Inside the Studio: Hispánica

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 10/05/2020 | 5 Minute Read

When we do an Inside the Studio feature, we typically take you, well, inside the studio. 

We talk about how the space inspires the designers who inhabit it and how they create together to get work done. But how are agencies coping in a time when most people aren’t going into an office and instead find themselves working from their own homes?

It’s proven challenging, of course, to stay inspired solo in a home office, and even more so at a time when client budgets have dried up. But Hispánica, a Mexico City-based design agency, has managed to find the silver lining of 2020 and instead taken the time to reassess what inspires them in the first place and how they want to move forward.

When María José Almanza founded Hispánica in 2015, she intended to make each individual project unique. “We’ve never liked it when you see a template from design agencies, and everything looks the same,” she said. “Every brand we work on is reflected differently.”

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And to achieve this, their quality of work starts with the team. Everyone at Hispánica brings a little something different to the table. The boutique agency has five people in-house, and they collaborate with talents from around the world with varying backgrounds in photography, video programming, illustration, and copywriting. They not only have people from different cities in Mexico, like Monterrey and Mexico City, but also internationally (think Barcelona and Buenos Aires).

“With the team that we have now, I discovered that this was the real thing that makes us different and makes our projects more complete,” María said. “We have different opinions and references and ways of thinking.”

Client projects are a team effort. Everyone comes together for a debriefing and kick-off call, after which they dive into extensive research. They try to really understand the client through the eyes of the person who will end up using that product or service, striving to understand what their highest priorities are and what can help set the client up for success. From there, they create mood boards, and then tasks are divided up and assigned.

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“We are really honest with ourselves because sometimes I’m going to be better at one thing, and someone else will be good at another thing,” María explained. “And we ask, ‘What do you enjoy doing the most?’ Enjoying the process is what makes us happy, and we can see it reflected in the results.”

Prioritizing what brings them joy was what led them to the shifts they made during COVID-19. Up until the pandemic, much of Hispánica’s work was social media content in the hospitality industry, and they’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. But hotels, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs haven’t fared well throughout the shutdown. But with strict stay-at-home orders and business closures, Hispánica lost over eighty percent of their clients overnight. Not only that, but social media content tended to have a short life span (24 hours only for Instagram stories), and the idea of creating something that would have a more lasting impact was appealing. María got everyone on a call to discuss what the future should hold, and it was apparent that focusing on more visual, UX, and UI design was something everyone wanted to do more.

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One such project they had worked on in the past was Querencia, a boutique that any plant lover would adore. Hispánica was tasked with bringing that in-person experience to the brand’s website, including art and photography direction, to communicate digitally. The team sought to take the love that goes into all of the products in the boutique into a digital format, while also imparting the warmth people feel when they physically visit. 

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“When we had branding projects in the past, we were super excited,” she mentioned. The design team felt eager and passionate about those projects, so they decided to hit the restart button and hone in on projects they loved the most.

“So that was the switch, and it was deciding it, and being confident. We just had to put those fears aside because there are so many branding agencies that are so good. But people saw our work even from social media and for other things, and they trust us. But I think it was because we trusted in ourselves before.”

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Although the team is separated and not going into the office, they feel energized by the work they do now. María couldn’t share the specifics for some of their most recent projects, but she said they already had the chance to work on branding for a new anti-aging platform, an app and website for a luxury fashion marketplace, and the rebranding for a global company that specializes in experience design and customer intelligence.

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María added that the biggest success of the agency so far, though, is the team. Even though they now only see each other through the small rectangles on Zoom and tasks are delegated on an app, they don’t need the inside of a studio to accomplish amazing things. They miss seeing each other in person, of course, but are pushing through these times to fulfill themselves creatively. 

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“Sometimes when you start out as an agency, you think that whatever thing you take is good, you start offering a lot of different services, and you work with everybody because you’re starting and you don’t really know,” María said. “But the most important thing is to get to this point when you really know what you want to do because you know what you enjoy the most. We decided to make this change as a team, and forming that team where you really like partnering with the people makes a difference.

“The team that you form is what defines you as an agency. And more than a team, we consider ourselves a family.”

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