What drives successful strategy and design? How does Landor produce inspired ideas for some of the world’s largest global brands? This year, we’re sharing the inner workings of our studios around the world through our Inside the Studio series. We’ll speak with some of our top creative minds, asking what it takes to produce innovative, effective, award-worthy work. Up now: Landor Mexico City’s executive creative director, Chema Leon.
From Madrid to Mexico City, Chema Leon has spent 19 years working across Latin America and Europe building some of the world’s largest global brands. With a focus on 360-degree programs, Chema is an expert at all parts of the design process including analysis, strategy, conceptualization, creation, and implementation. The breadth and depth of his experience have helped him push boundaries across a variety of industries for clients such as BMW, Citibanamex, Diageo, Iberia, Interjet, Movistar, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble. As an executive creative director at Landor, Chema believes that curiosity, efficiency, and enthusiasm are vital to produce the best possible work for our clients.
1. Who is one of your favorite artists or designers, and how have they influenced a project you’ve worked on while at Landor?
Even though I majored in graphic design, I have always been inspired by holistic designers. Whether they specifically work in editorial, industrial, graphic, motion, sound, or experience design, holistic designers consider every angle—working creatively, functionally, and strategically across all disciplines. Massimo Vignelli has been a strong influence on my work because he understood the link between design and function, regardless of its nature. His work transcends through iconic pieces that possess substantial content, yet simple expression.
2. What differentiates Landor’s design studios from other agencies?
I’m always impressed by Landor’s interoffice synergies and cross-team communication around the globe. During one week alone, Mexico City could be working on projects with North America, Europe, and Asia. It’s important to realize the immense value that stems from this type of collaboration. From diversifying and discovering new ideas to contrasting and challenging them, the results are invaluable.
3. What is one unexpected way you gain inspiration for your work?
Mexico City is full of vibrancy and contrast around every corner. Just consider the loud matracas, the incredible concerts at Bellas Artes, the city’s glowing street lights, or the bright colors in the jacaranda trees that line its streets. From video mapping of Teotihuacan’s Sun Pyramid to Luis Barragán’s exquisite architecture, from the texture in tamales leaves to Lydia Lavín’s couture, from baroque handwritten typography to Vicente Rojo’s minimalist posters—all of these experiences inevitably inspire our work. Mexico’s charm and richness lie not in the simple or the elegant, but in the synthesis of both.
4. When faced with a new project, where do you start? Do you have a standard process?
Every project develops in its own unique way, but I believe in a structured, organized creative process to help us reach our goals more quickly. Before coming up with ideas and concepts, I particularly focus on understanding the market and its circumstances. Where does our client stand in relation to competitors? What is our client’s target audience? How successfully are these elements working together? Is the result meaningful?
As structured as I may be, I also believe that a complete creative process allows as much room for improvisation and surprise as it does for thorough analysis. It’s also imperative to have a diverse team with broad skill sets. This is the best way to push thoughtful thinking to the next level and discover unconventional points of view.
5. Do you have a primary personal goal or ambition in mind with your work?
When I came from Europe to Latin America four years ago, I realized that branding isn’t a top business priority in this market. Very often, companies that are successful from a business perspective may not realize the importance of brand. How can you pitch the importance of brand to a CEO that knows his company is No. 1 in sales but has never invested in his brand?
We have to anticipate the needs of our potential and existing clients and find agile, intelligent formulas to provide top-notch services. We look to communicate the broader business impact of branding to build and promote its value—not only among entrepreneurs and business audiences, but within general society as well. As a result, branding in Latin America is both extremely challenging and extremely exciting. Its potential to change the future is tangible.
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