Interview with Rafael Prieto

Rafael Prieto is the Founder and Creative Director of Savvy Studio a design and branding practice based in New York and Mexico City. The studio's core practice is based on research and exploration of culture – inspired by art and materiality – creating each project in a deeply contemplative manner.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a creative director, my practice is based mostly on creative & art direction, all through Savvy, a creative studio I funded 10 years ago. Along with it we simultaneously created Casa Bosques , our ethos project conformed by a Chocolate atelier, bookstore and a guesthouse. 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the north of México- Chihuahua 

Why and when did you move to New York?

I moved to NY for work, I've being hired to different projects, and I fully felt the energy into the city - it was in 2015. 

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in design?

I was just very curious about arts, design, and particularly the opportunity to create elements that will be enjoyed, lived and appreciated by a lot of people. 

How would you describe your creative process?

My creative process is based on research to begin with, and a constant search for meaning.

Afterwards we make conclusions, brainstorm on interesting and potential facts and we start building our boards, there's a creative one and a cultural references one.

In the studio we are always looking to be aware and to embrace an interesting cultural offer, there’s a lot out there, so how can we be culturally relevant? That’s the general question. 

Then we start designing and a lot of testing within materials, forms of printing, explorations of techniques, papers etc… it's always a pleasurable quest. 

How much does your city and surroundings affect your creative output?

It affects me immensely, the culture of the city, the people, and when you live in a city like NY with a great amount of art shows, performance, interesting people everywhere.

What do you struggle with the most in terms of working and living in a city like New York? 

I can't point on something particularly, I think there are situations where pros are cons and viceversa. I love it all but sometimes I love it less, yet the complexity of the city it’s what challenges me creatively.

The responsibility of the council in every city is to provide a solid foundation of design, art and cultural facilities, is that still evident in New York?

I’d say so, this city has a lot - so much. Sometimes you can't get enough… 

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the artist/creative to improve the quality of people's lives in their city?

Big time, at least for me it is, and it makes me feel quite grateful to have been given the opportunity to do so, walking around a neighborhood and seeing a cafe, a restaurant or a gallery that gathers a community together, a place where people find confort and a place of belonging, it makes me feel good. 

That's why our process is very thoughtful about the context, content and the cultural implication each project will have.

Can you tell us about any current or future projects that you are particularly excited about?

Working in many things, just finishing the identity for the re-launch of the Wendell Castle Collection, it's been a lot of research, understatement, and a great exercise of portraying his legacy. 

Working on a restaurant in the West village, very festive, quite old school seafood restaurant. 

The interior design for a guest house in Seattle, very cool.

A creative direction involving concept, branding and interior in a wonderful project in Copenhagen called Esse Seven.

And as well, keeping with the chocolates, new collaborations with artists coming soon such as Jonathan Monk, Mai-thu Perret and Loup Sarion.

Could you tell us more about Casa Bosque Chocolates and your Artist Editions?

Artist Editions in Casa Bosques, is that opportunity I get to translate and materialize an edible edition of art, ideas and emotions.

It's always a process of curiosity, conversation, exploration where the artist and myself get to know each other and explore possibilities in form, images and flavours. 

What's the story behind the name?

It means in an abstract way House Woods, I am very much into the forest, its a place where I feel very comfortable, and back then in 2010 made sense…

If you could add or change something about New York, what would that be?

I would like it's phase to be a little slower, it's good to take a pause and observe what's going on.

What would be your dream project?

Doing the branding and way-finding for a hospital, make a very empathetic, caring and functional design, just to make the experience less hard.

If you could choose any artist/creative to collaborate with, who would that be and why? 

Many names come to mind, I really can't choose.

What do you do to switch off?

When everyone leaves the studio I make chocolate. Such pleasure.

What does home mean to you?

Home is a place to rest emotionally and physically. 

Describe the perfect day for you in New York.

8 am market union square, 

9 am exercise, 

10 am work at the studio

2 pm meeting my friend Michael for lunch 

back to the studio 

7 pm make chocolate

9 pm meeting Loup for dinner 

Sometimes people relate a specific smell to the city they live in or the place they grew up, does New York evoke a personal smell to you?

If anything the variety, all kind of scents in this city.

If you weren’t living in New York and could choose any city to live in where would that be, and why?

I would live in Paris, I like it a lot, the food attracts me the most.

rafael prieto - mixtape

new york by rafael prieto

A selection of places in New York - recommended by Creative Director Rafael Prieto. See Rafael's citylikeyou profile page here

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