EINA Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art de Barcelona. Attached to the UAB

Blog d’EINA. Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art de Barcelona. Attached to the UAB

24 July 2018

Javier Arizu, a former student at EINA, associate partner on Pentagram New York

Javier Arizu, a former student at EINA, explains his experience as Associate Partner on Pentagram Nueva York, one of the most prestigious design studios worldwide.

What do you remember most from your time at EINA?

Mornings between classes, the library, Laureano, but the best thing about EINA is its location, the park. It's a special place. When I say where I studied, people from here can't believe it.

When you finished your studies at EINA, what were your first steps professionally?

Before finishing my degree, during the third year, I did an internship at Mucho. It was interesting because they were also the mentors for the Final Project in my last year. When I was doing the Final Project, they offered me the possibility of working with them for a few months with the possibility of staying there. In the end, a spot opened up and I was there from April 2012 until August 2015.

After this period, I decided to make a change. Among my options was the possibility to go to another studio in Barcelona, but they all have a similar structure, so it didn't seem like there was a chance to grow too much. Another option was to start on my own, but I was only 24 and I thought I was too young. So, I decided to go abroad. My first idea was to go to London, because I thought going to the United States would be complicated in terms of visas. In the end I made up my mind and started contacting people.

My plan was to go to New York and go to interviews, but I only had one scheduled when it was time to leave Mucho. Just then, Guillem Casasús, who had been with Sagmeister, told me that they were looking for a designer for three months and asked me to send them my portfolio. I thought there was no chance they'd hire me, but they liked it and they wanted me there three weeks later. I had to leave Mucho early to go to Sagmeister for three months. It was a good test to see if I liked the city, the type of work, and the structure there, which is very different from what I experienced at Mucho. It was a huge learning process, but a month and a half later I decided I didn't want to stay with them, so I reconnected with the studios I had already contacted in New York. One of those studios was Pentagram, Natasha Jen is one of their partners.

I'd already returned to Barcelona when they told me they wanted me at Pentagram. That's where I've been ever since!

How did you become an Associate Partner at Pentagram?

Pentagram's structure is very horizontal. It has partners around the world (there are eight in New York), each with their own team, which might have between five and ten permanent designers and a few interns. Among the six designers on Natasha's team, the structure is like this: Intern, Junior Designer, Middle-Weight Designer, Senior Designer, then Associate Partner and Partner.

Are the tasks you're doing now different from what you did before?

It's what happens based on what you've been doing over time when you've shown that you're capable of taking on this position and that's how it has evolved, as I'll explain. I came on as a Senior Designer and catching on was hard, mentally most of all - their way of thinking, working, their tastes, because it's your client in the end, you know? It wasn't easy to adapt after having only one other experience and one other boss. The work dynamics are quite different, especially in terms of the creative process. Natasha is always more like the creative director and she lets us design.

What's the teamwork like and what role does each person have when starting on a project?

For a project, the Project Manager is in charge of logistics development. The Associate leads and submits proposals to the Partner, especially at the beginning of a project, then backs off and you continue with the project, meetings, and so on.

In terms of the process, there are initial phases for any project such as strategy, naming, and so on, and you have to be aware of what's going on to understand the direction the project is heading. When you start designing, two or three designers make design proposals and one person leads the project.

What are your plans for the future?

When I came here my plan was to stay for four or five years, to experience new things. But I don't know. I'm really happy here. I see it as a great opportunity to grow and to continue developing both professionally and personally. Meanwhile, Anna Berbiela, Guillem Casasús, Carlos Bermúdez (all EINA alumni), Albert Porta, and I created the Pràctica studio this year (www.practica.design). So, the next step is to "go all out" with our studio.

What do you think you learned at EINA that you were able to contribute as added value to your work?

Well, I think that initially, when I started working, what I remember appreciating most about EINA was being prepared in the field, having resources for the real world, doing final projects, or knowing how to do things right. Even though there's more to learn when we finish, we're constantly learning and improving. I think that the foundations you get from EINA are really solid and realistic, which gives you a great advantage when starting out. Here, for example, some of the schools set up the last year so you can go out into the world with a good portfolio that will allow you to find a job. That's fine, but it's another mentality that I think might make adaptation more complicated at first.

Looking back, I wouldn't have ever thought I'd end up here. I thought I didn't have the ability to come, but New York is full of foreigners. Actually, there are tons of people here who love the studios in Barcelona. At times, we tend to glorify things from abroad and think we're not able to work here.