Brenda Castillo just finished a mentorship with Anya Farquhar, a DCA instructor/mentor, who helped her launch her stationery company called Sweet Llamita (www.sweetllamita.com). Below she shares with us how she developed her greeting card designs and how her experience in taking DCA courses prepared her to launch her idea.
What was your inspiration for this project?
Shortly after I graduated from college I was looking for premium-quality greeting cards for my parents, who are Hispanic and Spanish-speakers. Unfortunately, I could not find cards for them that I liked – none of the cards were in Spanish and a few funny or clever ones referenced sayings or jokes that were not relevant to them. This experience was the impetus to launching a greeting card company originally focused on just Spanish speakers; however, over time I noticed that there was also a need for people who are bilingual and who are members of mixed families, which is why I also design cards in Spanglish.
What was the process of developing it like?
The process was a lot of testing and exploration. Before I started the DCA program I was teaching myself how to use Gimp and Inkscape (the open-sourced versions of Photoshop and Illustrator, respectively) and exploring designs and messages. After starting the DCA program and becoming comfortable with design tools and jargon, I used my homework assignments as ways to explore design styles, color palettes, and even branding styles. As I got feedback from my peers, instructors (mainly my mentorship instructor Anya Farquhar) , and friends, I was able to refine my designs and slowly but surely align what I had originally envisioned early on with something tangible like the cards and brand assets.
What were the greatest challenges and greatest triumphs?
My greatest challenge was finding the design style for the cards. After only six months into the program, I was set on publicly launching my website but right before I made the jump friends told me my cards seemed more appropriate for young children versus my key demographic – bilingual women. At that point, I decided to delay the launch and keep on exploring my design aesthetic, which was the best decision I could have made. The process has been difficult because I want to make something unique that stays away from the common images and color palettes we often see geared towards the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. I want to challenge that and show that the language you speak in the U.S. does not always determine a design aesthetic and it can still appeal to my target consumer.
My greatest triumph so far is just being able to launch this project overall. My plan was to work for a couple of years post-college, go to business school, and eventually start a business down the road. However, after a few life events after college, this idea kept on coming back. For some time I thought it could be a side hustle but eventually, I realized I wanted to fully dive in and that’s when I enrolled in the DCA program.
What are your goals as a designer?
My goal is to keep on developing my skillset and expanding my design horizons. I try to read designs books to review what I learned through the DCA program and to expand my knowledge. I also want to keep on pushing my boundaries as a designer and try new design methods or aesthetics to create a unique brand that it still authentic to my key customer but also cool and timeless. It’s kind of an oxymoron but I want to explore it.