Print to Web: How Marcos Chavez Made the Switch

When Marcos Chavez first started working as a professional designer in 1988, the personal computer was still new to the scene. He watched the Internet come alive in the ’90s and fully embraced multi-disciplinary design (long before it was cool) when he founded TODA in 1997. The firm tackled both print and digital projects from the start, and Chavez believes all design mediums should be developed synergistically, to best connect with and touch audiences.

interview with marcos chavez, interactive designer, todaHow do you view the relationship between print and digital?

To me, print and digital are not in a competition to be the more important or more useful medium. Instead it’s about how both can work together to support a brand or a cause. As long as we are able to touch things and create an emotional response from interacting with printed paper, print will be a viable medium. At the same time, the digital age has created unprecedented opportunities for communication to occur in ways that print will never achieve.

Were you intimidated when you first started to learn about web design?

I personally get intimated with all the projects I do. That feeling you get in your gut when you feel a bit over your head is an essential part in the process of a successful project. But, yes, working in interactive design brought on a whole new set of rules and challenges that needed to be understood and mastered.

How long did it take before you felt comfortable working in web design?

I’m not there yet. The medium is ever changing and I don’t think there will ever be a time when being comfortable will be a luxury to enjoy. Roller coasters are quite exciting to ride, but I’d never consider them to be comfortable…

What’s your job like now? What kind of interactive projects do you work on?

Right now I have a wide range of projects going on. They include creating new websites for a variety of clients, including an image retouching company, a photo agent, and an archive site for the classic American photographer Sam Shaw. We’re also doing a handful of branding projects that require us to design all the aspects of a new company, from the identity to packaging to marketing tools to online presence and space needs. We are doing this for a new men’s grooming brand, a fashion magazine/website and a new company that is advocating literacy by repurposing books.

What do you think is the hardest thing for long-time print designers to grasp about interactive design?

I think all of us have a hard time understanding the truth about an online project: pretty much anyone, at any time, and in any place can see the work we do. It’s hard to comprehend this and factor it in when designing for all these possible scenarios. Now that mobile technology is becoming a partner medium to our personal computers, having to think in both these formats (for design and programming) is the biggest challenge we have today.

Do you think designers need to focus on one or the other? Or is it possible to do both?

It’s not only possible to do both; it’s essential to do both. Communication has no allegiance to a single medium.

Any advice for print designers who want to make the switch?

The world is changing fast, becoming both smaller and bigger. Connecting with people in the digital realm will only become more and more amazing. At the same time, how we see the immediate world around us is also being redefined, and the objects we physically interact with are becoming more important and meaningful to us all. As designers, we need to be able to understand and communicate in both these realms.

TODA’s daily photo project,, captures events, ideas and inspirations at and around the studio.

TODA handles both print and web for MENSDEPT., a salon in Minneapolis. The firm designed a full program of branding materials for the launch of MENSDEPT, including the marketing materials, salon environment, product packaging and website.

TODA worked with therapist Tracy Solomon to design a website that communicates her personal philosophies and approach to therapy while maintaining her unique perspective and voice. Within the site, TODA created visual metaphors for each section, from an ampersand cake to colorful empty picture frames.