Majo Crespo is from Guatemala City and has a background in creative development, marketing and strategy. While on a trip to New York, she discovered Shillington and decided to enroll in the full-time course to elevate her technical skills. In the last 3 years, she has been the co-founder and strategic designer at Facético, a design studio focused on helping companies launch products and services. She’s also worked as the head of design and experience for Tecki, a Latin American start-up helping elderly people with using tech devices.
Watch Majo’s student portfolio video that she created in only 3 months, get her reflections on living in New York, discover her creative inspiration, and learn about her favorite campaign project, Chapiness, where she discusses the visual language used to represent her home country Guatemala.
You studied design and strategy for your undergraduate degree and in the last few years, you’ve had extensive experience working across marketing, strategy, experience and design. At what point did you decide you wanted to study design again?
I like to call myself a life-long learner. Learning is a lifestyle more than a verb.
Most of my skills are self-taught. Since day one I surrounded myself with experts, attended any available conference, read a lot about design, worked hand in hand with designers that I admire and started making the right (and hard) questions. However, deep down I knew I was missing one of the most important steps. I had no idea about the technical part of graphic design. By then, I knew the programs 1/10, in other words, not enough to execute my own designs.
It didn’t stop me, I started my own studio and learned to work with graphic designers. Art direction was my job and I loved it. It didn’t hit me until later, when I decided to give my dad a special gift, re-branding his business. But… what a frustration! I couldn’t design it by myself! I knew right then what I needed next in my design journey.
What would you say to someone skeptical about Shillington’s 3-month design course?
Go for it! If you are having second thoughts let me help you with it:
Why did you decide to study abroad at our New York campus?
A year before taking the course, February 2018, I traveled to New York City by myself. I was going for a concert of my favorite childhood band and also doing some exploring. 10 years since my last visit and of course, I fell in love immediately.
Second day. Morgan Street, L train. I will never forget it. I hopped in and as a crazy fan of subway ads, I had a look at each one in my wagon. Shillington’s ad was there. It crossed my gaze and I won’t lie, it spoke to me. That same night I talked to my parents, visited the campus some days later and made my decision.
What were the top highlights of living in New York?
“I was walking the streets. I was noticed but I wasn’t the center of attention. I felt like I fit in. You’re not awkward. You’re not weird. You’re home. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what you believe. New York is the city for everyone.”—Quoted Magazine, New York.
Every corner of this city has a story, every subway ride has a new surprise, and every person you know will be from different parts of the world. You get to discover a new side of yourself. It’s absolutely amazing.
You created an amazing portfolio! Could you walk us through the process behind your favorite project?
My favorite project (and the one I struggled with the most) is Chapiness. My goal was to develop a campaign to attract tourists to Guatemala, my country. Because it was so close to my heart, this project came with many challenges and uncertainty. 99% of the time I design something, the path I want to take clearly comes to my mind and is revealed easily.
With Chapiness it didn’t happen and I wasn’t prepared for that. My biggest obstacle was translating a culture so rich and unique as the Guatemalan into a universal language. A language that a French, a German and an American could understand. I received endless help from my teachers, regardless of how hard I was being towards them. During several days (while portfolio week) I was totally neglecting any feedback or advice. I was closed. I know it sounds crazy, but this project felt like a baby to me. I wanted everyone to understand my origin, my customs, my people. And I did it.
In Guatemala, we’re called with love (and in Spanish) “Chapín”. I know I could create a powerful story with that word. For the graphics, I created an abstract language based on the unique objects and elements that represent my country. Mountains, volcanoes, lakes, corn, beans, pyramids, etc. I wrote to my family, friends, acquaintances and asked them to describe Guatemala in one sentence. I used each of their words to write the text. All very powerful and loving words. My last step was putting together all of this in a series of posters. The combination was stunning and the result, perfect.
Any passion projects you would like to share?
Yes, so many! My favorite is Colabora. Under Facético, I collaborated with an amazing designer from Guatemala, Andrés Higueros. We created the identity of a co-working space and coffee shop based in Guatemala City.
Also, at Estudio Facético we created from the ground up the identity of The Wow Dairy Company. They wanted to create a brand specifically targeted to millenials in Guatemala. The results were amazing.
You co-founded the studio Facético 3 years ago. Can you talk about your experience working as a freelance strategic designer?
Absolutely! Every single project I’ve worked under Estudio Facético and as a freelance strategic designer makes me so happy. We’ve worked on projects from a disruptive dairy company in Guatemala (project above) to a dwarf clothing brand in France. All projects with a powerful value proposition and a unique team.
I make design easy and approachable. This has created lots of successful projects and many happy clients.
Something key for me as a designer is educating my client. I believe, one of the biggest reasons why design is not valued is because we designers don’t take the time to communicate it’s value. We can’t pretend that everyone is born knowing design. I love working with my client and not for my client. We’re a team.
What have you been up to since you graduated and went back to Guatemala?
So much has happened! Living in New York City changed much of my paradigms and vision as a designer. It also made me so much closer to my Latino heritage. Since I came back, I continued freelance work from Guatemala to a couple of international projects. One based in New York and the second right here.
Guatemala is a country fertile in opportunities. I decided to come back because I knew that everything I learned needed to be shared. That’s why I’ve recently created a group called “re-wine”. We meet, share a glass of wine and talk about how design can be a tool for change.
What top advice would you give to someone just starting out as a designer?
There is no definite or perfect journey. Unlike other careers, design (like learning) is a lifestyle.
You can see design, smell, feel, speak, touch it. Design it’s everywhere. That is why being curious and observant is key. I would recommend that before jumping all the way, take a couple of internships in different design disciplines, listen to podcasts and definitely watch “Abstract” on Netflix. Do not hesitate too much, we are always in need of more talented designers!
What creatives are you loving at the moment?
After deciding to bring Flor de Piel to life, I’ve been obsessed with a particular style of illustration. Recently, my inspiration has come from many sources. Instagram is a great tool to find talented and like minded designers. I’m absolutely in love the work of the Mexican artist, Rocca Luis César (@roccaluiscesar) and painter Kindah Khalidy (@kindahkhalidy).
What are your favorite accounts for daily inspiration on Instagram?
What’s on the horizon for you?
I know the universe supports me in everything I do. Big projects coming. All baking now, you’ll see them soon!
Would you like to live in a new city and upskill as a designer in only 3 months? Read more study abroad interviews, and learn more about studying in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, New York, London and Manchester.