Los Caballos on “designing freely”, finding a voice and working without constraints
Founded by Nicolás Di Filippo and Sebastián Fuks, the Buenos Aires-based studio works across art direction, branding, print, illustration and more.
- Ayla Angelos
- 29 October 2021
Los Caballos was formed after its two Argentinian founders – Nicolás Di Filippo and Sebastián Fuks – met studying graphic design at FADU, the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). “Paradoxically, the concern that united us was the idea of opening borders beyond the academic space,” Nicolás tells It’s Nice That. “This need to find our own places of expression led us to explore other territories.”
Before launching the studio, the two of them were part of a cultural centre in Casa Presa, a neighbourhood located in Villa Urquiza, Buenos Aires. It was here that they started to exchange thoughts and experiences with different artists – musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, actors and filmmakers – and where their work together began to really kick-off. “That was a transcendental experience from which we learned the importance of generating something of our own, where different forms of expression coexisted and collaborative work was valued.” Simultaneously, they also gained work experience in agencies and design studios, in turn learning the ropes of the industry but also, importantly, how they “did not want to work.” This benefitted them both greatly, for they also figured out what they did want: to launch their own studio.
Los Caballos spans all sorts from art direction, branding, print and illustration to design, concept development, campaign identity, UI, UX and consultation. Its list of clients is enviable and includes Lacoste, Microsoft, Sony, Ford, Nestlé and many others. When it comes to tackling a brief, the first thing the founders will do is accept the project – but only if they see the potential. “Usually this happens when we are challenged to develop an interesting graphic resolution, and we also find it attractive when a project allows us to do something new that enhances the eclectic quality of the studio,” explains Nicolás. Next comes conversations, questions, meetings and exchanges to understand the project further; once this stage is complete, they’re ready to head onto the design.
“There are certain steps that we always include: the exploration and the sketching, where ideas flow without much judgement; plus meditation, walking, painting and other actions that allow us to get distance from the designs to be able to return with a renewed look,” says Sebastián. “It is key not to be absorbed in what we design.” When sparking inspiration, the duo seeks external influences to guide their practice. To help, they will both involve themselves in transcendental meditation (which means silent mantra meditation), contemporary art and the streets of Buenos Aires: “the chaos of the city within which we live daily is a stimulus that we cannot avoid and is directly reflected in our design,” says Nicolás. Additionally, their mentors and teachers have been a constant source of inspiration, particularly two teachers – one named Diana Aisenberg, an Argentinian painter and teacher, the other Sonia Steed, a transcendental meditation instructor.
Los Caballos now boasts a portfolio that’s chockablock with varied and eye-catching projects. Recently, for example, the team worked on the visual identity for film production and advertising agency Argentina Cine, which established itself in 1999 and has since been deemed one of the top film production companies in South America. For this identity, they looked at the concept of “being Argentine as a union of different origins” – fuelled by a combination of block print-style illustration and a legible, sans serif font that’s decorated with squiggly, hand-drawn type in the empty space. Elsewhere, the studio designed a typeface for Citype which is inspired by Buenos Aires. “This project connected us with our local roots and allowed us to rethink our city,” says Sebastián. “We discovered an illustration technique that represents us today. In fact, the illustrations made for Argentina Cine, many years later, were derivatives of this technique.”
At the moment, the studio’s working on a handful of visual identity projects and digital environments for both local and international brands and artists. What’s more is its founders are also exploring the world of NFTs, “as content creators and accompanying digital artists in the construction of their visual identity in the Metaverse,” says Nicolás. So if you’re feeling inspired by the work of Los Caballos, then Sebastián leaves us with some wise words to reflect on: “Try to appreciate the design as an act of freedom, and we hope this freedom will be spread as motivation to carry out your practice in the same way. Design is not right or wrong. Everything can work in the right context. Design freely, try to find your own voice, it probably has a direct relationship with your roots or motivations. Finally, trust your exploration and mistakes. This learning led us to develop our identity.”
Los Caballos: Flow (Copyright © Los Caballos, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.