Ana & Tiago are two young and enthusiastic graphic designers from Portugal, who decided to travel the world by trading their design skills in exchange for rent, food, drinks or anything else they may need during their travels.
Having the experience of running their own design studio back in Lisbon, they had the idea of starting a project called For Design, where they offer their design services to brands. Instead of money, they get products or services in return, which allows them to be able to travel and enjoy new experiences.
For the last six months, Ana and Tiago have been traveling to 15 countries around Europe, while working on projects like websites and branding designs. Now, they moved on to Africa, where they are helping two foundations in Kenya and Uganda with redesigning their brands, in order to attract more volunteers and donations. “Both foundations have been doing incredible work for many years, but are still unknown to the world and thus struggle financially. So we want to change that with our design!”, they told me.
And because their lifestyle of mixing design and travel proved to be working for them, they expanded their platform in order to allow other creatives do the same. So they launched Trade for Design as a way to connect designers and clients and allow them to exchange their services.
We really want to travel, meet new people and learn new cultures. We think that what we do is much more valuable than money, because money can’t buy this experience and all the amazing people we met
Talk Illustration: How did the idea for this project come to you?
Ana: We wanted to give an opportunity to people that don’t have enough money to invest in design. Because we believe that everyone has the potential to change the world and that design can help them to achieve their goals. Since money was a barrier we had to find another way of payment.
Tiago: We realized that we could exchange for something that most of the people already have, a room and board.
T.I.: How was your life before starting this project? I know the two of you own a design studio in Portugal.
T: We were living in Bilbao when we started planning for this project. Ana was studying design at the University of the Basque Country and I was working as a freelancer. It was also there that we founded our studio.
A: It was in Bilbao that we designed and planned all the project, and where we did our promotional video.
T.I.: What motivated you to do this?
A: We really want to travel, meet new people and learn new cultures. We think that what we do is much more valuable than money because money can’t buy this experience and all the amazing people we met. People should not put so much value on money, they should start thinking about what they really want and what’s the most valuable thing for them.
T.I.: Tell me a little bit about your journey. You started traveling 6 months ago.
T: We started in Lisbon, and from July to October we went to 15 different countries in Europe. We designed 5 websites and 4 branding identities, always exchanging for a room and board. Between projects we slept in our van that we converted ourselves, we surfed, skated, and explored more than 40 cities.
T.I.: How did you find the people to work with? And how did you approach them, were they always trusting and open to the idea?
A: We created a way for people to apply on our website. A lot of people applied to our project, and we connected with them as soon as we received the application. Some of them never replied again, but most of them always trusted us.
T.I.: How did you promote your website, so that it could gain exposure and reach people?
We sent a lot of e-mails to the press and blogs related with art and culture and we were published a little bit all around the world. Our social media was also really important, we tried to be always active and share all of our trip.
T.I.: How do you establish trust with the clients? Are there contracts involved, how do you make sure you, as well as them, are protected in this barter?
T: Most of the people trusted us from the beginning, but some, we had to talk a little bit more, and sometimes do some Skype calls to let them know us better. We never do any kind of contracts because we think that our project is based on trusting in each others.
T.I.: What were the most unusual services/goods you got, in exchange for your design?
A: During this trip, we only exchanged for a place to stay and food, but we received some funny applications. One person wanted to give us a lawn mower for a website, and another one wanted to give us an intensive Portuguese course, our native language…
T.I.: How do you keep up with this pace, traveling and finding the time and focus for work as well?
T: It is really tiring and stressful but at the same time it’s amazing because we can do everything that we love to do. We try to find a balance between work and fun, we always finish our projects first and then we have the time to enjoy the places without the stress of work.
T.I.: How about financially? Do you cover all expenses by doing this work, or do you still need to dig into your savings?
A: Between projects, we have to pay for everything. Usually it’s fuel, food and some touristic activities, but since we converted our van we can save a lot by sleeping in the car and cooking there.
T.I.: What will you do next?
A: Right now we are in Kenya working with the Better Me Foundation. They provide food, shelter, education and healthcare for over 260 children in need. Our goal here is to re-design their brand and help them to have more volunteers and donations.
T: To expand our project we want to let others do what we’ve doing in the past months. So we are launching TradeForDesign, a way to connect creatives and clients to exchange their services.