So last year in October during the Imagine’s 12th birthday seminar it was announced that I was the winner of the Designer Awards 2015 which meant that I’d be rewarded for my progress as a designer in 2015 with an opportunity to work in Brazil, Sao Paulo for three weeks at Oz Designs agency! Now I’m back at home and here is a review of my stay in Brazil.
Traveling to the far far away
I think the first time I fully realized that I was really going was 2 days before my flight. I don’t remember being this excited before traveling ever since I went to study in Italy (that was 3 years ago). The flight was long but totally worth it.
My Brazilian home
The apartment where I stayed was simply amazing. It’s was a penthouse or perhaps I should say more of a rooftop garden with two rooms (a kitchen and a bedroom). The view was just stunning and since pretty much half of the walls were made of glass I would always fall asleep surrounded by the bright city lights. But I also quickly learned that I should still use the curtains if I’d rather not have my neighbor’s construction men see me sleeping in the morning in my bed 🙂
The apartment was located in one of the nicest neighborhoods of Sao Paolo – the Vila Madalena. This neighborhood was very green and hilly and packed with different restaurants and small shops. I’d walk to work every day (roughly a 30 min walk), and after a week people from the small businesses on the route would start greeting me as I passed them – “Bom Dia!”. If that would happened in Estonia I’d be totally weirded out 🙂
The big, crazy, beautiful Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo is big – like really big. It’s big and it’s crazy and it’s beautiful like the people who live within it.
The city is very vertical. It seems that within the next 10 years they are going to take down all the small buildings and replace them with skyscrapers. Also it seems that Sao Paulo is a city where the architects have total free range – every house is an individual, no building repeats itself. Houses vary from tiny cute colorful homes to abandoned 40 stories high tower-buildings and lots and lots of beautiful streetart covering buildings of all kinds.
I probably saw only a very small part of Sao Paulo during these 3 weeks since getting around the city was quite tricky. I normally love to walk a lot and to explore the city on foot but this was not the smartest option there – the locals explained that it would not be safe to walk around alone especially after 7 o’clock when it got dark. At first I didn’t take their comments too seriously figuring that how bad could it be? Soon I noticed that these weren’t just warnings but unwritten life rules locals themselves would follow on daily basis. For example you should never leave your bag unattended in a public space, always carry your bag on your stomach in metro, women won’t walk alone on the streets after dark and so on. I was told that there were streets or neighborhoods where one should not go alone even during daytime, but I was surprised to find out that these places were located quite randomly throughout the city. I still did walk around (could not restrain my curiosity) and explored the city as much as I could. I have to tell you the city itself is really really beautiful, so versatile, so complex.
The best way to move around the city was by metro. There are literally only 4 lines for the whole city, so it was very easy and fast.
The second best options were taxies and Uber, but never before have I seen such traffic jams as they were in Sao Paulo. For Brazilians it is fairly common to drive to work for 1-2 hours one way, so pretty much people who drive to works spend 2-4 hours a day in their car. I always loved explaining to people that well, if you’d drive in Estonia for 2 hours in any direction you’d already have crossed ⅔ of the whole country.
Like the houses also the people vary. I’m still not very sure what does a “Brazilian” look like. The people there come in every shape, size, color, style and status. They live in general very normal lives and have pretty much same hopes, dreams and fears as anyone from here would have. They are most likely just “a little” more cheerful and expressive than people are here. And yes, some women have very nice buts too 🙂
The Brazilians are very kind and caring. Not once during my stay did I feel alone or neglected. People care about each others lives a feelings. They are also quite passionate and loyal – you can only be a fan of one football team or one brand of cookies. And they love sweets. I mean they looooooove sweets. And food. And dogs. And people like to party. And they love their families. Family there means something else, than a family here. All in all Brazilians are just very loving.
Oz Design + estratégia
From day one I felt like I belonged there, like I had been working there for a while. Everyone whom I met were very warm and welcoming and they would always start the conversation with “Hy, I don’t speak very good English but ..” .
Oz is a design agency and their key to success is to offer the client more than what they asked for – to offer the client something what the client didn’t even know they’d want or need.
The amount of research they do and include to their designs and presentations is just mindblowing. Every small relevant detail has to be considered from the past and the present when presenting the idea to the client. I could say that 50% of their big presentations consist of the “what and why” slides. As Senha, one of the designers, explained “We take the client by the hand and show the inside world of what they are getting so they would fully understand the development of the final result.” This way of communication allowed the agency to offer their clients more creative and “ballsy” solutions so that clients would feel comfortable and safe accepting those designs.
The project’s Oz works on vary from signage to packaging to full on branding with strategy and everything. All of their works had strong esthetic qualities but always the primary function was communication – how does this visual/concept communicate with the target group. The beauty of the design was always a priority but never more important than the function of the design. This balance was also something that I find sometimes lacking on the European side of the world.
Oz vs. Imagine
Oz reminded me Imagine in quite many ways… The layout of the workspace, the dynamics between the colleagues, even the behavior of the clients. Ronald even made a joke that “The clients are everywhere the same, they just change the address”. Btw Ronald Kapaz was my boss there and also an amazing host during my whole stay – he made sure I’d have interesting projects in my to-do list and that I could see and experience the best parts of Sao Paulo on my free time (big big thank you to you Ronald!).
The major difference between our ways of working comes from the difference in timeframes. Here everything should happen asap. Even better – now. There I had the luxury of working on a moodboard and branding ideas for a concept for three days in a row (three days?! wow). Of course the nature of the projects here and there differ but if we make logos here with 4 hours, then there it would be 4 days. And not 4 days, because they are slow (they are not), but 4 days so you could go deep into detail and concept. And you’d also use this extra time to put together a throural presentation. I’m saying we’re using our time in Estonia super efficiently but the quality that comes with utilizing time could be respected more.
The other thing that also differed was the balance between co-creating. I was literally surprised when the Oz team trusted me with developing a concept for one of their major client’s biannual report visual without just telling me “we have developed an idea – please make it happen”.
What I missed from our way of working was the importance of time and deadlines. Brazilians are very relaxed about … time 😀
It’s funny and confusing at the same time and it was probably the only thing I did not get used to.
What I gained from these three weeks?
A lot. Like… a lot. I feel that I grew not just as a designer but as a human being in general.
I relearned that whenever working with a conceptual design one should always go all the way with their idea and not just do half of it so it would be “safer”. If you have a statement be loud and clear about it.
I also learned that presenting and explaining the idea is as important as the idea itself – if the client doesn’t understand the background of the concept, then it is very easy for them to discard designs just based on the looks of it.
I learned to trust myself more with my own ideas.
Other than design related discoveries, I also realized how privileged I was – no sorry – that I’m one lucky bastard. In average complaining about small things is considered a way of communication and being humble about your success is polite in Estonia but hell… My life at the moment is pretty much perfect! I have everything I need and even more… to be on such a trip, to work and live the way I do… And then to see that this is not common for others. So I guess, for a while now I’ll stop complaining about small things in my daily life knowing life could be much, much tougher.
I would like to thank the whole Oz team for being a loving family for me for these amazing three weeks (especially Ronald and Marilia)! Thank you for trusting me with your clients, for teaching me all the bad words in Portuguese and making sure I’d experience the most of Sao Paulo! See you all soon! AND also a big big thank you to Margo, Helen and the whole Imagine team for creating this possibility! Just epic. Thank you – all!