Let’s start with your story. How do you express your work? How did your story get here?
It’s taken a while to get Santos & Co to where it is today. I started as a lettering artist, creating custom illustrations for people, and then somehow I started using my work as my way of advocating.
I always say that I am not very good at words and so I used art to share my voice and I haven’t shut up ever since. I knew one thing when I started my business: I will not tone myself down to make anyone comfortable.
As a Latinx, queer, non-binary person, my business is political and it is the most personal thing I have ever done. It is a form of rebellion towards anyone who has ever told me or anyone else like me of what we should and shouldn’t do.
Santos & Co became a brand studio because I wanted to help people use their craft and passion as their voice. I’ve built my business with the intention to help others reject the status quo of whatever the world told them they should be.
Human-centered design, can you tell us the importance of that term?
Human-centered to me means that YOU are your brand’s greatest asset. This is something that a lot of other strategists might disagree with because we’re taught that the customer always comes first.
Because I work with people who have been historically under-represented and misrepresented, it’s important that they feel like their business is a TRUE expression of who they are and not what society has told them to be in order to be “successful.”
At Santos & Co human-centered is a form of rebellion, that’s why it’s important
Creating a strategy is a nightmare for small brands. How do you prepare? How is your process to success?
Strategy is usually difficult for brands of any size. It can sometimes feel repetitive, like starting over or moving backwards. I truly suggest all brands of any size to avoid doing it by themselves. Sometimes we are unable to see things from the outside looking in. Especially if it’s our own company — we are usually way too attached to see what might not be working.
For small brands my suggestion is to start small. When doing strategy you don’t have to figure it all out at once. Start by identifying your purpose and your mission. Why does your brand exist? Why is it important to you? Why is it important to other people? How do you plan on changing the industry? These questions will lead you to the answers to so many other questions.
However, my biggest advice is to know that every answer is subject to change. SPECIALLY is you’re a small business, know that change and growth is inevitable. Embrace where you are now in this moment in your business and let that be okay!
What approaches do we have to catch the brand voice?
“Brand voice” is probably one of the hardest parts of brand strategy. My biggest advice is to experiment and find something that feels good to you and then start implementing it into your brand and see if it resonates! If it doesn’t, get some feedback and go back to the drawing board!
Remember that the most important thing about your brand voice is that it should feel like YOU. It shouldn’t sound forced or performative.
How do you overcome creative block?
I believe that if we are experiencing a “creative block” the best thing to do is to not force it. Listen to yourself and what you need. Is it rest or Is it inspiration? If it’s inspiration, how can you go about finding that? For me, inspiration strikes when I am doing anything BUT art. It can be at a picnic with friends, walking around the city, trying new foods. I am heavily influenced by experiences, so when I am having a creative block I simply go experience life.
What would you say to those who need inspiration to create their own path?
As cliche as this is, I’d say just start. I think there’s a lot of pressure for us to be GREAT before even sharing our craft. The truth is how can we even begin to be great without practicing, putting ourselves out there, and getting feedback?
Embrace playing with different styles and mediums until you find what makes your heart sing.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Santos & Co is currently going through a growth period. My hope is that it becomes less of a brand studio and more of a space where I can just be a multi-passionate human. I am excited to share more personal life experience, maybe some vlogs, maybe more travel diaries. Who knows!