U.I.WD’s Bruno Tatsumi on their new website, simplicity and developing an entrepreneurial mindset
Founded in 2014 by partners and creative directors Bruno Tatsumi and Mariana Torres, U.I.WD. is a São Paulo-based design studio operating on both a local and international scale. Through their work, they showcase the rare ability to design with the utmost simplicity while maintaining a commitment to concept. To find out more about how they do it, we caught up with Bruno Tatsumi.
EM Hi Bruno! Why did you and Mariana decide to start a studio together back in 2014?
BT Hey Elliott! Before we started the studio, we were feeling overwhelmed and frustrated in our jobs in different advertising agencies. Somehow we felt that we didn’t fit in. In 2012, we decided that we should both quit those jobs and explore new skills and experiences somewhere else. We already visited New York City a couple of times because we love it, and felt that it was the right place and time to live there. In the end, it was the best life decision we had ever made since we learned so much, and it brought us a new perspective of doing things creatively. It also gave us inspirations for having accessible art, networking and culture all the time. And the studio culture began to take shape. As we lived there, we started working together on design and fashion projects, and developing trend reports for corporate businesses and niche portals. When we got back to São Paulo, this experience gave us enough confidence to put our efforts into founding a studio that we truly believe in, which we didn’t see much in Brazil before that time.
EM How does the status quo of the studio compare to what you thought it would become when you started it?
BT We dreamed of having a very creative, inspirational and relaxed environment for ourselves to do great work. We think the office should be an extension of our home. And today, we believe we have achieved that. We’re happy doing what we’re doing, making our clients happy, and we’re glad that our work has become truly global. It’s working well, and we’re looking forward to our future.
We were feeling overwhelmed and frustrated in our jobs in different advertising agencies.
EM What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting the studio?
BT Trying to improve every day and raising high-quality design to a higher scale is still our biggest challenge. That’s when we understood that we need an ‘A-team’ of players to hire and retain. And finding those people is not an easy task. At the same time, it’s not only about creativity; we have to pay special attention to the financial side, balancing profitability and creativity, speaking about business management, accounting, cash flow and negotiating budget proposals. But we’ve learned to have fun with it; it’s part of the game.
EM How difficult is it to make sure the future of the studio is always financially secure? Do you ever have to take on projects that you’d prefer not to?
BT We’ve developed an entrepreneurial mindset over the last seven years. Saving money is a habit today, to build cash flow and to help control expenses. Part of our income is reinvested in the studio, mostly in people. This habit makes our structure much stronger, especially when facing bad times.
In the beginning, we accepted some projects that we didn’t believe in to pay our bills. But, this is part of the learning process on how to run a studio and to understand what makes sense for you and which projects to take. Luckily, most of our clients have brought us projects that have had a connection with our values somehow, and we have been fortunate enough to have received these opportunities. Now we understand that investing in long-lasting relationships is important. And the quality of our work is the most important aspect of our studio culture; money is simply a by-product of our hard work.
Part of our income is reinvested in the studio, mostly in people.
EM How would you describe the aesthetic of your work?
BT Simple and detailed. We always search for simplicity.
EM Do you have a project that you think best represents that simplicity?
BT It’s hard to say because every project is important to us, and we treat each project like our own child. We can’t choose only one.
All of our projects have this main principle. They don’t have to look minimal though; we happen to prefer simplicity. If the project looks minimal, it’s because of the client’s specifications, not ours. We like to adapt to any project or situation out of our comfort zone and not be attached to a specific aesthetic.
EM Why did you decide the time was right to redo your website?
BT Our work is much more mature now, better than five years ago, and our website needs to reflect it. We tried to portray a new stage of experiments there, and in the end, it is a natural reflection of who we are and what we do.
EM Aside from the visuals, does the new site mark any other changes to U.I.WD?
BT We’re seeing a new cycle opening, like the end of a period of hard work establishing the company by ourselves, and beginning to invest time in new people and managing them to keep pushing boundaries with us. We are more experienced now, more confident doing what we’re good at. We can see things now, which in the beginning weren’t so clear. We can easily identify now, in the first meeting, if a project has a chance to thrive or not, or if a prospect is a good deal for us. And the new website showcases what we truly love to do.
EM Was it hard to find the time to design the new site alongside client work? How long did it take?
BT We wanted to change our website back in 2019. It took a couple of years, but we didn’t hurry. Managing client’s deliveries, demands and running the studio at the same time is a big challenge. But we trusted in time. And coincidently, our website was launched on our company’s seventh anniversary, which is pretty symbolic to us.
EM Who are your creative influences?
BT We’re big fans of lots of artists, creative people and design studios. The list is long. But our influences come mainly from culture, food, architecture, music, fashion and photography.
Bringing new experiences to any field is almost an obligation.
EM Do you think it’s important for graphic designers to look outside graphic design for inspiration?
BT It’s very essential. Bringing new experiences to any field is almost an obligation; otherwise, you’ll get stuck in a vicious cycle.
EM What’s it like living and working in São Paulo as a creative?
BT São Paulo is a creative metropolis, and this is reflected in our practice. Chaotic, a melting pot of different people and cultures from around Brazil and the world, bringing an amazing cultural diversity. To live and work here is crazy, with lots of cultural richness and unending optimism. This is what makes São Paulo so great.