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Three generations of Basers, three unique experiences, and one design organization uniting them all: LAD (Latin American Design). The Latin American Design Festival (aka LADFEST) and Latin American Design Awards (LADAWARDS) showcase a vibrant blend of emerging talents from the LatAm design scene, celebrating the diverse creativity and skill of an up-and-coming generation. We sat down with Carlos Bocai, Min Lew and Thierry Brunfaut to delve into their differing roles at these events, unveiling the multifaceted narrative of the dynamic festivals, while also highlighting the multiple, varying views on Latin American design.

Carlos Bocai
BaseNYC Senior Designer
LAD Young Talents 2023 Jury Member

You are a part of the South American, and more specifically Brazilian, design community. Could you share with us some insights on the Brazilian design scene?

Many Brazilian designers have been traditionally trained in classical European design principles but historically speaking, Brazilian visual culture didn’t ‘fit’ into what was being imported from abroad and was thus viewed as ‘lesser’. It seems that nowadays, though, there's a growing trend of questioning the meaning of "good design" from the younger generation, and people are exploring more local and innovative approaches, incorporating their surroundings in their work. This shift is partly due to the challenges faced by designers in Brazil, where it's not an easy career path, and financial rewards may be limited. Access to resources and materials might also be limited compared to designers in other contexts.

As a result, pursuing a career in design in Brazil requires a great deal of passion, motivation, and enthusiasm. This challenging environment tends to attract individuals who are truly dedicated to their craft. With this rejection of European design expectations, designers are reconnecting with their roots and embracing their cultural heritage more prominently.

Our success is tied to the craft we practice, which is shaped by the diverse cultural and visual influences that surround us. Our work draws from a rich repertoire of cultural elements, which sets us apart and makes our creations unique. There’s rarely any apathy from Brazilians. We always have an opinion and something to say, and this brings a certain warmth and honesty to our work. We approach design with sincerity and integrity, which resonates with others. We don't take things lightly; we’re deeply committed to what we do.

There’s been an increase in the influence that South American design now has on the sector. What is your perspective as a member of this community?

It’s about having the confidence to enter the global industry, which is closely tied to the idea of representation. I noticed this when I graduated from school and saw a fellow Brazilian designer working at a prestigious design studio in New York. A lot of us deal with an inferiority complex in relation to Europe or the US, thinking that because we didn’t go to the most prestigious schools or had celebrity professors, we were at a disadvantage. And at some point I felt it, too. So seeing someone from my background succeed in that environment made me believe I could do it too.

I think the pandemic played a role in breaking down barriers as well. Design studios began hiring talent from around the world, who are not necessarily where they are based. This shift in perception extended beyond South America, with the global cultural landscape challenging and deconstructing old power structures. There is a conversation about diversity happening, and its opening space for it in fields like music and art.

South America has always had a wealth of talented designers, but now they're gaining international recognition due to increased accessibility and representation. This visibility encourages people like me who once hesitated to venture beyond South America. Today, we're more confident about pursuing opportunities outside of home – but we always bring a piece of it with us wherever we go. Latin American design doesn’t need to have a specific look or aesthetic. Every time we design, we bring our unique perspectives, backgrounds, and work styles with us.

You’ve attended LADFEST several times. What is your experience there, and what keeps you coming back?

I think it's inspirational. The experience is quite different from when I was a design student. The first time I attended, I was still in school, participating as a Young Talent. Everything I encountered at the event was so inspiring. Now that I’m more established in my career, I return as a Young Talent judge for the sense of community. Everyone there shares the same mindset, and it's a great opportunity to find inspiration and connect with like-minded individuals from around the world. The more I participate, the deeper my connection with this community becomes. I've formed many friendships through LADFEST, which motivates me to continue attending. Everyone has this design-oriented mindset, but there's also a shared warmth and open-mindedness among the participants. It’s also very refreshing, especially in the context of encountering young talent. It's fascinating to see how they approach design and how they infuse their unique identities into their work.

YaniGuille & Co - © IS Creative Studio
YaniGuille & Co - © IS Creative Studio

Min Lew
BaseNYC Partner & Executive Creative Director
LAD Awards 2023 Branding Jury Member

How was your experience judging an event within the South American design community? Did it differ from any past experiences you’ve had as a jury member?

As this was my first time being involved at a Latin-specific event within the design community, my entry on the jury had me very curious about what to expect. To my delight, I discovered a striking global coherence in design language, with an overwhelming trend of very high-quality work. Regardless of whether the work showcased was targeted at the European, North American, or Asian markets, there was a certain ubiquity of the design vocabulary. It was quite international, both in terms of where the work was produced as well as its target market. As much as the work, the jury group equally presented a diverse mix representing multiple different regions of the world. What struck me the most was the pervasive theme of how, in the design world, we are constantly sharing and building upon one another's ideas – fostering collaboration and joining into the global conversation – instead of isolation. You can very vividly see the impact of the internet in facilitating this interconnectedness and influence.

Are there any specifics (in terms of design) of this region? What makes it different or interesting (or on the contrary)?

I was initially expecting to encounter distinct regional characteristics in the design from Latin America, but I was humbled by the fact that there wasn't a pronounced divergence. And yet, this realization made me wonder whether the concept of international design has blurred the lines of regional color and personality, and what implications this might hold for the field of design. This is not unique to Latin America, but also prevalent in different awards all throughout the world. What truly stood out, however, was the consistently high level of quality across the submissions. The work I had the privilege to judge represents not just a single country but showcases the level of skill and talent of the entire Latin American design community. Simply put, there was a lot to choose from – which is unusual! It differed from my past experiences where there have been more pronounced differences in terms of quality levels.

Could you share some key takeaways or insights you gained from this experience?

The LADAWARDS is one of the leading awards festivals that draws a lot of traction from the international design community. This year’s event was very representative of Latin American design in that the overall level of talent was exceptional. Something that stood out to me was a great passion around typography and expressive, bespoke fonts; a palpable playfulness in the designs, whether it was through typography or vivid illustrations, as well as a heavy use of color. Yet, when we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, we can't help but notice that this kind of hyper-design or creative exuberance isn't unique to Latin America; it's a global trend. More Latin American designers are collaborating on the global front, infusing their culture and sensibilities into their work for international markets. This globalization of design trends undoubtedly raises the overall standard, but it also prompts questions about developing an authentic point of view and uniqueness in branding (which is ironically the name of the game when it comes to branding). While there's positivity in the way it brings designers together and elevates the industry collectively, there's also a profound reflection on where these trends will lead the future of design.

Yehwan Song - © IS Creative Studio
Joseph Melhuish - © IS Creative Studio
Richars Meza and all the speakers - © IS Creative Studio
Four young brazilian talents - © IS Creative Studio
Yehwan Song - © IS Creative Studio
Joseph Melhuish - © IS Creative Studio
Richars Meza and all the speakers - © IS Creative Studio
Four young brazilian talents - © IS Creative Studio

Thierry Brunfaut
BaseBRU Co-founder, Partner & Executive Creative Director
Speaker at LADFEST 2023: “How to create a studio culture”

Can you share with us your overall global perspective on LADFEST? What stood out to you during your experience there?

LADFEST brings together designers, typographers, and art directors from across Latin America. What particularly impressed me was the crowd's positivity and energy. When compared to Europe or the US, there is an undeniable authenticity and enthusiasm that is incredibly appealing. These professionals not only excel in their field but also maintain a refreshing approach.

There's a sense of freshness about them, and you can feel that perhaps some might carry a sort of inferiority complex when it comes to being from Latin America rather than Europe or the US, but this complex makes no sense at all. The example of Porto Rocha was great in that regard. They shared their journey of coming from Brazil, opening their studio in New York, and showing that they are just as capable as anyone else – that nothing is impossible. This message resonated with everyone at the event.

Another striking aspect, especially when compared to similar events, was the warm and genuinely welcoming atmosphere. Richars Meza, the organizer, has a natural talent for bringing people together, so the level of exchange and fun among keynote participants and presenters was amazing.

In what way did it feel different from an event in Europe or the US?

The event had an authentic family-like atmosphere filled with warmth – it was beautiful.

In terms of what I saw, I was absolutely amazed by the group of young, emerging talents they recognized. They awarded five young people, four of them hailing from Brazil. When I discovered this vibrant Brazilian graphic design and art direction scene, I was blown away. While these talents were well aware of the global design landscape, they remained deeply connected to their local roots. Their presentations often mentioned their neighborhood streets, the inspiring light of their hometowns and cities… an awareness of the world while maintaining genuine ties to their origins. What stood out the most was their shared positive attitude, which combined professionalism and a sense of fun. Their work shared a refreshing enjoyment of the present moment, a perspective that can sometimes be overshadowed by cynicism in the European design scene. However, there was no skepticism in their work; instead, there was sincere candor, exceptionally high-quality work, and a valuable lesson on how to be outstanding designers.

It was also a great opportunity to discover great talents. I remember an amazing illustrator, Maria Jesus Contreras from Chile, and the sharp and bold work from Fidel Peña of Underline Studio. Two type foundries who showcased their work also stood out to me: YaniGuille & Co from Argentina and Bastarda Type from Bogota in Colombia. In addition, there was a great presentation by Joseph Melhuish, a talented British illustrator, as well as Yehwan Song, an incredible young Korean designer. She boldly proclaimed at the start of her presentation, "I'm against 'user-friendly'”, which was ironic because her work was actually quite user-friendly; her creative perspective challenges conventional standards. All in all, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet exceptional individuals and professionals.

What was your experience of networking there?

There was obviously a lot of networking amongst my fellow speakers at the event, as well as through meeting many young studios. When I arrived in Lima, I was a stranger to everyone, but by the time I left, I had met many wonderful people. I think that my presentation on studio culture resonated with a lot of people – the topic touches people of all ages, the veterans of design as well as the younger generations. In summary, South America – LADFEST in particular – is a place that holds a great future for fresh ideas and new approaches to design and branding.

Maria Jesus Contreras at Teatro Municipal de Lima - © IS Creative Studio
Maria Jesus Contreras at Teatro Municipal de Lima - © IS Creative Studio

LADAWARDS 2023 Jury members

  • BRANDING: Fidel Peña, Simon Dixon, Vanessa Eckstein, Min Lew
  • GRAPHIC DESIGN: Samia Jacintho, Ira Ivanova, Gabriel Finotti, Pablo Martín
  • EDITORIAL: Alex Hunting, Michelle Phillips, Laura Scofield
  • PACKAGING: Sarah Di Domenico, Mariam Stepanyan, Anssi Kähärä, Andrea Gávez
  • ILLUSTRATION: Eugenia Mello, Carolina Silvero, Nuria Bellver, Pepita Sandwich, María Jesús Contreras, Paola Saliby
  • TYPOGRAPHY: He Jumping, Leandro Assis
  • TYPE DESIGN: Chantra Malee, Martin Vácha, Nolan Paparelli
  • DIGITAL: Talia Cotton, Kim Boutin, Thomas Hervé
  • ANIMATION: Jonas Zieher, Stan Haanappel, Joseph Melhuish, Connor Campbell
  • PRODUCT DESIGN: Carole Baijings, Lucas Couto

Organizer: Richars Meza (and his team)

LADFEST speakers

LAD Young Talents

Edited by Julie Tentler, Editorial Director at Base Design.