I’m Ariana, one of the partners at Designed By Good People, but I almost became a lawyer.
This is my story.
I grew up in El Salvador during the civil war. We (my family) lived in the capital but most of the war happened in the countryside. But in 1989 the guerrila entered the capital attempting to overthrow the government. We were trapped at home during the fighting until we were evacuated by the Red Cross. Before leaving, my mum and dad made a white flag using one of my small pillowcases and a wooden clothes hanger. I was in charge of carrying the flag. We had to walk for what it felt like an eternity to an uncle’s house looking for shelter. I was only 9 years old at the time, but I found it rather bizarre, we went from what essentially was a war zone to a peaceful residential area. What I left a few hours before was still going on, but this time I was watching it on TV.
Other members of my family weren’t quite so lucky. One evening an uncle was giving a lift to my mum and other relatives, my mum (with me in her belly) was one of the first ones to be taken home. Later on, as they carried on with their journey, they got caught in the cross fire between the army and guerrila, everyone in the car tried to duck down to avoid the bullets, but a cousin was shot and killed. Another uncle was kidnapped and tortured by the army and had to leave the country. He was a priest back in the the days when you’d hear the far right in the government say ‘be a patriot, kill a priest’.
As I got older I intuitively knew there were a lot of injustices going on around me, committed by people of different backgrounds on both sides of conflict. Resentment grew depending on what side or circumstance affected you. Perhaps it’s because of that that my dad wasn’t surprised that when it came to college, I was torn between 2 careers. I enrolled myself in 2 different careers, in 2 different universities at the same time. In one I was studying to become a lawyer, in the other I was studying Graphic Design. This didn’t go on for long, after a couple of weeks it became very obvious to me that I had to make a decision as things became unmanageable. I loved the discussions about democracy, justice and fairness in one, but ultimately I fell in love with the problem solving approach in design. I saw graphic design as a way of getting key messages across, the worthiness of those messages would be essential of course. But I ultimately found out, that was something I wouldn’t have control over.
After graduating from Universidad Dr. José Matías Delgado I worked at McCann Erickson and Ogilvy in El Salvador. While I was there I worked for clients like Dove, Hellman’s and Unilever. I then decided it was time to study an MA. I was waiting to hear back from my application to Central Saint Martins, when a mutual friend from Ogilvy introduced me to a graphic designer from the UK. We briefly met at a lecture he gave in El Salvador back in 2002. This time he was in El Salvador for a wedding which would turn out to be life changing.
In 2006 I came to London to study my master degree at Central Saint Martins. My main project during the then called MA Design Studies was an eco / ethical labelling scheme. This would allow people to know how fair and responsible for the environment, the people who made it and its ultimate user / consumer a particular product or service was. When I came to London I became aware of initiatives and schemes like Fairtrade, the Organic Soil Association and FSC. During my research I found that, more often than not, these type of schemes operate like a switch. You either have the accreditation or you don’t, it’s black or white. Consumers weren’t able to find the shades of grey that might be part of the journey to the ideal scenario. I thought a system similar to the energy efficiency labels on appliances would be more effective. We’d like to re-visit this at some point, but that’s a subject for another post.
After my MA I worked at different London design agencies and inhouse design studios, these included Marks & Spencer, Whittard of Chelsea, Whitestone, Smith & Milton, Saffron Brand Consultants and P&W Design Consultants. Clients included ECB, ICC an UEFA Cup pitch, Legal & General, branding projects for Visit London, Rio de Janeiro and Baker & MacKenzie, packaging for Tesco UK and Fresh & Easy in the USA. I met lovely people along the way and learnt a lot. This, together with my MA project, ultimately made it very obvious that I enjoyed working on projects I believed in the most.
Finally, the opportunity to have control over the projects I worked on arose. I wasn’t going to do this alone, the graphic designer I met back in 2002 was now my husband. Luckily for me the wedding he went to in El Salvador wasn’t his! We formed Designed By Good People in 2010 and years later we’re still here. One curious fact for you: one our clients is Liberation Nuts, their Fairtrade Cashews come from El Salvador, I feel I’ve come full circle.
We genuinely enjoying what we do and are very aware of the fact that this is something not everyone gets to do… but probably should. After all, work takes a big chunk of your time and ultimately your life, you should enjoy it. You do better work when you believe in what you do…