31 Oct Interview with Iris Morales and Joel Martinez
In a place where everything’s bigger, the same can’t be said of a design team who seven years ago began a small start-up with one quintessential vision. A faint dream born in a not so quaint province of El Paso, Texas, a team of two formed a creative corporation called Eme Design Studio. In the years since, Eme has grown to a team of 5— “We love to keep it small, we feel that way we have stronger bonds with both: the team and our clients,” states directing and design co-founders Iris Morales and Joel Martinez.
A piece of the puzzle behind this creation includes Iris, art driven from a young age with a right-brain pull toward dance, drawing, and music, yet it wasn’t until after high school that she discovered her passion for graphic design. “I moved to Texas and enrolled in the art program,” she says. “I explored all the courses until I started taking design classes– then, I knew that was what I wanted to do. It amazed me how you can tell so much with just an image, and that images can transcend language, borders, and culture.”
To call the designs cool would be a rude misinterpretation—imagine stepping into a saloon in the southwest and being hit with an avant-garde foray of funky folk art, blaring dia de Los Muertos type sketches and clean-cut motifs branding everything in its wake from craft beer labels to chic hotels. The art is cutting edge while adhering to a true Texan style. The team clearly works together to maintain a particular look that’s uniform, while inhibiting a vivid representation that denotes a free spirit and sense of individuality. This is Eme Design Studio, and it makes sense—as even the founders depict their own style as unique as it is unorthodox. “Our approach is a bit unconventional,” Morales admits. “We live in a very unique part of the world where cultures clash to create their own place. This affects the way we design.”
This information is crucial as according to the young CEO, the location has been the biggest single influence on the team’s way of thinking. When it comes to El Paso, “We adapt to the weather, food, traditions, etc.,… and this influences our creativity,” Morales says. Interesting, as this hipster hub is not prone to cacti and coyote alone, but also a vast music scene breathing life into the West Texas region bordering the Rio Grande. “Music has always been a part of our lives, it sets a mood for when we work and helps in the process of creativity,” says the co-founder.
A state of zen is how the enterprise stays grounded, and when Morales isn’t working she loves “spending time with family and doing yoga… I am very passionate about social work as well, and that influences our vision at the studio,” she says. It is tools such as these that keep the company cool in the heated moment, as staying focused is key when it comes to “feeding your brain,” says the designer. Simple things, such as “stepping outside and taking deep breaths, to getting oxygen in your head or watching a movie, listening to music, looking at a design that’s not just graphic but industrial… as well as architecture, etc.,”— is crucial for a clear mind, she adds.
Enjoying life and engaging in things that make you happy are a cliche, yet realistic approach to success— suggests the Eme Design creator, and this is the same piece of advice she’d offer any audience. “If you are not happy at your work or with the life you are living, then quit, and do something else. There’s only one life and you need to enjoy it,” advises the eager entrepreneur. “Travel, learn from other people, learn from other cultures [and] always be open to new ideas that open your heart, mind, and offer new perspectives on life,” says Morales.
How does one tap into such passion? “There are no rules to being creative. Many people may have a process but we react to what’s in front of us. Sometimes, we do have to rely on each other to help us get through a creative block but there is no set process,” the designer says. It is most likely this go-with-the-flow mentality that keeps harsh client criticism to a minimum. To cope as commercial designers, “we have to be able to take criticism and learn from it. We need to understand that the client’s product or service needs to work for them and we have to find the best way to make it work for us and them,” says Morales. “Of course, this really depends on the criticism, many times the client cannot express the reasons and it becomes frustrating because you’re trying to figure out why they don’t think it works. Design can also be very subjective and that’s when it becomes tougher to convince a client that your proposal will work,” she continues.
It could be said that the key to the success behind Eme Design Studio is that the team loves what they do, To track the success of Eme designs, the owner states, “First we make sure that we love what we are showing our client. If we are not happy with what we are showing, then the client won’t feel it either. If the client loves it and what we created makes the clients successful then we have succeeded.” And a great way to stay on top of the latest trends, to ensure client satisfaction is by “constantly reading blogs, books, magazines and looking at other portfolios,” she says. And their goals for the future? “Goals for the studio are to continue to grow our portfolio with great work [because] we believe that good work will always have its rewards,” Morales says. And no better thing has been said– hard work will always reap a reward, and good work ethic will always reign. Kudos to this design team for such a positive ethic and contagious attitude.
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