Contributed by Julie Wolfson
Art provided by Ivan Garcia/Futura
The pulsing sounds of Daft Punk fill the room. Squares of neon yellow, saturated pink, and Tron blue glow in the dark space. Sebastian Padilla, the creative director of the brand intelligence group, Anagrama, holds up a large sheet of plexiglass. A Samsung LED monitor reflects colorful geometric shapes across his face. The imagery inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film made in England, with projections created in Mexico, captured while listening to house music from France reveal an eclectic array of global influences on this scene. Padilla’s energy fuels the long photoshoot, one of the many projects he is juggling that week.
While Padilla peers through the plexiglass sheet in front of his face, he squints. The light is too bright to look at for more than a few minutes at a time. Even in the dark photoshoot at Futura Studios in Mexico City, the future of design in Mexico looks bright. At this very moment Ivan García of Futura stands behind the lens of the camera and will soon execute the postproduction work on the images too. A spirit of collaboration has developed, not just between Anagrama and Futura, but also Savvy, La Metropolitana, and other design studios in Mexico. Their growing roster of international clients shows that the world is taking notice of the talent and innovation coming from Latin America.
Padilla has moved to Mexico City to immerse himself in the pulse of the city, all while managing his responsibilities at the Anagrama headquarters in Monterrey. Simultaneously, he continues to develop new projects and businesses. Padilla’s tenacity and Anagrama’s success in product and packaging design, branding, and interiors has enabled them to work with global clients.
Designers in Mexico City, a city often underrepresented in global conversations about contemporary design and branding, are making themselves seen and heard. This is a city with worldclass museums and a strong tradition of creativity and innovation. But until recently it would not have occurred to global companies to look to Mexico to find graphic designers and art directors to collaborate with. When Padilla teamed up with Gustavo Muñoz to create Anagrama in Monterrey, they began sowing the seeds of a creative company that would make a name for itself by building brands and rebranding local business. They grew and branched out to other parts of Mexico and eventually beyond the borders. But more than rebranding individual companies, Padilla was rebranding what it means to be a designer from Latin America. Today, his agency, along with several others, are gaining worldwide recognition. Mexican designers now are competing internationally and are considered as seriously as agencies from New York or London. Finally, Mexican design is being put on the map with gusto.
Padilla’s legs are long. He walks fast. Very fast. Trying to keep up with him is a challenge, and he is a danger to anyone in his path. Traveling around the city revealed how well this massive metropolis suits him. Architecture, history, and contemporary design exist side by side. And Padilla finds inspiration at every turn. He is clad in all black: black jeans, black shirt under a black Surface to Air leather jacket. His excitement for the city is contagious. He overflows with knowledge about its history, art, and architecture. He spews out lists of restaurants he likes, as well as ones he decidedly does not. Padilla’s opinions flow freely. Maximo is the best. Another famous restaurant is too fancy with tiny portions. Padilla loves tacos. Somehow the conversation keeps turning back to tacos. Along the way he describes his many projects and fields calls, texts, and emails.
In addition to his work at Anagrama, Padilla is juggling a staggering number of projects. He is developing a feature film, a love story. He has an idea for a television series. With his brother, chef Emiliano Padilla, he is working on a concept for a fast food chain. He also opened a cantina in Monterrey and is in talks for a new chocolateria project. Later, Padilla talks about creating a video game too. “I would love to direct a video game. The most important thing for me is to connect the story with a playable game that makes you feel attached at an emotional level. I like the journey and experience, like movies. It is the kind of game we need more of. More of an art, that you feel an actual connection to. It moves your heart.”
Anagrama, the company he founded, is known for colorful product and interior designs. But two of their best-known projects, Theurel & Thomas patisserie and Niños Conarte, almost did not happen. When Padilla was entering college on scholarship, he was faced with a dilemma. There was an exam to qualify for the architecture program. And that exam was physics. Padilla did not want to take it. The result would set the tone for the rest of his life. He needed to find another course of study and knew he wanted to study something creative. That’s how he found himself in a graphic design class.
Bridging the boundaries between history and heritage with contemporary design and modernism became Padilla’s passion and forte. He knew the history of his country and its rich cultural heritage. He had spent much of his childhood with his father and grandfather, both architects, learning to recognize art movements, architectural details, and how to draw and paint.
Though he was expected to follow the footsteps of his forefathers to become an architect, Padilla found himself discussing logos and product design. And although graphic design was not the plan, it became his life. Padilla excelled in the graphic design coursework. The many years of intensive exposure to art and design in his childhood prepared him. He was the student who could bring the sensibilities of Cubism and Modernism to his work.
By the time he graduated, Padilla still was not clear on his career path. An option was to head to Spain to study film. His lifelong love of cinema was still calling him. Before he confirmed that plan, he met Gustavo Muñoz, an industrial engineer. Padilla realized that Muñoz’s technical skills and talents could complement his own artistic ones to create something he could not start on his own. The trip to Spain was scrapped, and with the help of Mike Herrera, Daniela Garza, and Roberto Treviño, Anagrama was born.
HOW’s Fall 2015 issue, The Reinvention Issue, explores how today’s leading designers, brands, and marketers have succeeded in our dizzying, fragmented, globalized world by embracing the knowledge that the only constant is change. The only way to stay on top of a constantly changing world is to reinvent it.