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Inside the Studio: SAVVY Studio

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 08/05/2015 | 7 Minute Read

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In his popular TED Talk, Simon Sinek stated, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” The heart of what you’re doing, your motivation and your inspiration, resonates more with people than the actual end product or service by itself.

SAVVY Studio is dedicated to unearthing the why. The Monterrey, Mexico based design studio goes far beyond aesthetics and function to create lasting bonds between clients and their audience. They’re not just creating a bookstore, a skincare line, or a bakery — they’re creating memorable experiences.

To generate these emotional links, SAVVY calls on its team’s various specialties, including marketing, creative copywriting, and architecture, just to name a few. That, combined with their open and dynamic creative process, helps to elevate brands beyond what they sell. “We always talk about how we feel about a brand, a product, a service,” Rafael Prieto, founder of SAVVY Studio, states. “It’s not always the product itself that is rewarding, but how it makes us feel or what it provokes in us.”

We’ve been lucky enough to speak with Rafael about the design process and creating this emotional link, SAVVY Studio’s initiative called Casa Bosques, dream projects, and much more.

1. What inspired you to start SAVVY Studio? What were your initial challenges in starting the company?

The first motive I guess was the entrepreneur in me, and continuously meeting the right people I could partner with and design interesting and functional projects.

We shared the same passion for certain things we felt were missing in Mexico and we saw a chance to be part of the ongoing evolution and to contribute to it.

The initial challenges were finding the right clients, staying true to ourselves and to just work on projects we were interested in but staying relevant to the clients’ industry.

It takes experience and credibility but it does come along within time.

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2.What is SAVVY Studio’s design philosophy? How do you feel that those values set you apart?

We believe in good design by all means, through branding, graphic and industrial design and architecture. Creating good stories, good experiences, we are very meticulous and crafty and it’s very clear in our work. I guess that is one of the values that doesn’t necessarily set us apart, but it surely makes us appealing.


3. What can clients expect from working with you? What process do you take them through?

We offer projects relevant within their industry, with a fresh view and high quality for clients who are open to work together with us to reach the best results.

The process is very involving and we try to keep the clients close from beginning to end. It is very important for us that any person that works with us understands fully how and why their projects were developed in a certain way.


4. Why do you think it’s important for your clients and their audience to have an emotional link? How do you create this for them?

Creating an emotional link is one of the most important things in branding. That’s what it’s all about. We always talk about how we feel about a brand, a product, a service. It’s not always the product itself that is rewarding, but how it makes us feel or what it provokes in us.

We create this link through a complete understanding of the project and creating the just and right storytelling to the consumer through the project. The customers have to feel related to it and the product has to be inclusive and as transparent and objective as it can be. It’s crucial to be strategic about how we communicate its values in order to help people understand its benefits in a simple way.


5. SAVVY Studio is incredibly focused on creating brand experiences. What exactly does this mean to you, and how do you go about doing this?

We are all about it. We create brands through storytelling, design, architecture, picking the right words…It’s relative of course, every project is a different world. We care about every detail and face of the project, try to work on every aspect so almost everything is there for a reason. And most importantly, so people can understand the project, and experience it.


6. How do you feel a convincing story elevates a design’s potential?

I truly believe that. You see it but you also have to read it. We relate through words after a visual crush. Words have to be there. The story is built as a whole. When there is something to say it must be said. If it’s not the case then the words are redundant.


7. Have you ever had a negative experience with a client? What did it teach you?

Just a few, nothing really important. Throughout the process we discovered we were not on the same page, so there was no point in going forward. You truly have to believe in your branding agency in order to develop the right confidence in the market.


8. Describe what a typical day is like for you.

Wake up, meditate, walk to work. It’s different in NY than it was in Mexico City. I get to the studio at 9:30 and go on a Skype meeting with the studios in Mexico to update each other and check the status of each project we are working on at the time. Then I go through the day working on my part, attend meetings, do reviews and drop off at 8 pm, exercise, have dinner and lay back.


9. You have an incredibly diverse team with expertise in marketing, communication, graphic design, industrial design, creative copywriting and architecture. How do you take all of these various skillsets and make them work together?

Teamwork, that’s how we work through the process. Everyone at our studio has a very specific reason to be part of us, a skill and personality that complement us in order to be more strategic.

We all know our strengths and weaknesses and at the beginning of each project we try to put together the right people for it.


10. How do you keep your team inspired? What kind of an environment do you strive to provide for them?

I think we are all inspired by the organic growth of the studio. Every week we get to work on interesting projects. Another important way are our own projects like Casa Bosques, Cordoba 25 and Anatole 13. Our studio in Mexico City is located in Cordoba 25, a very nice house we took and reconstructed 3 years ago. We have our bookshop focused on art, design, architecture and fashion, which is very inspirational, as well as a good place for consultation. There’s also an art gallery and two clothing shops. This way, every day you get to be part of something interesting instead of being just locked up in a studio all day without having the chance to enjoy other things related to design as well.

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11. What are the most important qualities for a designer to have? What stands out to you when you’re looking to grow your team?

Talent, technical skills and passion. We look for people who really want to make a difference.

12. Every project you work on is unique. When deciding on whether or not to work on a new project, what excites you? What is it that makes you say yes to a new client?

Uniqueness, trust, good attitude and just good will to collaborate with us in something fresh and interesting.

13. Tell us a bit more about SAVVY Studio’s initiative, Casa Bosques.

Casa Bosques is a reflection of us as a studio. We always care about giving something to the places we are part of, a way to feel related to a neighborhood.

The bookshop and the chocolates, aside from being a passion of ours, are something we felt was missing in the city. That is how it began - from a need. And we started Casa Bosques to satisfy it.

Things have gone very well which makes us very happy.

14. You’ve mentioned before that a dream project would be to design the graphic identity of city. What does that dream city look like to you?

Well…I don’t know if I can put this in words but rather through the city’s communication, signage, symbols. Having something more functional. Not only aesthetically appealing but design a communication that really makes its population understand everything in a clearer way. And mainly, make the design have positive impact every day of everyone…A driver, a commuter…Just making it friendlier, emphatic, clear and pretty.

15. Do you have any exciting upcoming projects that you can share with us?

We have just finished designing the Super sunglasses shop in LA, and we are about to start in Dubai. We are currently working on a really nice hotel from scratch. Concept, naming, branding, architecture, interiors, every single item in the hotel. It will open next year and we can’t wait for it.

We are also rebranding a dairy company, doing all their storytelling through graphics, packaging, writing and illustrations. Lots of work to be done.

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