We had the good fortune of connecting with Ximena Amaya and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ximena, how do you think about risk?
The thing for me with risk-taking is the implication of failure and how we think about failure, we understand it as this dangerous thing to avoid. I heard in an interview once we don’t really learn from the things we already know how to do or the things we already do well. It’s when we fail at something that we really get to learn. So I like to think that in a way, we should be trying to fail all the time, and then trying some more. For me shifting the concept and learning to be comfortable with failure ( or trying to ) has made the idea of risk more exciting and it has created a lot of space for experimentation and play, or like that quote says “I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking to make a few more”. With this, I don’t mean be careless but being less worried about the outcome being good or bad, right or wrong, gives the process a lot more space to do its thing, so fail purposely and then try again.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I honestly think of how I got here or about my practice in general as something very intuitive, I can’t particularly translate the why’s or how’s to words sometimes but I guess that’s what I’ve learned in all of this process, to listen to my instincts. It sounds cliché but it really is important. Especially with something like graphic design, the first encounter we have with most objects is visual, you are processing information and before you can rationalize it you already have a feeling, a reaction. It’s like that classic example when you see a sign on the street for example, before you have read it you already have information from the typography and the colors, or when you judge a book by its cover. This is true for many things but especially graphic design can work on a very raw intuitive level, it’s why most of the time it’s almost invisible.
I’ve always been surrounded by design, my mom is a graphic designer as well and my dad is an architect, they always encouraged this creative side in me and helped me exploit it. I started my professional formation as a graphic designer in Mexico City, where I’m originally from, it didn’t particularly work out for me there, but it opened a lot of doors and it taught me a lot about failing. I left Mexico and went to Barcelona with my best friend to explore other creative outlets, ceramic, drawing, illustration. Which eventually brought me to LA, again very intuitively, and almost by chance I ended up in ArtCenter.
I started being very interested in printed material, books, and magazines in particular. The idea of passing information on and helping tell stories has been very appealing to me and today I am very interested in learning different tools and media to tell these stories. To me, there’s something almost anthropological to design, something I learned while working on the hypothetical rebranding of the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, which you can see in some of these images. Typography is a great exploration of language itself, how we read, how we communicate, and how we process information but also how we relate to each other. To me, that’s the motivation behind it, a practice that allows you to keep learning and passing information on, to talk about a collective understanding, and find better ways to talk to each other.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
LA is a very unique city, I’m always fascinated with how it came to be and facts like Chinatown having been built by Hollywood set designers or its radioactive orange sunsets caused by pollution. When I have friends visiting I try to pass on as much of that understanding of LA that you get from being here for a bit. I’m a big fan of museums so that would be a must, for Downtown/Arts district area I’d take them to Hauser and Wirth, which also has a nice bookstore, and maybe get a drink later in Bar Franca. Speaking of nice bookstores, Skylight Books in Vermont Ave is a great stop. If we are going to LACMA I’d take them to get some food in Little Ethiopia after or maybe go to Pizzeria Mozza. For coffee or a drink, I would take them to IlCafe Downtown which has this nice outdoor sitting right on Broadway, and it’s a great spot for people-watching. For food in general, my favorites are the Wife and the Somm in Glassel Rock or Pine and Crane in Silverlake. And I would definitely fit in some hikes and beach days in. Griffith is always a must and probably Point Dume in Malibu or Marina del Rey, and if there is extra time definitely would try to show them the dessert.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There is another quote I like: “Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan”. Although this was not the original meaning, I like to interpret as success coming from collaboration and care. I have learned my work is so much better when more people are involved. Having conversations, asking for help, showing/giving support… the synergy of it. I was basically born into design with my parents ( special shoutout to them ) being creatives, and in pursuing my practice I have found so many good friends and mentors I don’t know how to choose a couple, I can only say the synergy of all of it is the backbone of everything I do.