Over the past 14 years, we’ve used this space to introduce you to designers who live authentically, push creative boundaries and strive for greatness in their creative careers. Each interview is a little bit different, but this one has it all: romance! Adventure! Incredible demonstrations of courage. And wouldn’t you know, it’s all true.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s really like to work alongside your partner, or travel the world while doing what you love, then you might be inspired to make some bold moves after getting to know the two designers we’re featuring this month. Carlos and Alba are the free spirits and young gun creatives behind Vida Estudio: an up-and-coming creative practice technically rooted in Madrid, but that never stays in one place for too long.
Their story begins in Central Spain. But despite both being born and raised there, their wanderlust has truly taken them all over. In the past 3 years they’ve traveled down to Portugal, then up to Ireland, where they volunteered on farms and nature reserves, slept in a car, and collected inspiration from the people they’ve met and places they’ve been. It’s on these travels that they decided to join forces creatively and make their studio official.
At the time of this interview, the two were wrapping up projects and preparing to travel from Malta to Menorca. Without further ado, meet Vida Estudio.
Can you start by telling us a little about yourselves?
We are Carlos (he/his) and Alba (she/hers). We were born in the city of Alcalá de Henares, which is located just thirty minutes from Madrid.
But despite being born there, we are from many parts: our work allows us to move around different places. In the last two years we have lived in three different countries.
How did you two meet?
Our paths actually crossed when we were children. We used to play together and reenact The Little Mermaid. Even though we didn’t remain friends as we grew up, our passions for cinema and art led us to the same audiovisual communication class at university.
In our second year there we fell in love with design and each other.
And then Vida Estudio was born?
Vida Estudio was founded at the beginning of 2021, when pandemic restrictions were just easing. We’re still kind of taking our first steps!
We love the possibility that our name suggests—it’s dynamic and memorable—and, above all, we love the puns that it allows us to make! In many cases, “Vida” brings us closer to our clients as humans, rather than portraying us as a cold and distant studio.
As designers we’re committed to our work and creating meaningful, original results. We’re motivated and professional. But we’re also two people in love with house plants and spicy food, who invest more in analog photography than they should, and who like to work from anywhere in the world.
We love it. How else is “life” woven into your approach?
We’re passionate about making the most of every second and leaving a mark through our work.
We’re always learning, and so our approach has also evolved over time. For the first few months, we provided a lot of additional services like photography, voiceover, 2D animation, video post-production, etc. We’re truly multidisciplinary!
A few months later we decided to focus on graphic design. This is actually our favorite discipline, and we wanted our portfolio and offering to be really specific. We still adapt to the needs of our clients, though. In addition to design, we produce product photo shoots, videos and animations.
It’s a really holistic approach to design. What’s your process like?
First we focus on the logo and the brand manual. Then we get to work on everything else a business might need. Printed applications (like stationary), social media packages, an animated version of the logo, brand videos, etc.
Our clients vary from large companies to small businesses and personal brands, and we have given “vida” to projects all over the world. We love learning about different value propositions and adapting our designs to them. Research is a fundamental part of our work. As we design, we think about the way we relate to our clients as consumers.
Do you remember the moment when you realized that design was the right path for you?
Yes. We got involved in many projects and did millions of courses at school. Design was always important: if we had to record a short film for school, we also created the logo of our “producer,” its website and the promotional poster.
Knowing other spaces, places, and cultures is our main source of inspiration. We will always be infinitely grateful for that experience. It opened doors for us on a professional level, and our opened eyes on a personal level.
In our last year of school, we were ERASMUS students in Portugal. There, we were lucky to connect with incredible design professionals, with whom we still maintain contact. It was these role models, mentors and teachers who encouraged us to continue creating. And so we did, more motivated than ever.
Knowing other spaces, places and cultures is our main source of inspiration. We will always be infinitely grateful for that experience. It opened doors for us on a professional level, and opened our eyes on a personal level.
What’s your favorite industry to design brand identities for?
We love food, cooking dishes from different countries and trying new things. In Spain, a common way of socializing is in bars and restaurants, which is why restaurants are one of our favorite sectors to design for.
An establishment draws our attention for its graphic identity, and we’re crazy about places where it’s clearly been considered in detail. There are so many assets that can be created, all of them essential for your visual identity to be truly coherent and impressive. One of our favorite jobs for this sector is the branding we created for Grindel Deli & Wein.
Although it’s less common, we also love working for board game publishers! It’s a sector that allows us to have a lot of fun during the design process. Brands that have a playful or youthful character are perfect for creating auxiliary graphics and in some cases even more than one logomark, as we did for the IOAR brand.
Finally, we really enjoy designing the identities for independent businesses, since they normally allow us to fully explore our creativity. They tend to have fewer preconceived ideas and seek to be guided and advised by the designer, something that we greatly value from our perspective. We often include bohemian or vintage touches in our work.
How do your creative identities align and how do you work together?
This labor synergy is part of our everyday life. Being a couple and co-workers was nothing new for us because we’ve been doing it for years.
Carlos and I are very similar, and at the same time, we’re like water and oil. That’s why we make such a good team. He listens to music all the time and I concentrate better in silence; he enjoys making animations and I like to illustrate. He’s analogue and I’m digital. He prefers to stop and disconnect to come back with more enthusiasm, and I continue working until everything is finished.
🎧 Listen to Vida Estudio’s inspiration playlist
What’s the “secret sauce” to balance, then?
We never send anything without each other’s approval. Sometimes I think I’ve designed the perfect logo and when I show it to Carlos, we discover that it could be better. Working with him is very easy because we’re both perfectionists, and we prioritize the quality of our work.
I think the best thing is that we encourage and support each other in everything we do. We trust each other, and we transfer the love and respect that exists between us to the projects we create.
We know when to turn up the volume of the song and when to pause it. You just need to be empathetic and communicative; the rest goes smoothly.
Being digital nomads and freelancers, have you ever found it difficult to set boundaries?
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to finish our workday, especially when work is your hobby and you enjoy doing it. For me personally, it’s a challenge not to stop the series we’re watching on the sofa to answer an email that came in two minutes ago.
It gets complicated if a project doesn’t work out, but we try not to let adversities at work affect the rest of our day. Instead we celebrate each small achievement.
Who’s the client or project of your dreams?
ALBA: One of my dream projects would be to create the complete graphic identity of a restaurant, from the logo to the t-shirts, the window display, the menu, the corporate stationery, the social media posts, the coasters, the food boxes for take away, the napkins and even the sugar packets!
It would be a fantastic challenge and we would have a lot of fun in the process. Seeing a brand grow that you have shaped from the beginning is an extraordinary feeling. I can’t even imagine the satisfaction I would feel when carrying out such a complete and detailed project.
CARLOS: Instead of a restaurant, I’d love to design the entire graphic identity of a craft beer brand. And—starting to dream—all the signage for the factory, the showroom, the beer creation process, all the merch… it would be incredible! So, if any independent brewery reading this contact us! How about creating a Vida Estudio beer?
What do you think has been the most rewarding part of being creative?
CARLOS: The most rewarding thing is being able to dedicate ourselves to what we like professionally. When you have so much appreciation for the things you do and pay attention to the details, you tend to give your best and enjoy every phase of the process.
ALBA: One of the most rewarding parts for me is seeing something we’ve created materialize in real life. I love seeing how a logo looks in the real store, how people wear our shirts, or how they display the bottle of wine with our design. We normally follow up after each project to find out how business is going and to get photographs and to see how far the brand has come.
What are you working on right now?
ALBA: Right now through 99designs I’m working on a large-scale mural for a distillery. It’s been challenging because even though I usually illustrate, I do it more as a hobby than as a professional.
What’s inspiring you right now?
ALBA: Lately I’ve been inspired by snorkeling, I think because I discovered it later in life. When you’re snorkeling, there are moments when nothing matters and there is only calm. You swim and observe everything around you with the perspective of a small child. I wish I could take a piece of the sea to Madrid.
I’m also inspired by other creative women. The path isn’t easy, but seeing comedians filling stadiums, directors collecting awards, photographers exhibiting in huge spaces, and women who raise their voices and seek the recognition they deserve gives me goosebumps.
It motivates me to keep creating when I see other women fighting for representation and to end patriarchal inequality. I am very proud of our progress and even though we still have a long way to go, we women are beginning to have our spaces and reach our goals.
CARLOS: Like Alba, traveling and visiting different places is a great source of inspiration. From the design of the tiles in Portugal, to the old signs of Ireland, to the architecture of Malta. All this is staying in our subconscious and helping us to create more and better. I hope we never stop traveling.
I am also very inspired by design books, old magazines, vintage posters, animated movie credits and old packaging… All of them are living examples of quality design and in many cases handcrafted, which, from my point of view, gives them more value and makes them more attractive.
Finally, I’m inspired by Alba. Not only because she’s an amazing illustrator and designer with a lot of talent, but because she’s my engine. We still have a lot to learn, a long way to go, and many obstacles to overcome… but with her by my side, the journey will be wonderful. Thank you, Alba.