5 Innovative Design Agencies that Call Lisbon Home

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Lisbon attractions include a flourishing creative community bolstered by rich history, tech startups and innovative design agencies—including these five that call the Portuguese capital home. (Note: This piece was excerpted from the HOW magazine 2017 International Design Annual)

lisbon attractionsHeineken Grand Café interior by Upstairs

1. Upstairs

This award-winning studio brings together graphic design, interior design and packaging design in a magical way. Whether it’s creating projects for the Lisbon Airport or the Heineken Grand Café, the folks at Upstairs have worked on over 100 projects a year for the past decade, from offices located in the attic of an 18th century building. “Lisbon’s startup scene is very hot right now,” says Upstairs co-founder Manuel Vital. “Many new cafés and restaurants [have] opened up, and with the increased influx of tourists, the tourism and hospitality industries are booming; even if we do not feel directly influenced by what others are doing, we do feed off this entrepreneurial energy and collaborate with clients and friends on their own business adventures.”

Up next, the studio is developing new product ideas for Nomad Foods, a British packaged food company, and are wrapping up a book project for Portuguese lifestyle blogger Bárbara Leão de Carvalho. It’s also working on packaging for Super Bock, the biggest Portuguese beer brand. Still, some dreams have yet to be fulfilled. “We’d like to accomplish the longtime goal of branding and designing a hotel or hostel,” Vital says.

Festival Silencio Collateral by Upstairs

IADE Creative University advertising campaign by Upstairs

2. FunnyHow

True to its name, this design agency is armed with a sense of humor, both in its web presence and its design work. (Just visit FunnyHow’s website to see the design team dressed up in Goodfellas-style mafia costumes.) With clients including Heineken, Guinness and Johnnie Walker, it’s easy to understand why: It’s an extension of the team’s personality. “Wanna be the boss?” the agency asks on its  website. “You gotta have the guns.” This Lisbon design team, which was founded in 2010, touts themselves on unconventional brand communication, social media and guerrilla branding. They’ve done everything from playing on traditional Portuguese traditions to creating video-mapping projection animations, when they’re not sitting on the jury at Lisbon’s International Advertising Festival. The studio’s concept? Creating and organizing creative work for their clients, who are considered famiglia.

Advertising design by FunnyHow 

3. Magnésio

This design studio was founded in 2003. Since then, it’s grown to work on a range of projects, from office design at the multinational media and digital marketing company Dentsu Aegis Network to an anniversary exhibition of Lisbon’s Fragmentos architects. With many foundations and universities as clients, the group’s work is centered on the art and design industry, specifically through colorful web design, branding and logos, as well as book covers, from biographies to social studies.

Anniversary exhibition of Lisbon’s Fragmentos architects by Magnésio

Dentsu Aegis Network Office by Magnésio

4. Lisbon Project

This digital design, communication and development agency has been cultivating creative ideas since 2008. Set with the goal of “connecting brands to their customers,” Lisbon Project has two offices: one in Portugal and the other in Mozambique. By aiming for strategic thinking alongside design and digital development, the many graphic identity projects it has worked on include the stylish branding for Portugal Tastes, a company that specializes in marketing Portuguese products internationally. The design team blended national references like Lisbon streetlamps with a minimal aesthetic to create the logo. “Over the years, we have built trusting relationships with our customers that allow us to look for solutions that are increasingly creative, enriching and challenging,” they write on their website. Other projects include ceremony graphics and multimedia video projections for the country’s national holiday at the Portuguese Embassy in Maputo,work for Adidas and branding for the playful children’s brand Chicco.

Branding for Chicco by Lisbon Project

5. Experimentadesign

Founded in 1998, this group defines itself as a nonprofit cultural association that bridges design, architecture and project-based culture. Focusing on design and promotions, they work with everyone from international institutions to the local community. These are also the folks behind the EXD Biennale, a Lisbon-based design event that began in 1999, and includes conferences, exhibitions and urban interventions related to experimental design. This group aims to organize events that question how design can respond to the cultural challenges faced by contemporary society. And they help come up with the themes, such as “No Borders,” the 2013 focus of the design, architecture and contemporary EXD Biennale exhibition. Far from the status quo, their style is minimal, out-of-the-box and sometimes theoretical. One of their claims to fame is their project at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, which focused on Portuguese marble and limestone in history and contemporary culture. The piece, titled “Resistance,” is part of an ongoing series dubbed “First Stone.” 

“Resistance,” Experimentadesign’s project for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale

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