For the latest addition to our Design Around the World series, we are going back to South America, this time to Argentina.
My associations with Argentina are based on the Argentinians I know: They are vibrant, warm, full of life. And through talking with those people I know Argentina is a beautiful yet complex place to live. What I didn't know is how that affects designers and their work.
First, let’s talk about your studio. Who is the team behind Twentyfive and why did you decide to open your own design studio?
We are currently two people. Ana is a digital art designer and I work as a design director. We work with some people remotely – designers, illustrators, copywriters and programmers.
I always worked independently, until at one point I wanted to set up a studio to improve my work, add more quality, and therefore have more clients. Also opening your studio is a great challenge, which tests our ability in several aspects.
Buenos Aires had a big creative/arts scene in the 1920s. Is that still the case? Is there energy and conversation about design happening among your community? What about in Argentina overall?
Argentina has a very strong creative design energy. There are many designers, therefore the design scene is very present through events, conferences, festivals.
It seems to me that all that energy is scattered; we are not very united as a community. I believe that we should be more united to enhance our work more, show ourselves better and empower ourselves.
For a long time Argentina exported many designers, mostly in the 1990s. A few years ago that happened again. Many designers decided to leave the country. That is not good for the Argentine design community, but it is good for everyone who wants to look for their future where it is better.
So, there is a strong design scene but we need to be more united as a community.
"In Argentina, unfortunately, we are used to crises. We live with it."
Do many platforms and events exist in Buenos Aires / Argentina that connect you with other designers?
There are several events, not platforms, or at least I do not know.
There is a very big design event that has been taking place for more than 15 years and that brings together more than 4,000 people. That is the biggest event and that connects many designers. Also, there are other smaller but also important.
It is important that there are events that serve to connect with other designers.
In talking with friends from Argentina, I know the current social and financial situation is on many Argentinians’ minds. How does this affect your work as designers?
In Argentina, unfortunately, we are used to crises. We live with it. There are moments of calm, and that is very good. But when the financial crisis is great, it brings problems.
It is very complex to explain what happens. At some point you could not work abroad because you could not make a bank transfer; it was not allowed (yes, that difficult and crazy). There are many issues related to the dollar that would be long to count... This is undoubtedly very damaging to our work.
In Argentina, you not only have to think of your work as such, but also live with these situations that directly or indirectly affect your work.
Argentina is wonderful, but not in these cases.
I read that Argentina’s financial struggles in the late 90s / early 2000s left most designers working for clients overseas. Is that still the case today? Do you work mostly with local clients or international clients?
Exactly. It happened in the '90s that many designers decided to go to work in other countries due to the deep crises that occurred. Today something similar is happening although the crisis is not the same.
I work with international clients, but most of my clients are local. In 2019 I launched my foundry with my partner, Aldo Arillo. He is Mexican, and we decided to build society in Mexico. That is another type of business and in this way it allows us to work with clients around the world.
"There is something that equals us all and it is the ability to think. We should make more use of it."
How would you describe the design you see coming from Argentina today? Is it influenced by your culture/history in any way?
I think that for many years, the Argentine design had a look similar to everything that was done in Latin America: a lot of color, collage, etc. Somehow you still see that although to a lesser extent; I imagine it is present in the DNA.
In my case it does not happen. My design was always related to European design, (Germany, UK, Switzerland). I imagine that is due to the strong typographic presence that exists in my work and the simplicity that I manage.
Many times they told me that I should go to work in those countries. I had the opportunity on several occasions, but I decided to stay in my country and pursue a career here.
"There was very little to look for inspiration. The inspiration was from the street, in the music and in a search of our own."
Some might argue the internet has homogenized design, with everyone looking outward (especially to the West) for inspiration. How do you feel about globalization and its effect on Argentina’s design identity?
It is true, long ago everything is within reach of a click.
I come from a culture where the internet did not exist. There is something that equals us all and it is the ability to think. We should make more use of it.
I was educated without the internet; we didn't have access to almost anything. Design and / or typography books did not reach Argentina. There was very little to look for inspiration. The inspiration was from the street, in the music and in a search of our own.
I don't watch much of what happens. I design the fonts for almost all the projects I do, I try to generate new languages. My search is to other side. I think it is good to be able to see everything that happens in the world in a very easy way, but it is simply that.
Yes, it is true that globalization transformed design a little in Argentina. You could see what was happening elsewhere and that served as inspiration for many of the new generations.
You do a lot of branding and typography work. With most big rebrands today, we see companies leaving behind the old quirky logomarks in favor of extremely simple, sans-serif text for a logo.
What’s your opinion on this trend?
That is true. I think that in some cases it was positive, but in many others it was not. The problem with following a trend is that everything looks the same. Many logos lost personality and that is not good.
Each brand has a message, and I feel that several lost it. You have to be very careful with trends. The problem with trends is that they do not last over time, and that cannot happen in a logo.
Like any trend, there is an overuse of it.
How much impact does your social media presence have on getting new clients and self-promotion in general? What works best for you?
I spend little time on social networks; there is something I still cannot understand. I don't know if it only serves to show my work or to get clients. I think it only serves to show my work and in a lower percentage to get new clients.
It is a pending task to give more importance to my presence on social networks. I don't know what is better: I am on Instagram, Behance... Facebook and Twitter I almost don't use. And my website.
But I think social networks are very good.
I read that it took many years for graphic design to become part of the university curriculum in Argentina, but there seems to be some influential design programs in schools now.
What is design education currently like in Argentina? Are many designers choosing to study or are most self-taught?
Many universities have graphic design in their study plans. That is very good. The University of Buenos Aires is where the largest number of people who choose a graphic design career meet.
Most people choose to study; I don't know many people who have made a career of being self-taught.
Also, the UBA (University of Buenos Aires) has a postgraduate degree in branding and a master in Typography. I am part of the branding postgraduate staff since four years.
What does good design mean to Twentyfive, and how do you see it impacting your country’s society as a whole? Do you think it can solve larger issues Argentina faces?
It is difficult to explain the meaning of good design. There are many projects that I see and like. At Twentyfive we try to design projects that generate impact. As I said before, we seek to generate new languages, we try to break with the established, to go further. It is a great challenge to achieve this in each project, but the search is that.
There is a lot of work time put into each project. We do tests and more tests until we are convinced that what we are going to present is the best we could do.
I'm not sure that design can solve bigger problems facing Argentina, but we can help.
Do Argentinian clients, generally speaking, appreciate good design and understand what it takes?
I always say the same thing when asked what kind of clients are looking for Twentyfive. They are clients who understand the value of design and the impact this can generate on their brands. So constant effort is satisfying.
I read that the work of Lucien Achille Mauzan in the 1920s still has a big influence on poster design in Argentina today. Is poster design still relevant in your community?
I'm not so sure that it will continue to influence poster design in Argentina.
Poster design has a presence; I like to see the city with good posters. Also, there is a great presence of murals and street art. That is seen more and more. Many designers and illustrators are working in that area.
In your opinion, what are the top 5-10 design studios from Argentina that everyone who might be not familiar with the Argentinian design community should know?
How can all designers and design communities do a better job of communicating with each other? How can we become more engaged with the Argentinian design community? Are there any blogs or specific magazines we can follow?
I believe that everyone from their side can collaborate in making a design community. Being good professionals, helping us and respecting us. I don't know any blogs or magazines that we can follow. I think that as we said before, everything is within everyone's reach.
Let's be better and better.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, Ariel. We'll be following TwentyFive's work (and these other incredible Argentinian design studios you shared) and look forward to seeing more from the Argentinian design community.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the author of this blog, nice to meet you!