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Uprising: Kristina Cruz-Pura on Her “Outside the Box” Sustainable Design Philosophy


LBB’s Ben Conway speaks to Kristina Cruz-Pura, junior designer and art director at Le Parc Design, Juniper Park\TBWA’s design studio, to discuss the start of her blossoming career and the need for an environmentally-minded industry

Uprising: Kristina Cruz-Pura on Her “Outside the Box” Sustainable Design Philosophy

“Being a first-generation child born in Canada and growing up in an immigrant Filipino household, I learned that hard work trumps everything. Perseverance, hard work and gutsiness are qualities one must have to pursue the life they envision.”

After being told there were only three jobs in the world - doctor, lawyer or engineer - pursuing art as a career seemed like a pipe dream for Kristina Cruz-Pura, now a junior designer and art director at Juniper Park\TBWA’s design studio, Le Parc Design. However, from the moment she picked up a crayon and began creating with Play-Doh and building blocks, she knew that her destiny was to become an artist. With much persuasion, she finally changed her family’s outlook on design’s role in society - convincing them that becoming a designer would indeed be a “proper job”, and starting her journey in the creative world.

Kristina attended a joint program between York University and Sheridan College for a Bachelor of Design, calling it “the most intense growth spurt” she’s experienced as a young creative. During her studies, she travelled and attended the school’s trips to Montreal and San Francisco to tour and see how design lives in different places and cultures. She says, “Alongside learning about design principles, I was taught how to defend and fight for my design choices and think holistically of how the product looks and feels… I learned to always have a reason behind each design decision I make. Whether it’s the type, imagery or colour scheme, everything has its place and reason. Learning how to defend, explain, and sell my designs was equally as important as the work itself.” 

After a brief internship in her final year of study, she graduated in 2020 and was hired as an intern at Juniper Park\TBWA through the Trampoline Program - an initiative that fosters young BIPOC talent - before being offered a full-time position at the agency, where she still works today.

Remembering her first experience in the industry, during her third-year internship, she says, “I recall working on a logo design for a client and remembered how fast-paced and intense working in the industry felt like for the first time. I quickly realised that, unlike school projects, you can do a whole design project within a day rather than a whole semester.”

Occurring not long after that first experience, a project that stands out as a turning point for Kristina is a branding piece she worked on at Juniper Park\TBWA for maternal underwear company Mumdees. “This project was brought in through the agency’s Trampoline project, a pro-bono branding initiative that supports BIPOC-owned, small-to-medium sized businesses. Our team had the chance to create a thoughtful design system that shifted the perspective of new mothers and the changes a woman’s body undergoes after pregnancy. Working on Mumdees, I loved the idea of opening the conversation and normalising the changes a woman goes through – the good and bad.”

After a few years developing her talent in the field, the young designer has begun to find out what she enjoys most about her vocation - which interestingly can be a double-edged sword. “My favourite part of the design process is the research phase and curating the visual language of the overall piece. I thrive on getting into the small details of how the visual language can live in different applications and mediums. Ironically, the part of the process I find frustrating is also the part I love. Starting the design is a difficult, fun, and challenging process. However, once you do create a solid design system, it’s incredibly gratifying.”

The emerging creative believes that advertising and design have an “incredible” ability to reach a large audience, and subsequently influence and shift their perspectives on different ideas and subjects. So, continuing in her career, she aspires to utilise this “power” for good - hoping to create “thought-provoking work that opens the room up for dialogue and conversations between people to shift perspectives and new ways of thinking.” To gain inspiration for her own development, she makes the most of (her current base of operations) Mississauga’s proximity to Toronto, attending exhibitions and events in the city - both design-related and otherwise.

Recently, Kristina has been working on a GoDaddy campaign and attended her first production set as part of the process. Describing this formative experience she says, “It was challenging because of the learning curve of how everything works and comes together. The creative team at Juniper Park\TBWA were attentive and kind during production. They taught me how things work, what typically happens during a shoot and offered me advice as a new creative. It was an amazing opportunity for a young creative to be surrounded by a supportive team while working on a huge client project.” 

Looking at the broader industry’s current path of evolution, the budding talent garners excitement from the rapidly developing technology that is “merging to create insightful and impactful work” with the field of design. She says, “There’s a rise in digital design like VR and 3D that offers new experiences and ways of interacting with audiences. I’m eager to see how these mediums will be used to solve creative problems in the future.” She is careful, however, not to fall into one of the pitfalls of the industry that she has observed thus far - “One small thing that frustrates me is that we fall into trends when creating something new. I hope going forward, we can break out of the mould and become more daring with our work.”

Another potential improvement for the industry that Kristina has identified is improving its environmental impact and providing a more significant focus on campaigns’ sustainability considerations. She explains that more questions should be raised around the longevity of the products and brands that agencies and design studios are working with - a movement that she believes can begin with a firmer response from within the industry. “There needs to be a stronger push to create brands and products that consider the environment, to lessen the impact of pollution and single-use products.”

When she isn’t working, the fledgling designer and art director says you can expect to find her checking out the latest exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario or exploring the variety of coffee shops that downtown Toronto has to offer. After an especially productive and tiring day, she also relishes the simple pleasure of going out for a long walk with her dog, Kai. On the other hand, she can’t allow her creative brain to rest dormant for too long - regularly indulging in a whole universe of crafting inspiration via YouTube. “ I especially enjoy videos where creatives use recycled material to create dioramas of landscapes from their favourite movies or video games. Watching other creatives repurpose materials keeps me motivated to be resourceful and to think outside the box.”

Just beginning her journey in the last few pandemic-disrupted years, she looks toward the horizon with this “outside the box” and sustainability-minded thinking as a north star for her creative future. Taking inspiration from the likes of Japanese designer and art director Kenya Hara, she hopes to adopt and foster a philosophy that places design and utility at the forefront of her work. 

“I strive to create work that is meaningful and inspires people to think outside the box. Offering up my passion for design, I hope to work on design projects that will reach people to think in new ways that have a positive impact on my audience and the environment.”

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Juniper Park\TBWA, Fri, 01 Jul 2022 15:55:00 GMT