Last week we brought you the first installment of an inspiring look at the state of the web design industry in the country of Argentina. This week we cap off the look with more insightful interviews, site showcases, recommendations and more. Let’s dive right in.
Excerpt from Part One
The design industry in Argentina consists of thousands of freelancers and agencies. Through commentary, interviews, links and a big showcase of websites, we’ll introduce you to some of the most talented designers and studios in the country. Your opinions and suggestions are welcome. Please share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom.
Web Design and Creative Agencies
Argentina has a number of highly professional Web and creative studios. These studios have impressive portfolios, and clientele that includes prestigious brands such as Coca Cola, Western Union, Disney Corporation, Intel, Philips, PepsiCo, Chevrolet, Samsung, Nike, HSBC and Hewlett Packard.
Q: How did you get into the Web design world? Was it hard for you in the beginning?
Social Snack: Our team entered the Web world in two general roles: creative direction and executive production. Social Snack executes media and entertainment jobs using new social technologies. We use design throughout the whole process.
Each project involves different design disciplines, including interaction, aesthetics, art, photography, information architecture and content. Our methodology involves three design dynamics, called the 3i: interface, interaction and image. The last one integrates art direction.
Executive production is designed to synchronize all streams of work to make a project come to life. The creative direction creates a basis on which projects can become unique and memorable.
The digital world requires a lot of energy, curiosity and self-learning, both from the beginning and day by day. Understanding the industry helps, in order to better interpret customer needs and chart a vision of the future. We believe the key lies in energy and timing.
Naked: I come from the music world. I’ve been a musician for a big part of my life until a friend and I started a tiny software company, developing apps for small businesses in the old Visual Basic software. At that time, my knowledge of coding was pretty non-existent, but this friend taught me everything I needed to know to start programming. I soon grew bored with desktop apps and started to pay attention to HTML. It was 1995, and the Internet was nothing like what it is today. I used to spend whole nights learning HTML and Photoshop, designing little ugly experiments that I called websites.
Long story short, I became a bit better at that and was hired by a dot-com company in the late ’90s, spent a couple of years there until it went bankrupt (it wasn’t my fault, I swear), and then I decided to start a career as a freelancer. From then on, Web design has been all I’ve done for small, medium and big clients until we founded Naked with Andrea, my main partner.
Yes, it was hard at the beginning. I didn’t know anything about how to get clients, and marketing wasn’t as easy as it is today. There was no social media, no Google AdWords, and I didn’t have any money to invest in promoting my little business, so I used the Yellow Pages and started emailing a lot of shops trying to convince them to do a website with me. That didn’t work out very well, but in the end the people who I worked with in my prior job started sending me some contact info from their clients, and it all took off from there.
“Our company, Naked, is constantly investing time and other resources into finding the most talented creatives in our country. And because 100% of our clients are from the US and Europe, having a team with a lot of experience and that is willing and able to explore new ideas as they relate to interactive solutions is very important to us. We think this is what helps to align our brand with our mission: to help international studios succeed in their outsourcing needs through top-quality service and competitive prices.”
– Andrea Chiste, Project Manager
Q: How have you evolved professionally? Has Argentina’s environment influenced your work?
Social Snack: I would define it with two key words. One of them is “dynamic”: the practices in Web production change precipitously. Rules and trends change all the time. The other is “evolution”: for us, it’s all about being alert. That’s the game.
People spend a lot of time online, and this increases exigences and controls of the final product. Users recognize interfaces designed with intelligence, and enjoy the art of each website.
The final aspect of our job relates to the number of hours we dedicate to observing the trends and changes that new technologies bring. We evolve professionally as pilots do: flight hours determine our handicap. In this profession specifically, the key is to be self-taught. Results and learning depend on us.
Working in Buenos Aires is an enriching and positive experience. Our headquarters is in Palermo, the most international and cosmopolitan area of the country. Diverse people cross and converge each other, mostly Latinos and Europeans.
Instead of minimalism, we look for simplicity. We focus on seeking an identity that has its own features and that reflects all of these influences. The identity emerges from this mix of influences from all over the world, and from this neighborhood.
Naked: Not really. When I started out, I was crazy about all those big names in Web design, such as David Hillman Curtis, the guys from WDDG, one9ine and Enginethree. I loved their work and how strong their style was. But frankly, I couldn’t find anything like that here in Argentina and still can’t find it today. So no, I don’t think I was very inspired by the new media design community here.
My professional evolution had more to do with art direction, concept creation and content strategy than with graphic design. I’ve always focused on business goals in my designs, instead of trying to make the cutest thing ever. I like to keep the design as simple as possible. This is something our clients are happy with. They’re always telling us that it’s very hard to find designers who think this way, who think about business objectives first and then about the design.
Q: Can you tell us something you have learned that has helped you in running your business? Is Argentina an “easy” place to get established or to expand? Is your business focused on an South American audience, or are you open to a worldwide market?
Social Snack: We recognize that this job is always in “in progress” mode. At the same time, there is a deadline and a budget.
It’s important to understand that, unlike a magazine cover, online products never end and you can always improve them. They have to always be tested, corrected and analyzed.
But every deadline has a budget and limited timeframe. A motto that we have is, “The pizza has to arrive, but it has to be hot.” Being on time is really important. We take it seriously. What we’ve learned from all this is that you have to negotiate expectations with yourself and with the Social Snack team.
On the other hand, Argentina is not easy. It’s a country with many economic hardships and with a basic technological infrastructure. That is a positive, too: people here are very flexible. They can adapt to conditions and are very dynamic. Schedules are another advantage: we are aligned with other major capitals of the world.
In its beginning, Social Snack focused on Latin America, because naturally our relations and contacts were stronger in this region. But this year, we’ll start the process of expansion.
Naked: Here’s what we’ve learned, short and to the point:
1. Always write a proposal detailing how you plan to meet the client’s business goals (this is very important to the client), what you will do, how long it will take, how much it will cost. And if they approve it, make them sign it so that everything is well documented.
2. Always have a contract detailing everything about your working policies, from overtime rates to your intention to use this project as marketing material in your portfolio. If you haven’t defined these policies yet, do it now—believe me, you will need them later.
3. When hiring creative or technical people, try to work with them as freelancers first whenever possible. This will lower the risk in getting to know each other. And in spite of their impressive portfolio or coding skills, go with your gut when it comes to saying, “You’re hired.”
4. Relationships are good. Encourage social behavior. Engage in conversations with other agencies, designers, developers. You never know when you might need a partner or strategic partnership. When done right, it can greatly improve your small business. Argentina is definitely cheaper than other cities, way cheaper than New York or London. So getting established here is probably easier, although sometimes the government tries to make everything difficult for us.
Regarding our market, we just work with international clients, mainly from the US and Europe.
Q: What’s the scene in Argentina like? Are Web designers and developers well paid, in your opinion?
Social Snack: We think that the best designers and developers get very good pay wherever they are. In the online production industry, locality is irrelevant to income. On the global scene, talent rules.
Argentina has incredible design studios that work for the whole world. The characteristics of Argentina’s design are appreciated worldwide, and that is reflected in the income of professionals here.
In Argentina we have very high costs, but that’s only one among many competitive variables, and not the most important one.
Naked: I think if we take into account the international rates for these kinds of jobs, then no, we’re not very well paid here in Argentina. The most convenient thing to do is to work for other international agencies or end clients. Though that can be a problem sometimes, especially if you’re not used to that level of responsibility or your English is not fluent enough.
Q: Is being a Web creative considered respectable work in Argentina?
Social Snack: Yes, of course. Although it’s necessary to educate people about the whole professional dimension of creative Web direction. Online production requires a lot of practices and new disciplines that do not rely on the work of one person only. Each website requires a team of specialists and coordination among them. Not every client gets that yet.
Naked: It is respected when people understand the level of Web business you are running. Loads of freelancers are charging less than $10 per hour, and I don’t think that’s very respectable. And don’t get me started on their work quality. This can only ruin our industry and the general opinion of the Argentinian Web scene.
Q: How would you describe the current situation for those who want to start a career in this field? Is job demand high?
Social Snack: As we mentioned before, job demand is very high. Argentina is very attractive because it has very competitive costs. Whoever chooses to work with professionals in our country discovers that we possess a great creativity and flexibility and that we are very friendly people.
It’s a very good field, with huge demand both internally and externally. Any designer who sets out to realize quality projects and takes care of every detail will surely have good income.
Naked: This is probably the best time ever for someone who is starting his or her interactive career here in Argentina. More and more international agencies out there are ready to outsource projects to us, and this is due to the high proficiency in development that they can find here. Also, the currency exchange rate is very convenient for clients who are paying in (US) Dollars and Euros, which makes it even better as a commercial opportunity.
Q: Do you see any remarkable differences between Argentina’s designs, and the ones in the US and Europe?
Social Snack: We hope to find them all the time! Anytime we collaborate on a project, we try to make these differences visible.
Argentina is a land of emerging trends. We consider two lines that exist in every design: one that standardizes certain practices and another that is more creative. Argentina has both, and it’s a very good place to discover creative work.
There’s an online production stream that creates trends during the year and they become standard. Buenos Aires is one of those places where trends grow all the time. You need to pay attention to those Argentinean designers.
Naked: Clearly, yes. As I mentioned before, it’s not easy to find the kind of top designers who you can see at, let’s say, Firstborn or Rokkan. The big stars are hard to find. Sometimes an unknown freelancer trying to make a living in some province far away from Buenos Aires, our capital, turns out to be a very talented designer or developer. That’s why we’re always striving to find these talents wherever they are.
Q: Where do you get inspiration from? Name a few of your favorite sources of inspiration.
Social Snack: We find inspiration everywhere. It’s true that we look at galleries and projects of studios that we like, but we also go further than the digital world. We seek metaphors for interfaces in disc covers, art galleries, modern architecture, everywhere! Our website Cultura Positiva has been mentioned in many showcases this year, and it was inspired by a photograph!
Naked: FWA, Communication Arts, a lot of blogs, portfolios of other agencies that we love and respect and, naturally, Smashing Magazine, including the Smashing Book. Actually, I find inspiration everywhere: movies, concepts I see in TV ads, music to define moods and styles. Typography alone is a huge source of inspiration, too: beautiful type releases all kinds of visual ideas.
Q: Are you following the work of any particular designer or developer in Argentina?
Social Snack: We love BBDO Argentina’s work, especially that of Fernando Barbella, who is creative director of the agency. We saw some memorable campaigns, such as Pecsipedia, among them.
Naked: I like the work of the guys from POGO; although they don’t do much interactive work, their offline portfolio is nice. Also, there’s a fantastic industrial designer, Fernán Etcheverry, whose work inspires me.
Q: Do you have any thoughts about design trends in Argentina? What has been your favorite design trend or style?
Social Snack: For 2010, a trend we are seeing is layouts as posters.
Naked: I love typography and writing strong messages using beautiful typography in Web design. And the use of big—and I mean huge—type, has been a trend for a while that I always find lovely. Academy is a great example of this, even though it’s not from Argentina particularly.
Also, I don’t know if it’s a trend, but the use of WordPress to build and maintain certain kinds of websites that are not blogs, such as one-page portfolios, is a great idea. Now designers can put their portfolio online in record time and keep it updated without much hassle.
Q: Are any techniques widely used by Argentinian Web designers?
Naked: I can’t identify one in particular, to be honest. You can find very different styles among Argentinean designers, as many as you would find anywhere else.
Q: Do most customers want English-language or Spanish-language websites?
Social Snack: They prefer to have both.
Naked: Because our clients are mainly from English-speaking countries, they choose English for practically all of their projects.
Q: Are there any issues unique to Argentinian website design?
Naked: I think we Argentinians are very creative people. I don’t know if it is because we have had so many crises throughout our history that we struggle to learn new ways to succeed or what, but clients everywhere are very impressed by our level of creativity. In Spain for instance, our clients keep telling us that we come up with interesting and inexpensive ideas for art direction. Being creative is easier if you have a huge budget to spend, but it’s not that easy when not so much money is on the table. I think we are good at that.
Q: Can you tell us something that you think Argentinian designers should improve on?
Social Snack: In our experience, one thing that needs to be improved is our use of methodologies. There are many great project directors, but it’s important that all of the disciplines come together in one methodology.
Naked: There is always room for professional improvement. Perhaps this country doesn’t have as many Web design celebrities as other countries (Joshua Davis, Zeh Fernando), and so I think the overall quality of Web design could be improved. We’re talking about trying to be among the best in the world, so that we can be in a better position to compete in the international market. But I’m sure we are on the right path.
Q: 2009 was an exciting year for Web 2.0. What’s your relationship to social networks?
Social Snack: Our slogan for the company is “All media is becoming Social & Snack.” Our job is entirely focused on the social contexts of branding.
Naked: We definitely think it’s a powerful tool. We try to keep learning about it everyday, and it has been great for our relationship with other professionals in our community. For instance, a dear friend and partner of ours, Gabriel Peart of Brazil, who is a very talented Flash developer, contacted us through Facebook, and this led to a wonderful working experience through project collaborations. And this happened when we were in need of such a Flash guru. Now he’s hosting the FDT workshop at Flash Camp Brazil. Amazing guy.
We are starting to use Twitter a lot, and we have found some skilled people through LinkedIn whom we ended up involving in our projects, in one way or another.
Q: Do you enjoy the work of any designers in particular? Name some of your favorite creatives in Argentina.
Naked: Actually, the designers who inspire me the most in Argentina don’t come from the Web design arena but from different disciplines such as illustration and photography. Here are some of them: Lisandro Schurjin, Santiago Guerrero, POGO, Florencia Mazza.
Q: Are any regular meetings or design-related events held in Argentina?
Social Snack: Buenos Aires is unique for having bars and cafes on every corner, with chairs and tables in the street. It’s a very chaotic city. Thankfully, in recent years, there have been a lot of activities. Just to name a few: Trimarchi, Design Meeting of Palermo’s University, Pechakucha, Barcamps, Sustainable Design Festival, TEDx Buenos Aires, Barcamp, Wordcamp.
Naked: Yes, plenty. Actually, in July 2010 there will be a big event here in Buenos Aires that includes 350+ workshops, conferences and courses hosted by highly experienced professionals, and people from all over Latin America are coming. Signing up is completely free for everybody. The even will consider all aspects of design, including the Web, industry, photography, movies and advertising.
Q: Can you share a few of your favorite website designs?
Q: Would you like to share any upcoming projects that you have planned?
Social Snack: We are writing in a blog part of our methodology for the production of creative projects. Taking out time to share our vision is a big challenge, but doing it is very important.
Naked: At the moment, we are working on our own new website, but it’s too soon to share the comps. We are defining the main concept, trying to visualize what it’s like to be truly “Naked” with design; to be totally nude, innocent, without any disguise and thus completely honest and transparent. We are just beginning to explore these ideas. Next, we will shoot some photos with this in mind.
We’re definitely in love with our jobs.
Showcase of Web Design and Creative Agencies in Argentina
The designer and director of Camboya, a design and interactive publicity agency, gave me his opinion of the Web design scene in Argentina: “From my point of view I see a dichotomy. On one side is incredible, invaluable talent in developing technical and conceptual work. But on the other, slow economic growth in the country is seriously compromising this. Infinite fights for lower budgets, little willingness from the clients to develop ideas from the conceptual and technical stage make it hard for designers to deliver their talents, being constantly mired in the bureaucracy of budgets and daily briefings. So, I think we’re at the stage of constantly evangelizing new media, and those innovations, values and potential are leading us in a new direction, as is happening in other European countries and even Brazil, which has a high level of design and interactive experience.”
“Design must go beyond mere aesthetic factors and solve specific problems. It must be a tool that changes and improves everyday life. The success of our work is based on a rational and precise methodology that allows us to identify problems in the studio with our clients. By analyzing their needs and acutely observing the reality that surrounds them, we generate creative and practical solutions designed to suit them.”
– Hoffmann Estudio
I recommend you also visit the following:
- Cayetano DG
- WeikUp!“At WeikUp! we believe that a solid graphical approach is built from an optimal methodology that is capable of revealing the specific problems of the brand and project itself. Understanding and interpreting the client’s own ideas is key to developing fully original and functional results. Teamwork, interaction between different perspectives and a constant exchange with the client are key factors in a successful project.”
- pyxis dzine
- Micromundo“We believe that design in Argentina arises from multiple perspectives. We get our vision of trends from leading countries, and we get our perception of social and cultural reality from here. This condition gives our designs peculiar characteristics. We believe in honest work and in the responsibility of both accepting a project and performing it with professionalism.”
- Blag Studio
Here are a handful of other websites that you should check into for a glimpse of the Argentinian web design scene. This section is the yang to the Blogs featured in part one.
A useful resource:
Design portals and publications:
Further Showcase Of Websites in Argentina
Here is the remaining selection of websites made by Argentinean designers or for an Argentinean audience that we will feature in this showcase. We have featured throughout the posts a range of personal websites, corporate websites, portfolios, blogs and various styles and platforms.
More Places to Study Web Design in Argentina
Again, there is still no complete and well-conceived career path for aspiring Web designers, but Argentinians who want a career in design, animation or the arts still have some valid options. Here are a few more of them:
- Universidad John F. Kennedy
- Universidad de Morón
- Universidad de Palermo
- Universidad Nacional de Còrdoba
Argentinian Web Designers And Developers To Follow On Twitter
There’s no better way to follow the design scene in Argentina than by contacting designers easily and directly. Twitter is the most popular instant messaging tool, and some of Argentina’s talented designers can be found on it.
- @mbavioWeb designer.
- @horaciobellaThis Web designer specializes in usability, accessibility and information architecture. Visit his website.
- @germanferrariA CSS, XHTML, PHP, jQuery and WordPress enthusiast. He also blogs.
- @ignacioricciA lover of graphic design, XHTML and CSS design, and WordPress. Visit his portfolio.
- @vanegazzeA graphic and Web designer.
- @jorgemudryA PHP, MySQL, (X)HTML, CSS and AJAX programmer.
- @rickteruelA Web designer and developer.
Another instant messaging project worthy of highlighting is Tablosign. Tablosign is a microblog that involves several designers and that publishes links, tools and useful tips. In essence, it combines several of the ways that people generate and deliver content on the Internet today: microblogs, Twitter, Delicious, blogs, thumblelogs. Accordingly, small entries are made that summarize an idea, piece of advice, opinion, or link; all design-related, of course. Among the Argentinian designers who participate in this project are Germàn Ferrari, Diego Mattei, Alejandro Cano and Horacio Bella.