Interview with Danilo Villanueva of Makina & Co

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Danilo Villanueva

Danilo Villanueva, a skilled advertising professional, product designer, and entrepreneur, founded Makina & Co and Makina Watches, offering creative solutions in fashion, watches, and automotive. With over 15 years in the advertising industry, he has worked at notable agencies like TBWAChiatDay, Saatchi, Leo Burnett, BBDO, and MRM/Mccann across various global cities.

Interview With The 2023 London Design Awards Winner – Danilo Villanueva

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

As an advertising professional, product designer, and entrepreneur, I have over 15 years of experience in the creative advertising sector, including roles at international agencies such as TBWAChiatDay in Los Angeles, Saatchi in Los Angeles, Leo Burnett in Dubai, BBDO in Beijing, and MRM/Mccann in New York.

As a creative entrepreneur, I founded Makina & Co and Makina Watches, where I offer creative services and design solutions. My work caters not only to our brands but also to other local brands in fashion, watches, and automotive. This work has gained recognition from both local and international publications and watch expert magazines, including Esquire, Design Boom, Monochrome Watches, Entrepreneur, Worn & Wound, Time Tide Watches, ABS-CBN, Oracle Time, and others.

During my career, I have developed both local and global integrated campaigns for leading brands including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Toyota, Emirates Airlines, Cartier, VISA, Enfamil, and Tencent.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

Initially, I sought a creative escape and a break from my routine job in advertising. My goal was to establish a company where I could fully exercise my creative freedom in product development.

What began as a hobby fueled by passion gradually evolved into a stable business venture. This was the genesis of Makina Watches! Since its inception in 2017, I have been continuously involved in designing our unique products, a journey that continues to this day.

3Tell us more about your agency/company, job profile, and what you do.

Makina Watches originates from the Philippines, where each timepiece is thoughtfully designed, engineered, and crafted, using Swiss movements and some components sourced from Hong Kong.

While operating as a business, we strive to keep the spirit of a passion project alive in our product development and brand growth. Our releases are guided by our personal preferences, rather than chasing popular trends or focusing solely on what sells more.

Makina's primary audience is the niche community of watch aficionados. Despite this, we boldly challenge traditional watch design conventions, potentially stepping beyond the comfort zone of conventional watch purists, who are a key demographic for Makina.

4What does “design” mean to you?
For me, design represents the harmonious convergence of idea, aesthetics, and functionality.
5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?
My preferences constantly evolve, but currently, I'm captivated by Brutalism. I'm drawn to its grand beauty, raw character, and enduring appeal.
6To you, what makes a “good” design?

A successful design not only looks appealing but also meets the brief, accommodates users, and suits the contemporary context.

An exceptional design, on the other hand, bears a unique personal signature, exceeds the brief, garners user adaptation, and possesses a timeless quality.

7How did you come up with the idea for your award-winning design?
In the rectangular watch category, we recognised that designs often came with the same character that comes with the usual dressy, art deco, conventional watch designs. We wanted to add muscle, athleticism and coolness to the category and used this direction as a beacon to small and large design decisions we made when building Makina Andras_I.
8Congratulations! As the winner of the London Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
We are truly honoured and humbled to receive this award. It certainly gives us inspiration to do better and to build more!
9Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 London Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Our aim was to create a standout piece in the category of three-handed rectangular watches, typically dominated by art deco-inspired dress watches. This led to the inception of Makina Andras_I as a sports watch with a rectangular shape, characterised by a more contemporary and assertive style.

It features a striking black exterior with angular contours, multifaceted design, and edges that showcase both gloss and brushed finishes. The dial is layered and dimensional, while the robust, well-defined strap complements the chiseled case and the dial's three-dimensional effect. We meticulously crafted it to be photogenic from every angle. Fond of this design, we were eager to gauge its reception in the design community, particularly with entities like the London Design Awards, to see if design experts and jurors shared our appreciation.

10What were the main challenges you faced during the design process, and how did you overcome them?
Production budget is usually a challenge we have. We overcome it by building in small quantities and small batches which makes things better anyway since it makes every model we put out there more special not having so many of them out in the world.
11How do you think winning this award will impact your future as a designer?
Although we will never lose sight of our primary principles of putting stuff out there that we simply like and that we think will add newness to the industry, winning this award has certainly raised the bar and will be used as a secondary filter for upcoming designs.
12What are your top three (3) favourite things about our industry?

The aspect of continuously engaging your mind around the clock.

The relentless pursuit of innovation.

The concept that the items you create can elicit an emotional reaction.

13Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

Predicting trends has become increasingly challenging in today's rapidly evolving landscape of new technologies and swiftly changing trends. However, what I want to emphasise is this: while the appearance and craftsmanship of designs will evolve, the core principles will remain constant. The significance of insight, concept, and purpose in design is timeless.

At times, these emerging technologies and trends can divert our focus from these fundamental elements. It's crucial not to lose sight of whom we're designing for, how they will interact with our designs, and the messages we wish our designs to convey to them.

14What advice do you have for aspiring designers who want to create award-winning designs?
Absolutely engage in award initiatives such as the London Design Awards and draw inspiration from their criteria, but avoid making winning awards the primary goal of your work. Remain faithful to your brand or unique style, and keep in touch with the reasons you originally fell in love with design. Awards should naturally arise as a result of combining effort and talent.
15What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
Design magazines and blogs are great sources of inspiration but I would probably recommend spending time away from the computer for the early portion of the conceptual process. I would recommend pulling inspiration from your own brain and personal experiences first and really spending a significant amount of time thinking it through as I think it's one way to not just come up with another thing that looks beautiful but personal too.
16Who has inspired you in your life and why?
When reflecting on individuals who have continuously inspired me in my pursuits, my parents come to mind. Though they are neither designers nor inherently creative, they have instilled in me two vital lessons: the value of discipline and the importance of follow-through. Absent these qualities, talent alone is insufficient for success.
17What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

The concept of success varies from person to person; what one individual considers success might not align with another's perspective, or even with societal norms, and that's perfectly fine. It's important to realise that success can be achieved according to one's own unique definition, which is what truly counts.

A common trait among those who attain their version of success is ambition. It's about understanding your current position, envisioning where you aspire to be, and possessing the drive to reach that destination. Ambition plays a crucial role and should be dynamic, just like the individual pursuing it. Everyone should harbor ambition, and the grander it is, the better.

Winning Entry

Makina Andras_I | 2023

Makina Andras_I | Makina & Co

In an industry where 3-handed rectangular watches are almost always art deco inspired dress watches, Makina Watches builds theirs as a … (Read more at London Design Awards)

Danilo Villanueva

Makina & Co

Danilo Villanueva, a skilled advertising professional, product designer, and entrepreneur, founded Makina & Co and Makina Watches, offering creative solutions in fashion, watches, and automotive. With over 15 years in the advertising industry, he has worked at notable agencies like TBWAChiatDay, Saatchi, Leo Burnett, BBDO, and MRM/Mccann across various global cities.

Read more about Danilo Villanueva's interview with the 2023 NY Product Design Awards!