1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your background.
I’m Pepe García, Founder & Creative Director of CuldeSac, an international creative studio based in Valencia, Spain transforming businesses and brands through design in the fields of retail, product and strategic branding.
I have a background as an Industrial Designer, studying at the CEU University of Valencia, during the golden generation and then in the Royal College of Art in London. I’ve been working abroad for several years for the technology firm LG Electronics in its time of greatest technological disruption until I went back home and founded CuldeSac; a renowned studio focused on delivering impactful projects by questioning the rules.
2What made you become/why did you choose to become a product designer?
I wasn't in the search of my profession, but my profession found me. I don’t have any roots or family background related to design. Design as a professional option arrived at my life as part of an ongoing journey, I guess as a practical tool to give a voice to my pragmatic but curious mind. Probably that combination was key to finding answers or challenging myself to improve people’s lives by providing vibrant and useful solutions through design.
3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.
CuldeSac is one of the most multifaceted studios of the Spanish outlook. Internationally recognized, it was founded in Valencia in 2002 as a small creative space. Back then, it was driven by the ambition of exploring, sharing knowledge and talent to grow within the local market. Nowadays, after 20 years of projects carried out inside and outside Spain, it has consolidated its role as a strategic and design company. Through an interdisciplinary approach, CuldeSac develops ideas and explores alternative routes to deliver outstanding design.
4What does “design” mean to you?
Design for me is “the reason why” behind every element we interact with in our lives. Beyond each product, space or idea, there must be a soul, a deserved reason to exist; but finding it is the most complicated thing to achieve. Design is the ability to find that soul and synthesize it in a meaningful message to make it memorable and iconic.
5What’s your favourite kind of design and why?
We love those projects that push the visible limits, that make us “lose control” and embark on unknown challenges, scenarios where we must redefine the rules of the game, outline new relationships and provide more powerful solutions. Thus, our favorite kind of design is the brave one, the one that takes risk and imperfection as the starting point to deliver solutions that are better for the future.
6To you, what makes a “good” design?
Good design for us is a complex exercise of simplicity. Is not about “adding” layers to an idea. A successful design is the one from which you cannot take anything away. As industrial designers, we exert constant pressure to get to the pure essence of each object and define the next icons of design through this approach.
7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.
As a collective, and regardless of its scale and scope, we define each new challenge with our own methodology: The CuldeSac Method. A formula that incorporates strategic conceptualization and the sum of interdisciplinary visions in each phase. This approach is nourished by an open space for exploration and experimentation, an ecosystem where the union of different profiles multiplies and empowers the team, allowing us to offer innovative and disruptive solutions.
8Tell us about your design process.
When we approach a new project, we don't focus on its future “style” –we are less interested in the aesthetic and the skin. We apply strategy, creativity, and top-level design through 360 ingredients across the different phases of the process. At CuldeSac we work to help companies generate new sales protocols, increasing their return. It is our reason to be. Our focus is always on the client and their needs, understanding their objectives at a business level and generating enough impact for the project to be meaningful. Our work is “what can’t be seen”, that is what we mean when we say that we don't focus on the style, although deep down it's there and it is called “methodology”.
9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?
Spain is fortunate to have an artisan background that has encouraged us to think qualitatively when we design. Spanish design is ingenious, and a bit of a hustler. In most of the local companies the production capabilities are very limited, so you must creatively turn that limitation into something powerful and this is how a designer becomes an “industrial illusionist”. Some of the best design examples are configured on these limitations: technical, economic, etc. And it is precisely this unpredictability the quality that has been most present in CuldeSac's portfolio: forms and solutions created from ingenuity, by challenging the existing conditions.
10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2022 NY Product Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
We feel very honored to be recognised with such a great distinction. This award not only puts our project in the international industrial scene, but also confirms that we are following the right path and delivering meaningful design to improve people’s lives.
11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2022 NY Product Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
F SolidPod is an ergonomic applicator for a rechargeable line of natural gel and shampoo bars made from recycled materials running a durability of 10 years. The beauty of this project is not its fine and functional aesthetic, but its potentiality to generate a reduced carbon footprint and become an alternative solution to the excess of single-use packaging in the cosmetics industry and personal care industry.
12What was the biggest challenge with this project?
When our client Freshly Cosmetics approached us with the need of developing alternative solutions to tackle the growing concern of the excess of single use packaging, we initially struggled to understand how to address the right approach. We didn’t want to cover up this issue with aesthetic packaging and keep designing alternative versions of discarded plastic bottles. So, we asked ourselves whether the starting point was the bottle or the liquid inside it. Changing the paradigm was the answer: we shifted from liquid to solid and started developing shampoo and gel bars that wouldn’t need a bottle, thus increasing the possibilities of how to use them through infinite design options.
13How has winning an award developed your practice/career?
We are very fortunate as a studio. Over the last 20 years our design has been recognized by international top awards. Being distinguished is an extra fuel that pushes further and encourages us to be braver; but the best prize is to see real people using our designs in their daily lives. This is for us the most significant treat.
14What are your top three (3) favourite things about our industry?
1. The courage, the audacity that certain clients have to face the uncertainty of the unknown.
2. The idea, the vision of permanent improvement, evolution and optimization.
3. The ability to transform the business and their brands through a strategic design process.
15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?
In the last years, Spanish design has strongly hit the international scene, both in quantity and quality. There is a new generation of fearless designers whose education and vision transcend our own frontiers. Fortunately, Spain is recovering its traditional enterprising spirit –so much present in other countries but missing for a long time in our land– and today we are proud to see how things are changing.
16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?
The international crisis we went through over the past two years has accelerated the digitization of all economic sectors: what would have happened in 5 years’ time, is already happening now; not only due to a technical acceleration, but due to a change of people’s mindset who are now more open to embrace it. Digitization is not about the eternal struggle of online against offline, that is already old news. Is about the complete fusion of both channels and capabilities in a single consumer experience. Those designs achieving a perfect hybridization by using the existing possibilities will be the ones emerging reinforced and paving the way to the future of this industry.
17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring NY Product Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?
I would advise all students to always trust their gut feeling and keep trying. There is no easy way to succeed. Success is always about the journey and how we commit towards our final goals.
18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
I would recommend never losing the “creative” intuition. Being creative means not taking anything for granted, approaching each challenge from scratch, spotting its roots, understanding that things are often as they are, not because they cannot be otherwise, but because no one has thought of doing them in the right way before. Being creative doesn’t mean going further, but going to other places that are not on the map yet.
19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
Innovation is an internal exercise. A permanent effort of improvement to achieve our best version and not settling for what we are; acknowledging us as our best design, a design that needs to keep improving and polishing it over time.
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?
Inspiration is nothing but an active way of looking at everything around us, a lively attitude that pushes us to be alert on what’s happening around us, the permanent feeling that everything can be improved. For me inspiration is not about specific people, but the situations, the context and what we can take from it.
21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
There isn't such a thing as "success". Success for me is about nurturing true motivation to help grow a creative spirit. Having a creative spirit doesn't mean going ahead of others, but ahead of oneself. Creativity is not a crowded marathon; it is a solitary race where motivation and satisfaction are internal and personal. You have no brakes, limits or restrictions beyond your own personal ones, and each successful project is a reflection of your personal greatness.