It's been a minute since we've had an Ad Chat. And this one comes from Brazil. Simone Lagares is an amazing designer. And not only that, she's founder and creative director of Blackbird Branding, which is already winning some serious awards. We caught up with Simone to get her thoughts on the state of design, being an entrepreneur, and what makes Brazilians so damn good at advertising.
What was the hardest thing about starting your own shop? What has been the best thing about it?
I used to say that Blackbird Branding's just turned 2-years old, but it was born with more than 25 years of experience between designing and communicating for all sorts of brands. With that said, it's pretty clear I've dedicated more time to being an employer over the experience of being in charge of a business. So I'd have to say that the hardest thing about it, so far, is unlearning the employer mindset in order to learn new skills to better run and grow my business.
Now, the best thing was receiving the IF Award, one of the most prestigious design awards in the world, for the Agência UM rebrand. The fact that it was for my own shop felt completely different than the previous awards I won during my career. It was like a validation for the reason why I started the business and the amount of love that I put in each and every work I make. To know that at this very moment my work is being shown in a design museum in Germany surrounded by kick ass design projects from all over the world feels really good.
You paused a successful career as a designer to study at the Creative Circus, in Atlanta. How did that time studying abroad affect your career?
It still resonates to this day. The year I spent in Atlanta made me look at design and to my own potential in several different ways. I learned that after a while we tend to rely on certain formulas in order to get the job done and the best way to avoid it is to look at your work as a whole, trying to approach each and every project in a different way. I apply that to how I deal with Blackbird's projects. Another lesson I learned that year was that although I came from a different country, the more I add my personal experience or the way I perceive life to my work, the better it communicates with people from all nationalities. At the end of the day, emotion pretty much speaks the same language everywhere.
Design, like advertising seems to change every hour on the hour. In your opinion what will always be at the heart of design?
Process. Always the process. With product design, there will always be a human-centered problem to be solved in a better way, whereas in graphic design there’s a message or information to be communicated in a better way. The thoughts, and concepts will always be there but the form changes a lot.
How would you define good branding?
Good branding as in brand management is about coherency. It’s when what you say, look and do as a brand meets what people value or think about you over and over again. It's a never ending process. Good branding is about making clear what the company is as much as what it isn't so it’s also about clarity. Now when it comes to how design in general supports a good branding strategy, then I must say it's all about how easier it makes the brand to be perceived with the desired associations by everyone: from employees to consumers. It can be translated by a furniture design for the retail environment, by the logo itself, by the sound of a website button and so on, and how it all makes sense together. It shortens the amount of time and effort for the brand value to be understood, increases the longing to be around the brand and consequently builds brand equity. And personally to me, it must be simple, singular and gorgeous.
When people think Brazilian design and advertising, São Paulo is the name that comes to mind. What’s Rio have that SP doesn’t?
That's a great question. In the past the design difference per se was clearer. Rio's style was more “vernacular” and “experimental” than São Paulo’s, mostly because the cultural market in Rio was stronger back then. But currently this difference is not so dramatic anymore. Rio is still a smaller market than São Paulo, so it tends to be more familiar and personal in a way. I remember when this friend of mine from Brasília was searching for a job here and he was impressed by how friendly people were because for every interview he went he always left with new contacts of people they knew from other shops.
On the same subject, Brazilian advertising tends to be simple, impactful and almost always visual. Why do you think this is? And what do you think Brazil has in a design language that other countries don’t?
Brazilians are very visually oriented, loud and affectionate. I remember when I was in Atlanta people would point it out about my work and I had no idea about it. It's impossible to talk about the Brazilian culture without considering soap operas. It's the kind of thing that builds the storytelling in our DNA. So probably that has a lot to do with it.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
This changes according to the moment I'm going through. Currently it would be something like: "You know that paper written by the account executive with the brief of a new job that “magically” appears in front of you when you work at an agency? Start tracking down how and why it got to the agency. Start understanding the design business now!“