hot trends + office tips + cool events

Feeling Savvy

A truly great brand experience flows seamlessly from print materials to web UX to the spaces we use to display our products. So it makes sense that a design firm that can straddle both branding and architecture is uniquely positioned to create a cohesive brand experience. We’re crushing hard this month on the playful, minimalist designs of Savvy Studio, a branding and interior design firm based in Mexico City, New York, and Monterrey.

Savvy creates brand stories and experiences for international arts nonprofits, small batch mezcal distilleries, farm to table restaurants, world famous artists, book fairs, commercial complexes, and more. Their bright and modern sensibility personifies the new era of borderless visual design, carrying a unified aesthetic across media. Their multidisciplinary team includes specialists in Marketing, Communication, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Creative Copywriting and Architecture. With this team of design superheroes, they can collaboratively problem solve and create multifaceted brand expressions.

We love Savvy’s print materials for artist James Turell’s installation, Encounter, the first of his public Skyspaces in Latin America. The understated use of bright, offbeat colors balances perfectly with the stark, minimal application of messaging and information.

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And we’re obsessed with their branding and packaging for Tomás, a specialty tea shop in Mexico City, which perfectly captures a nostalgic mood with modern accents. We can almost picture how delicious it smells in here.

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Los Angeles based nonprofit The Mistake Room is a longtime favorite of ours, providing space and resources for artists to experiment and collaborate. The branding choices Savvy made here reflect an irreverent approach, open to trial and error, and of course, mistakes.

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And we’re obsessed with the simple sophistication of their design for Carolo, a restaurant in Mexico City that brings organic ingredients up against unique themes and stories.



Read more about Savvy’s projects.

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Urban Farming – Greening the Built Environment

Brooklyn Grange Urban Farm

Over the last several decades our cities have evolved into hardscape deserts in which highrises and traffic jostle in a never ending fight for supremacy.

But now, the pendulum is swinging back withe the emergence of urban farms as we’re seeing an increasing awareness of necessity to reintroduce living greenery into the cityscape. It’s not just about combating pollution. There are many excellent reasons to welcome nature into our cities.

Here are just a few good reasons for urban farms:

1. Cleaner air: plants breath in CO2 and emit Oxygen.
2. Plants cool the air in the immediate environment and act as a natural magnet for moisture, attracting rain.
3. Rooftop gardens help insulate buildings and put to use space that’s otherwise non-functional
3. Fresh produce is expensive and has to be trucked in, adding to increased costs and more pollution. Growing fresh produce in the city helps with both those issues.
4. Connecting city dwellers with nature lowers stress and increases well-being.

Why urban farming is taking off in cities like New York:

We’re becoming increasingly educated and informed. Green roofs have long been popular with architects, but things have evolved from simply growing grass and trees on top of buildings. With the rising costs of fresh produce and the popularity of organic, sustainable farming, green roofs have given way to full scale urban farms.

It makes sense seeing as we prefer fresh, organic produce and we like to buy from local producers.

This has given rise to many urban farms in the city on rooftops as well as in abandoned or unused ground spaces throughout the city. Urban farming is a hot trend and while most urban farms started out with just a few ‘farmers’, many, like Brooklyn Grange, have grown from a few to many members. They now have over 2 acres of rootop gardens in the city and through their stalls, has sold over 400,000lbs of vegetables to the public and local restaurants.

It’s not just vegetables that are popping up on rooftops throughout the city. Some urban farms feature honey bees and hens for eggs. Some of the better known urban farm enterprises include Gotham Greens, Added Value, Tenth Acre Farms, and Bright Farms. Brooklyn Grange has also opened a non-profit organization known as City Growers which is an educational organization focused on creating awareness and training young people. Training up more urban farmers is essential in ensuring that this urban trend grow and doesn’t become an urban legend.

New York isn’t the only place to boast urban farms, although, it seems that they are the leaders in this innovation. In Staten Island, there’s a young couple, Zero Bates and husband Asher Landes who are farming a strip of land between two apartment buildings. Produce includes vegetables, flowers, herbs and roots. They sell the produce at a farm stall on the premises. What isn’t sold or used is donated to a local Food Bank.

Across the other side of the country, in Pasadena, California, an urban farm operation is run by a family on their 1/10th acre suburban garden. They are able to not only supply almost all their own needs, they have an excess of high quality produce that they’re able to sell at local farmer’s markets and to high end restaurants. They grow over 6000lbs of crops a year comprising over 400 varieties of plants. The children in the family have grown up with this simpler, healthier life style and now, as adults, want to continue the tradition.

Urban farms are sprouting in diverse locations, from city allotments, to skyscraper roofs to urban back yards in a move toward greater sustainability within our built environment.

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Creative process of design versus deadlines.

What does the creative process of design involve?

creativieIs it pure artistic inspiration, or is it analytical data that comes together in the designer’s mind as a symphony of ideas evolving into a tangible product almost of its own volition?

Whether you’re analytical, or creative, or, like most of us, have a blend of skills and talents, I think we all agree that the creative process is not always plain sailing and can be a little unpredictable, especially when a deadline is looming.

Why is this and is there anything that can be done to facilitate the birth of a design?

The trouble with anything creative is that it is… well, creative.  Creativity can’t be forced.  It can’t be manufactured and it definitely can’t be inspired on demand. Or can it?  Is there a formula or a process that can facilitate creativity?  If you’re facing a tight deadline, that fact alone can scare the creativity right out of you.

For writers that situation is known as ‘writer’s block’.  It generally involves you staring at a blank screen with your fingers poised over the keyboard, not having a clue as to which keys to hit.  For once, you have nothing to say… or nothing you say sounds right. Experienced, successful and prolific writers say that they have developed a process that triggers a break through so that they rarely experience writer’s block.  Those triggers are generally quite mundane and not at all ‘creative’, but they are practical and they do work.

Many of these writers say that by forcing themselves to write a certain amount daily, even if it’s just a short paragraph, gets the creative juices flowing. They swear that by doing this they rarely experience a problem when facing a deadline.  They start off writing about anything – not necessarily engaging in the writing task at hand, but simply allowing their fingers to literally type anything that enters their mind.  Some say they write lorem ipsum if necessary until their brain kicks in and the creative neurons start firing again. John Grisham once said that he wrote many of his best sellers during his morning train commute to work.  The routine of getting on the train and beginning to write triggered his creativity.

The fact is that creativity is one part inspiration and three parts perspiration.

You can certainly enhance the creative process, whether you’re designing, creating artwork or writing, by being in an environment that inspires you.  Psychologists suggest getting out into a forest, or onto a beach, or just being surrounded by the beauty of nature will do the trick.  Architects say vaulted ceilings and lots of light and volumes of airy space will predispose you to being creative.  While that is all true, there’s no substitute for developing a process that’s easily duplicable based on the discipline of routine.

Athletes don’t begin exercising the same day they’re doing a trialthalon.  You’ll see them lifting weights, running, swimming and whatever else they need to do, on a regular basis.   Similarly, artists don’t begin their career by creating a masterpiece.  Composers don’t compose a symphony on their first attempt ever.

creativieYou’ve heard the saying, ‘practice makes perfect’ and the best way to get creative juices flowing, the best way to be inspired and to get really, really good at producing excellent results ‘on demand’, is to develop a process that hones your skills, nurtures your talent and allows your mind to simultaneously fully engage and fully disengage.  Having your mind simultaneously engaged and disengaged might sound a little crazy, but how many times have you had an inspired idea or had a solution to a problem pop into your mind while you were doing something unrelated and often quite mundane?  Like driving. Or cleaning. Or walking.

The creative process of design becomes a lot easier if you are able to establish a routine and engage in design activities that don’t require heavy concentration.  Just like the writer who writes ‘lorem ipsum’ until their fingers take over and their mind gets into the ‘zone’, the designer can doodle design related items.  Even taking an item where the design is already visible and recreating it on paper can act as a trigger for creativity.

Make a habit of doing certain things in a specific order before you begin to design the item you’re working on.  Make it a process of predictable steps.  This routine will go a long way to helping you be more creative.  As the scientists say, a body in motion tends to stay in motion, while a body at rest tends to stay at rest.  Put a design process in motion and pretty soon that process will take on a motion of it’s own toward an ease of creativity that will have you both creative and meeting deadlines with ease.

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Asian Influence on Interior Design in the Workplace

When you think ‘Asian’ what comes to mind?  Perhaps your favorite Asian food, or curved roofs on exotic pagodas, or perhaps the martial arts? 

Asia, or as it’s sometimes called, ‘The Far East’ has had a profound influence on many aspects of Western life, not the least on the interior design of contemporary office space.

Asian Influence on Interior Design in the Workplace

However, the Asian influence on Western design isn’t a new phenomena.  Centuries ago, that intrepid trader / explorer / adventurer, Marco Polo, became fascinated by Asian design and decor and began bringing samples back to the West.  It wasn’t long before European designers were making use of lacquer, fretting, oriental motifs and rich fabrics in their interior designs.

It seems that the fascination still runs strong, although today, in most Western commercial environments, we tend to favor a simplicity of design that leans more towards the Japanese than the other lands of Asia.

Chinese design, for instance, is a lot bolder, using a lot of red and accenting heavily with gold.  Japanese design is more restrained, focusing more on creating a sense of tranquility and incorporating natural themes and colors.

Think simple, calm interiors with minimalistic, clean design.  Each element has a purpose, making a subtle statement. It’s a softer, more organic feel than the simplicity of Scandinavian design.

Offices filled with light and air. Backdrops inspired by nature. Neutral colors in juxtaposition with rich hues ranging from wood to black.  Sliding doors with semi opaque panels reminiscent of the sliding doors in a Japanese house. Simple green stems or cherry blossom branches in a clear glass vase.

A key in Japanese interior design is balance.  A creation of harmony. An organic statement. A flow between interior and exterior.

We see this Asian preference for incorporating nature into our built environment emerging in our modern work environment as a response to our frenetic society. The 24/7/365 lifestyle means that it’s easy to experience sensory overload.  We spend a huge amount of time at work, rushing to meet deadlines and deliver above expectations.

It’s necessary to create spaces where we can occasionally catch our breath and literally… just breathe, refocusing and becoming centered in order to avoid burnout.

This is why, although open plan design is becoming more prevalent, most organizations are ensuring that there are private or, at least, semi-private spaces, both indoors and outdoors, where people can go to escape the buzz and simply be. It doesn’t need to be a dedicated meditation room, it simply needs to be a retreat.  A retreat can be created easily using architectural moveable walls – which, by the way, are reminiscent of those sliding Japanese doors.

Asian Influence on Interior Design in the WorkplaceAt one time, we saw miniature Zen gardens on desks.  Tiny crates of light colored sand that came with tiny rakes and miniature Oriental ornaments.  You would use the rake to first rake pathways in the sand and then flip it over to clear all evidence of these tracks, leaving the sand clean and smooth.  The idea was that it would focus your attention, clear your mind and help you to get grounded.

While Zen gardens may not be as popular as they once were, we’re fortunate now that office design is becoming much more supportive and understanding of our need for calm.

As we’ve mentioned in many previous articles, this is the impetus behind the incorporation of living green and water features becoming so very popular of late.  Both, by the way, are important elements in Asian design, particularly in Japanese design.  In our Western world there’s a growing recognition of the natural symbiosis between humans and nature – a relationship long understood in the Far East.



As a side note, Google’s Japanese offices in Tokyo, designed by Klein Dytham, have adopted the Japanese design ethic with a digital flair.  One floor is designed like a traditional bathhouse and another has a digital Koi pond with interactive Koi carp!

India is another country from the Far East that is currently having an impact on interior design.  Right now, in Europe, Indian textiles, statuary, furniture and ornaments are all the rage.  While more elaborate than Japanese design, it shares a love of creating drama using contrasts between light and dark, simple and sophisticated. In the work environment, we’re seeing the Indian influence in many textile designs, floor coverings and wood finishes.

As a fun exercise, look around your work environment and make a note of all the elements which demonstrate an Asian influence.  We think you’ll be surprised at just how many do!

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Anatomy of a Sustainable Office

Anatomy of a Sustainable Office_2-01

  1. Bike Racks allow staff to commute more sustainably — and actively.
  2. Recycling helps reduce the amount of landfill paper and other waste.
  3. Living Walls cut down on heating and AC costs by adding insulation — and increase oxygen.
  4. Composting reduces landfill food waste in the kitchen.
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