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Interview with JuanMa García Álvarez – Design as Process

I’m a design student from Mexico City. Just a few years ago I was far away from my graduation and really close to dropping out, and the only choice I had was to reexamine my roll as a student, and the roll of the designer as a representative of change. I decided to focus in on doing as a way find my own place within the expansive discipline of design. I’m most interested in the behavior of people in cities, their quotidian rituals, interests, and difficulties, and the way all of this is related with current and future scenarios. In my effort to make design more accessible, I always try to work with communities who feel they don’t have access to design, to show them how they can be active participants in the design process. Currently, I’m developing a social enterprise that connects younger people in vulnerable situations with the world of fashion, by means of giving services or generating products.

Q: TRUST in design is…

A: When designers stop building walls, and stop thinking about the things to do or solutions to a given problem, and instead start from a place of empathy and understanding. This applies not just to design, but enriches any field.

Q: Where have you found TRUST in/ through design?

A: In connecting people, situations, and facts. Being able to integrate different points of view and having clear goals. I understand design as a process and not as a purpose.

Q: Where do you see a need for TRUST in design?

A: In our ability to think critically about the things we don’t agree with. I think that as designers we should be more trusting that the design process will take us somewhere—not good, not bad, only different and maybe better. Just as with our perceptions of ourselves and others, sometimes we underestimate the power of design and in consequence our work is understood and reduced only to appreciating the aesthetic and practical aspects of each thing.

Q: What inspires you?

A: The ideas, people, and things that challenge the status quo, whether they are deep, analytical, stupid, or superficial, or all at the same time.

Q: My favorite thing about my city is…

A: That if you dig, in all the senses of the word (even literally), you find another hidden city.

Q: Tell us about a project that you completed that you are most proud of.

A: My partner in crime, Mariana Santibañez, and I developed COMPARTE/lo Simple—a Social Innovation project that empowers the Central America migrant community crossing through Mexico with strategies to improve their situation.

Q: What design object or story most strongly influenced your interest in design?

A: The first homework assignment I turned it at University was terrible; so terrible, my professor admonished me not to waste time and materials and said that it would be a better use of my time to go home to watch TV (which I didn’t use to do). One day, disappointed and sad, I saw a documentary on TV about Norman Foster’s work. The film told the story of the reconstruction of the New German Parliament,”Der Reichstag,” and the reason why it preserved a wall with a lot of graffiti made by soldiers during World War II. The reason was that the wall represented this part of the German history, and gave the German people something by which to remember their past, understand their present, and to see towards the future. This stuck with me, and created in me an odd way of understanding design problems, and to this day I continue to use and develop this framework for approaching design.

Q: If you could sum up your outlook on life in a bumper sticker, what would it say?


Q: What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to contribute?

A: To transform the reality that I perceive into something else (better, maybe).

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I want to keep collaborating on Social Innovation projects, and design by the principles of my bumper sticker slogan. I want to go on to learn as much as possible and I hope to one day change the perception of design in Mexico, both professional and academic, and I never want to stop imagining what else is in front of us. I also want to give Seattle my best, collaborating with Center for Architecture & Design for the Sanctuary Exhibit that opens in early December, and I hope to continue to collaborate in the future with new projects.


Learn more about JuanMa’s work:
Instagram – @llamamastemprano
Email – [email protected]

PLUS, don’t miss Juan and Mariana’s project, Comparte/lo Simple, as part of Sanctuary: Design for Belonging, December 6, 2018 – February 23, 2019 @ the Center. Join us for the Opening Night Reception December 6, 6-8pm.