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Interview of Núria Vila, director of art and sustainable design

  • Post category:PEOPLE

In such a special week for us, such as the one against the strike against climate change, we wanted to interview one of the benchmarks for art direction, graphic design and packaging in the world of sustainability in Barcelona: Núria Vila. We met Núria in MYBARRIO vol.9 through the Montseny project, in which she is in charge of art direction.

For those who do not know you, tell us who you are, what do you do and what are your motivations.

My name is Núria Vila, currently I don’t know what I am but I try to do everything possible to leave a better future for my children.

By profession a graphic designer and art director. I work with a commitment to the environment with the will to apply common sense to each project, working in a more sustainable and ethical way.

What is your background, your training: what did you do to get where you are now?

I studied graphic design at BAU, aAfter living in Cuenca and returning to Barcelona I did a postgraduate in art direction in Elisava, and later I studied an Ecodesign course, tools and strategies in eco-union training.

When did you start focusing on sustainable design?

I was working in an agency in Cuenca-Madrid and I decided to go to El Salvador to make a documentary for the “angelitos” association. Two months changed everything. When I returned to Barcelona it took me a year or so to find my place again. But what was clear to me was that if I continued with my work I had to do something positive for the planet and the people.

¿What is your leimotiv?

Think global, act local.

Where do you live and what values do you like about the “barrio” (neighborhood)?

I live in the center of Granollers. What I like about the neighborhood is the community. The relationships that arise from the fact of sharing space. Life-long shops (less and less), the same people we meet every morning and you end up starting a relationship…

From Barcelona, for a long time I was linked to the Gràcia and Sant Antoni neighborhoods, and it suggests the same to me.

You are one of the references of art direction, graphic design and packing of the sustainability world. For how long did you notice a change in companies, either in big brands or smaller ones? And who started to become aware first?

I have seen quite a radical change from 2018. The change always came from smaller brands that are aware and want the design to be in line with the philosophy of the brand and its product. But more and more people are connected and ask brands for more awareness. This has triggered the alarms and now everyone is on the batteries. Large brands also add up, although it’s a obious that their changes are slower because they also have much larger structures. But little by little we will succeed.

Tell us about the process of creating a brand identity from scratch, from your point of view, taking into account the sustainability criteria.

To create a brand from scratch the first thing is to think very carefully about what we are going to do. It does not stop from being like any creative process of brand creation: it wants to transmit and from there, create a concept to develop a design that fulfills function and form.

In my case, when I am in this initial phase I value all the options of the brand in order to reduce the environmental impact of my design. Where it will be sold, to know how much travel you have to do. I try to choose materials that are local and have a low environmental impact, think about how and where it will be manufactured, low weight, easy to pack… and that way we will save on transportation. In this initial design phase you have to think about what happens when the product reaches the user and what it will do with the product or part that I have designed. Probably if it is a packaging it has already fulfilled its function of making you buy it and protecting the product, but then what happens? Do they throw it away and it only lasted until it got to your house and you opened it? So we can think on how to make the user keep it longer. Perhaps transforming it into something else. Give it a second life and thus extend the useful life of the packaging or design. Finally, the final phase arrives. Think about making life easier for the user to recycle. Perhaps the material was already recycled and can be recycled again, or perhaps it is compostable and decomposes … think of easy options that reduce impact and waste (bulk option, refil …).

What have been your favorite projects?

What a difficult question … I have many favorite projects and I have to say that it is thanks to having a good feeling and trust with the client.

1.- This happens to me with many of the designs I make for the Gallecs Consortium. I work with them from the beginning (2009). With them I began to specialize and experiment.

2.- I would highlight a project from 2011 but they still call me from around the world in reference to it. The menu design for a sushi / bar. The cards were on outdoor terrace tables. It is printed with stone paper (which does not carry cellulose or water and can get wet). This material replaces what would be laminated paper. It is super resistant and can be cleaned without problems. The idea was to simulate a fan (the link between the oriental and Spanish). The covers were made of engraved wood and it has a type of screw that if any page had to be changed, it would only be replaced without having to print everything again. It is easy to repair.

3.- Currently, one of the projects that I loved to design was the Slowmov packaging, which is printed with the waste they generate: the coffee well. For packaging, we pack some omnidegradable bags and the screen printed graphics in Coyote Atelier with its residue. But if you want, now you also have the option of going to buy in bulk at their store / café in the BARRIO de Gracia. When you buy in bulk you get a label printed on recycled paper from Anestone Group take away coffee cups. I love their desire to do things well and try to generate as little waste as possible.

4.- And finally, I have a special affection for the “Del Montseny” project. It is a natural and handmade cosmetics company that my sister makes. I am delighted to make the design and it is wonderful because she never makes me change it ahaha.

With her brand we apply the refil concept (returning the container). The labels are designed with a single die, without glues and are closed with their dry plant (like a vase). We are now working on new Christmas products, and we are trying to further reduce waste or extend its life cycle. We are looking for ways to be more sustainable. When choosing glass containers, we saw that we needed to protect the bottles in Internet shipments. We use the stems of the plants, collected for its creams, which when dried becomes leftover. We count those dry trunks that do not weigh to protect the glass bottles and when you open the box a smell of mountains and medicinal plants absorbs you. In the end, inadvertently, we created a very good unboxing experience.

What difficulties do you encounter when choosing and proposing organic and recycled materials to your clients?

You have to be in constant research because many new materials come out. Sometimes because of quantities or prices it is difficult to get them, other times maybe you need to have a little more patience to find the right material and for its delivery.

This year you have been Curator of the “Plàstics” exhibition at the Rural Life Museum. For those who could not see it, tell us what it consists of?

I am very happy with this experience as curator of the exhibition. We wanted to make an exhibition in which we could create a space for reflection and debate, through more than 20 works by different artists, around one of the most used materials in our lives: plastic.

We propose the title: “Plàstic, genial o pervers”.

The project invites the public to explore the evolution of this material in order to reflect on the use and abuse that man has made. An essential material in our lives but it has become the great problem of the 21st century.

We know that 50% of the plastic we use is for single use and only 9% is recycled. We buy a million plastic bottles a minute and traces of plastic have already been found in our feces and even in the Arctic.

This material derived from oil was created in the late 19th century, the result of a competition to replace the ivory material with which billiard balls were made. Throughout the 20th century, the use of plastic became popular, substituting other materials for both domestic and industrial use.

It is an exhibition that plays with the 5 senses and is for all audiences. We do it from an artistic point of view, contradicting the relationship with plastic. We want people to be empowered to be generators of change.

Until January 5 you can visit it in La Espluga del Francolí and then it will be a traveling exhibition.

What type of workshops do you teach?

I do a sustainable packaging workshop and also an intensive workshop of sustainable graphic design at BAU.

I also give some classes in IED Barcelona, Eina and Esdesign among other design schools.

You have many of them on your website … what GIF or video did you want to share with MYBARRIO?

I attach it to you !!! SUPERWOMAN

There are so many terms today in the world of sustainability, and for those who are not so familiar with them, please explain the differences between responsible consumption, organic, ethical, sustainable, slow etc.

Yes there are many terms and we put labels on everything, even things that have been done for as long as we can remember, but if they have labels they are more cool.

When we talk about sustainability and sustainable development, it takes into account the social, economic and environmental aspects to satisfy our needs without harming future ones … then there are a thousand and one variants of ending up saying: food free of chemicals, medicines, not tested on animals, proximity, fair price, no exploitation …

What small responsabile gestures for the daily life would you recommend for the readers of this post?

Try to think about your day and what you have done. For example, do you know that each person consumes an average of 125l of water per day? Is it a lot right? Well count: we get up, we go to the bathroom (between 6 and 12 l.) How many times do you go to the bathroom a day? Then you wash your hands, you shower, you drink 2 liters, but you need water to cook twice a day, to wash the dishes, the clothes … If we think about this in what we buy, if it has plastic, how much waste we generate … And we can ask ourselves, without being overwhelmed, if we can do without something. If maybe when I take a shower and wait for the water to heat up, I can put that water in a bucket and so then I can use it to throw away the chain … or perhaps go shopping with a bag and a tupper from home … If every day we incorporate an action that is already a grain of sand. And every grain of sand adds up. There is no need to worry because we live where we live but we can all do something.

What do you think about greenwashing?

Well, I try to think positive and I think. I see that at least if they make sustainable improvements, for whatever reason, it works for me. The important thing is that they reduce and manage to reach more people to raise awareness. Big brands are the ones that can make a big impact.

We are in the middle of the week of the global vague against climate change. What do you want to express right now?

That we go out in the streets, that we say that governments are enough to take action on the matter and that companies thus understand that we need a change. Because if the planet goes to hell there will be no money worth it. So what was said, we see each other on the streets because we are the ones who can generate change. And if not for you, do it for your children, nephews, grandchildren, or neighbors.

How do you see MYBARRIO?

I see it as a community of creators, artists, designers who pamper and care for their pieces/products. Also as a multidisciplinary learning community where you can discover people who do very interesting and different things.

What does MYBARRIO bring to the most sustainable and responsible world, and more especially to you?

For me it is that proximity, km0, artisanal and awareness. It is a space with soul.

If you were giving a workshop or giving a conference at MYBARRIO, what would you like to talk about?

Of the big bang

hahaha it came out like that … but sustainable design too huh!

What are your favorite MYBARRIO designers and products?

Wisdom Cares toothpaste powder and Livingthings voltasol pots …

In the last MYBARRIO I came to, I bought the Triggers cards and it was a super discovery. 🙂

MYBARRIO in 3 words.

Community, discovery and creativity.

Thank you very much Núria for your time, we support you in everything you do and will do. 🙂

Photos: Anna Rigau, Mireia Quincoces, Lucas Hope, Museu Vida Rural.


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