes fun at the search for inspiration. It says, "I got an idea out of a book." Inspiration is multi-causal. It comes from the city and its contrasts; from the trash pickers and the executives using Blackberrys; from the more than eighty channels on basic cable; from the many cyber cafés; from Sunday’s soccer game, which is always the topic on Monday; from a good fire for a barbeque; from movies, books, talking about women. It is not a coincidence that in Argentina caricature, is often a form of artistic expression.

How do you think your community and clients view design?
Today design makes it possible to think differently. The world has accepted design as something natural that must exist beyond artificial posturing. To be a designer, there’s more need to be a thinking being than an artist.

Do you think there’s anything that sets your location’s design aesthetic apart from other places?
There is a very Latin way of communicating whose point of departure is craft, not professionalism. This might mean that it is not necessary to hire a designer to put up a sign at a beauty parlor. This results in a broad range of styles that evidence enormous creativity as well as a widespread lack of design standards. On the one hand, this is "wild" (if we mean, by that, something not worked over) and, on the other, it is extremely rich, visually and expressively. This is the best example of democratization in design. So, if you want to get new ideas, you must come to Latin America.

Is there any cultural proverb or saying that influences the way you approach your work?
"Face it or run away," has been a recurring phrase given the ups-and-downs that Argentina has experienced. We are used to a turbulent market and to design not being valued. Given this situation, we have always chosen to face whatever came up rather than to run away.

If you were a color, what color would you be?
At this moment, we are Pantone 1495. Orange is a powerful color; it has light and it’s easy to combine with other colors. (Any likeness to reality is not coincidental).

Other interviews in the series
AUTUMN:01: Sydney, Australia
BLOK DESIGN: Mexico City, Mexico
Laboratorium: Zagreb, Croatia
LeBoYe: Jakarta, Indonesia
Steinbranding: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Third World Media: Nairobi, Kenya Barcelona, Spain Hamburg, Germany
Yellow Octopus Pte Ltd: Singapore
Zetalab: Milan, Italy

HOW April 2007