12 Questions: Meet Clara Garnier (México)

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Clara Garnier (crowdSPRING username: Huntresss) today. Clara lives and works in Puerto Vallarta, México.

1. Please tell us about yourself.

Hi, I am Clara Garnier, and Argentinian designer living and enjoying México.  I live in the small but very popular town of Puerto Vallarta, near the beach, surrounded by ever green mountains and palm trees, oh yes, this place is wonderful.   I am also a Mom of 3 boys, well I must stop calling them “boys” one day soon.  Patricio is 23 and independent, living by his own and doing great; Claudio is 16 already and Adrian 13 soon to be 14.  I am only 40 (yes I said “only”) but my motto always was live fast die hard =) As being divorced with 3 kids wasn’t enough of a job  I adopted Minina the all mighty cat and the pulling leash world champion Coco a Doberman/Terrier mix from a shelter.  I use to name everything around me since I was a little girl, I named all my pencils and brushes during my school years, I named my first car (the dragon) my first computer (Jane) and kept doing it so now I drive the Bug, work on Ruby Rodh my great laptop, and check

my mails from Blanchi my cute android tablet.  I have this odd habit of quoting old movies all the time, or some old TV shows only a few people remember so I get many funny looks during conversations and embarrass my teens (I think that’s cute and fun, I guess they don’t

agree). ?I got a bachelor degree in Graphic Design in Argentina and then one in Arts from the UCLA, and when baby Adrian was born I went toBoston for MA in Digital Art.  As I was for a long time a traveler kind of person I have worked in many countries as a freelancer and in a few Agencies,  living the difference between cultures, languages and ways to translate life to design.

2. How did you become interested in web design?
Everything started with the graphic design I never really really liked , yeah I know that sounds so strange.  I knew it would have to be something more than work for printing, CMYK, no motion, limited audience, 300 dpi image resolution, once printed you can’t change it.  While I studied my first bachelor degree I was in the music conservatory studying flute, and I was pretty good at it. I studied music since 5 so I had a long career in the music field, but my parents thought that wasn’t too much of a career so they kind of forced me to choose something else to “complement” my education and the first thing I thought was “hey, graphic design sounds cool” (even the visual one was always Claudia my sister, now a great painter in Argentina) and here I go.  Not bad but I wanted more, so straight to the Art school, and then is when I found what I was missing… the web. Motion, real interaction, RGB, 72 dpi, that was heaven! In those ancient times we had to deal with everything, we coded all in tables, no CSS, we had Netscape, usability was an unknown word and forget broadband, do you still remember the 56k modem sound? I am hooked with the web design, still learning everyday something new (and better) and doing every now and then very interesting things like mobile design, such a wonderful new kind of design!

3.Which of your designs are your favorites and why?
I always love my last design more, until the emotion of the “new born baby” fade away.   I can’t help to criticize everything I do in every possible way, finding every tiny little details none else can see, but even if they are not perfect I love them because I loved every moment I spent designing them. I am extremely emotional (hey, I am a  Latina, remember?) and I make deep bonds with my designs and my clients.  I won’t say every design is like a son to me… but yes, they are =)  so I couldn’t have a favorite but some of them are more like myself or represent an important creativity breakthrough or a moment of illumination (I have those time to time)

4. Who/what are some of the biggest influences on your design work?
Influences hmmm….  First of all movies. I am  not a movie-fan, I am movie-addicted, I use to work watching a movie (dual monitor God bless you!), so I have an extensive Movie collection I use for working, relaxation, entertainment and sleep (I fall asleep watching Howl’s Moving Castle every nigh, sick, isn’t it?), depending on my mood or the kind of project I am in, I pick a movie and start designing.  I used to have serious sleeping problems when I was a kid (like only sleeping 3-4 hours per night) and drove crazy the entire family, so my wise parents decided to let me watch movies late at night.  The only movies the TV had that late was all black & white films from the 30s & 40s… and I watch every one of them, for years!  I was very popular with senior citizens these days because I could talk about all the movies and music they liked.  After some years they “upgraded” me to the 50s and 60s, welcome color movies! the 70s were a natural step forward I took later.  The other big influence from those years was a beautiful art encyclopedia  my Dad brought home one day, I used to go to my Dad’s studio, close the door and play I was giving an art conference to a big audience, explaining the style, period, motivation of the artist (I usually made up the motivation part) and that’s the way I discovered Kandinsky , Miro and Pollock that still blow my mind.  I now live in a country full of color and impressive artisans, with a culture so rich that is a profound influence in my work.  I read a lot of comics too and graphic novels, I was not much into anime but my kids all were so I learned about that too.  Patricio forced me to watch Knights of the Zodiac (Saint Seiya) the Athena Saga with him, when he was like 6, and I have been watching cartoons and Anime since then  with every one of my children so you can ask me anything about Sponge Bob, Phineas & Ferb (my favourite cartoon of all times) Fairly Odd Parents, Thundercats or Transformers and I’ll give you a good answer.

5. What is the design business like in Mexico?
Mexico is a very hard country for a designer.  I have heard things like “so, you make those “draws” and people pay you just for that?” or “You chose the perfect job! the computer does all the work for you” (sure, I just push “ctrl + design” on my keyword and all the job is done)  There are great designers, usually underpaid and under-appreciated. The concept people have in general of the design work is that we make “nice” draws, that is easy and we shouldn’t charge so much for what we do.  I have worked in agencies here and is more or less the same where a designer usually has to code and take care of the development of the project, be an expert in Java, AS3 and a guru in CSS, and please be younger than 30.  Really tough, I don’t have clients in Mexico now, I have clients all over the world and I found out is a very good way to work (thanks crowdSPRING!)

6.Mac or PC?
Definitely PC.  I am a PC lover – anti-Mac designer.  I worked with both for years, and right now I don’t find much difference between the two OSs in performance, but is way cheaper to upgrade a PC.  Yeah, Mac computers look so very nice on a desktop, but my RubyRodh PC laptop does too and even if it’s a little moody sometimes  she behaves absolutely great.  Connected to Ruby there is a cool Genuis graphic tablet I couldn’t live without, and as for software I do everything on Photoshop, wireframes, drafts, vectors, final designs, sometimes I use Illustrator for some vectors but 95% of my work is done in Photoshop.  The other important software I use all the time is GoodSync, a free program that synchronize my main hard drive with the USB one for backup, that´s a great piece of software I would always recommend.

7. What is your dream design project?
No, it’s not movie’s websites =) I did tons of those for Universal Pictures a couple of years ago and it was a great experience.  I think I would like to design rock bands websites, they are so powerful and give you room for out of the box thinking and creativity freedom.

8. How do you promote your work?
I am the worst saleswoman on earth so I am fortunate enough to have nice clients that promote me word-to-mouth.  The past year or so I got a few good recurrent clients and they always contact me for other projects or an update of their websites.  I try to participate on crowdSPRING all I can and keep networking online.  As I don’t work local I don’t network in the “real world”.  One of the things that worked really well for me is being always available for my clients and their contacts, that’s my top priority so they are always sure I will have time for them.  Trying to work on the client time zone is very important too, so for some projects I have meetings at 3:00 a.m. because is 9 a.m. in Sweden.  I try to have a very close relationship with most of them, I use to remember their birthdays, kids names and small details, that makes me understand who I am working with, that’s very important for me.  They promote me really well! that’s why I am so in love with them =)

9. Please describe your typical work day.
My typical day starts at 6:00 a.m, rushing the teens to be ready for school (2 different schools, both has to be there at 7, opposite sides of the city and I drive them both) I take a walk on the beach at 7 for about 45 minutes and then go for a coffee and check my emails to start planning my work day.  Coco is ready for her walk at 8:30 (she has a clock inside with the walk alarm buzzing I think!) we walk for another 30 min and with another coffee I am ready to start working.  The first thing I do is answering my emails, connect me to Skype and see my calendar.  If I will start a new project I start with a good read of the brief and a research of the audience, and the competition.  I take a lot of notes and make a lot of lists (I am a list fan) and then I am ready to choose the right movie for the project (sometimes can be The Matrix Trilogy others Cowboy Bebop or Bugs life) and start sketching on Photoshop.  I am very organized with the whole information of a project, everything is in one place, brief, images, material, notes, lists, ideas, drafts, copy of the emails and chat conversations, I just don’t want to let anything behind that could mean a re-design later.  I work in blocks of 45 min straight, with no distractions and no interruptions and 15 minutes free for whatever I want.  I can go read a book, play some online game, clean my bedroom, make some more coffee or train and play with Coco for 10 min (she is a giant puppy but still a puppy) so I come back to my computer and keep working with Minina sleeping on my lap after a short discussion with her about the use of my keyboard for cat sleeping (not allowed Ms. Minina, sorry)  At 2:15 I go for one of the teens to the school and for food (the cooking fairy godmother was not invited to my birth) I have a lunch with the teens and then go back to work while they do dishes and clean up the dining table, I work nonstop until 7:30 p.m. the second walk with Coco and the day is more or less finished if I have no meeting at 1:00 a.m. or some urgent project to finish for the next day. The teens take care of the dinner and we share that time watching some TV and sharing the day highlights (schools, work, girlfriends, friends) I try to go bed early every night (and fail) but my days usually end with a good tv show or a movie, some reading in bed and Howl’s Moving Castle for sleeping.

10. What are other ways you use your creativity?
I sometimes draw some characters for a graphic novel I am writing, or write some chapters of the story.  I don’t know when I’ll publish it or how but this story has been in my head for years now and I need to let it out some way or another. Other field where I am using my creativity is planning my new home. I love ecological architecture and I am planning to build a house with that organic, sustainable approach in the next few years.  I am in the right place to do it! I am doing a deep investigation about this and I have a good idea now how my house will look (and feel) I am thinking on start growing my own vegetables on my backyard this year for what I have no skills at all yet, but it’s a good way to start learning and I have an excellent gardener willing to teach me some tricks.  Interior design is something I always wanted to do so that will be a good mix for a new home, some house planning, decoration and horticulture, how that sound?

11. If you weren’t designing, what would you be doing?
I would be rescuing white tigers in Siberia, snakes in the Amazonian, whales in the ocean and dancing with wolves.  That is more or less my retirement plan, an eco friendly house and a rescue center for the wild life, dogs and cats.

12. What do you do with your free time?
When I have some free time in the middle of this chaotic “mother of 5” life (I am counting Minina and Coco here) I go to the beach, read a lot, go to the movies, alone or with one of the kids, take a walk in downtown or go for a coffee to a small place ocean front with a Jim Butcher’s book on my tablet.  This is a very relaxed place with excellent weather and many things to do so I always feel I am on vacation, isn’t it great?


Gracias  Clara!