Athletics

In Conversation: Jaime Patino-Calvo on Culture, Creativity, and Color

We’re pleased to share another installment of In Conversation, our series of friendly chats amongst Athletics colleagues and collaborators on subjects of personal or professional interest.

 

We’re joined this week by Jaime Patino-Calvo, Athletics Interactive Designer and man of many talents. At Athletics, Jaime has been instrumental in adapting iconic brands (like The New York Review of Books) and pioneering organizations (like XQ) to digital through technology and systems. In this episode, Jaime connects with Athletics Co-Founder Matt Owens, tracing his journey from Colombia to Miami to San Francisco to Brooklyn and sharing how culture, creativity, and color have been faithful friends along the way.

 

Listen below, or read the transcript, and stay tuned for more conversations in the weeks to come.

 

Matt Owens (MO) 

Welcome to another episode of “In Conversation,” a series of discussions amongst Athletics team members and creative colleagues on subjects of personal and professional interests. For today’s chat we welcome JPC, Interactive Designer at Athletics. As an interactive designer, Jaime works at the intersection of brand, design, and digital. And we’re talking to Jaime today to learn a little bit about more his upbringing in Columbia and his journey as a designer and his work as a painter and an artist and how that informs his professional process. So with that I welcome Jaime to “In Conversation”. How are you?

 

Jaime Patino-Calvo (JPC)

I’m all good, doing good. 

 

MO

Good. I wanted to you know, we’ve been working together for a little while and wanted to you know, get a little insight into yourself and where you’re from and how you got into design. 

 

JPC

Cool. Yeah, I so yeah, I’m from Columbia. I was born there and we moved, me and my family we moved to the States when I was 13 years old. And yeah, I mean I didn’t speak any English. So I had to learn that. We were lucky that we moved to Miami. So everyone in Miami speaks Spanish. So that was, that was a good thing. My kind of introduction into art was through my dad. My dad was actual designer in Colombia. 

 

MO

Oh, wow. 

 

JPC

Yeah, he worked in advertising and he worked for this agency that was owned by (indistinct) back in those days. So he’s pretty much kind of like my sort of artistic hero to be honest. He’s a very creative guy. And even after like, you know, he had to drop that when we moved to the States, but even after that he’s been very creative. So that’s kind of where I got my sort of artistic drive and input. I pretty much grew up around that when I was young. And then when we moved to the States, I sort of naturally kind of gravitated towards art. And so like in middle school I was already like drawing and when I got to high school I started to then, I enrolled into the AP art classes. And so you kind of start to see that sort of ball rolling down the hill where now my teachers are like, hey, you know what? You should get into graphic design or something. At that point I didn’t know what graphic design was until my Junior year. Yeah, it was like, I think it’s my junior year of community college, my teacher was like, “Hey kid, you got talent, but you need to leave Miami. There’s nothing here for you.” And so he was like, “You need to go to New York, Chicago, San Francisco if you really want to do something.” And that really was the kind of like the push and I just, I found a scholarship for soccer because I also play soccer. So I got a scholarship at this art school in San Francisco and they’re like “Hey, you wanna get free money?” I was like, “Yeah, we’ll play and go to art school.” And it worked out. 

 

MO

That’s amazing. That’s crazy. I mean do you think it’s this amazing journey from Colombia to Miami to San Francisco to New York, right? I was curious to know, you know, for you do you feel like there is a you know, you know the design scene in New York now and in America in general. And do you feel like growing up in Colombia and coming to the States and that sort of cultural difference, kind of where you came from and how you how you were raised and your dad’s philosophy on art and design, do you think, just curious to see what did that look like for you? How did that feel and how did that translate into the kind of bringing that to your, to school and to work? 

 

JPC

Yeah, that’s a good question. I feel like what I got from my dad was personality. It’s a Colombia, Colombian culture is very colorful. Not just in like the way we express ourselves, the colors of the tropical fruits, all of that. Like if you go to Columbia, color is a thing. And so we’re just colorful all around. So when I decided to get into design, like I just don’t shy away from color. Where I feel like design tends to create a lot of systematic color systems, when I first started I’m just like color crazy, which I think that’s more like an aesthetic side. But my dad always told me it’s like, don’t be afraid to bring your personality into your work. So and I think that comes a lot also from just that Colombian culture that it’s very, we’re very expressive and we want you to like know that we care and we want to like, it’s family oriented is like, you know, my mom for example is like she worries when I don’t eat. You know, it’s like the sort of worrying is make sure that everything’s okay. And that to me is just my design, especially when I was going through school, it was like about that. It’s expression. I want people to like react, feel. Is it by color, typography, or by texture? You know, I used to do a lot of like, I used to bring a lot of my hand-drawn things to my design work at school. And even like a funny anecdote, put out my, one of my first projects when I was an intern here in New York, I did this like little like watercolor thing and then the partner at that, at this studio is like oh, let’s use that for the project. And the client, the client’s like, I love the watercolor. And we scanned his watercolors and became like this like background gradients. And so yeah, that that to me is just like, it has a mix of like my Columbian background, my dad just being very like, just like, you know, be yourself and then you kind of have to see a little bit of like my hand, my art becoming like mesh into that process. 

 

MO

Totally, totally. You know, and it’s interesting to hear that because it’s like, I think when I was in school and seeing your work, it’s like expression and emotion are so important. But then as you go into the professional environment, and see all these other influences. It becomes one of many ingredients, right? And I’m curious to know a little bit about you know, before you came to Athletics you worked at a couple other agencies. And I wanted to kind of get a little insight into your transition from school into working and maybe a little bit about what you learned early on and how you, how that kind of evolved into digital and to where you are now. I’ll be curious to know that. 

 

JPC

Yeah, yeah, awesome. So I, when I first got out of school, I was in San Francisco, in San Francisco at that point. I got to San Francisco in ’08 and that was more like San Francisco still had a vibe. And then when I left school, it was 2012 and it was like Silicon Valley, right? And I essentially started working at a start-up. So that’s how I kind of got my sort of hands in like the digital world, but in a in-house startup. And so that’s how I kind of got into digital. I honestly almost got to packaging but the opportunity fell through. So now like, now I thank them. But so then from there I was like, you know what I kind of don’t want to go into this rabbit hole of like in-house. I wanna keep doing graphic design. And then New York was like, that’s where you could find like good, still good graphic design studios. So came to New York. And so my first gig was at Carbone Smolan Agency, which at that point of a purely brand, they were like literally like a branding agency. But they were branching out into digital. And so I kind of came into this like middle point where I could do brand, but I started to work in the digital side of things. And I started to design websites and started to design visual experiences. And I started to like really get more into that. And I kind of like slowly started to veer that way. But what I liked about that environment was that we’re still very good at branding. So they understood what branding was and kind of like you know, create really good systems. But that digital was becoming part of that branding experience. Not just a website, but like it could become the whole experience as well. And so that to me was very powerful. And then, and then I kind of went into another, into Happy Cog, which it’s another digital, they were more digital than Carbone Smolan. And that was for me to kind of get more experience with like a true developer, like the developer side of things because at CSA we had to like outsource the developers, right? So like we’d outsource that that sort of developing work. Where with Happy Cog, it was like all in-house. And so I kind of got a lot of like really good experience working side by side with developers. But I think they were lacking the branding side. And now fast forward to Athletics is coming full circle. I was like, I kind of want to still be in the middle, kind of like what I was doing at Carbone but you know, with like this sort of new energy. And I’ve always been a fan of Athletics work and that’s the reason why I was, I kind of came knocking on the door. It’s like I’m a fan and there’s an opportunity for me to kind of, you know, work in that intersection again, and yeah. 

 

MO

Cool, I mean at that intersection it’s very interesting. You know, there’s a lot of challenges there and there’s a lot of opportunities there, and I know you worked on New York Review of Books a bit that just launched recently. And just wanted to kind of get a little insight into maybe your experience in that middle space between brand and technology and what excites you about that area. Where do you feel like the most opportunities are, and kind of where you see yourself going.

 

JPC

Yeah, so that project was fun because from a brand perspective, the New York Review of Books had like a, they had a legacy already. So the good thing with when you have a sort of brand perspective, you work with the legacy. You don’t ignore it. So we really took that legacy, which meant like going over their archive and looking at their cover artwork, which is very like eclectic and like really cool, very sort of like cartoony and it’s a little New York-driven. And we said, you know what? We could like really make this sort of, almost like freshen up that look in a digital form. So we are kind of tackling both ends. We have, we keep your legacy, but we are like giving it a new life. And I think the client really loved that because we didn’t come in and say like, you know what? Scratch that! Gonna start with, you know, we’re going to start fresh. I think that’s the intersection, right, to me personally. And kind of going back to when we’re talking about personality, it’s like I kind of like want, like you gotta reserve, like keep that personality alive. Don’t ignore it. It’s like don’t turn down the building, right? It’s like keep the building but make it feel fresh. And so that’s what we did. We, if you look at the experience right now, we really took cues from the color system installed about the covers. We really brought up the registrations because they have like a library registration that is amazing. We kind of gave those like a spotlight through the experience. And so those are the branding moments and that the technology, it’s everything else, right? The (audio cut out) system how you, how they could build pages. They are an editorial company, right? So, how can we give them the tools to create collections, article pages, different ways to express an article. Is it a feature? Is it an archive article? Is it just more like a blog piece? You know, so that’s the digital right? And so you kind of start to see how we merge those two things and intersection and think that that project it’s, it really reflects that. I think that’s why we’ve gotten such good feedback from not just the client, but people that actually read the magazine. 

 

MO

Totally and you know, I think you bring up a really great point which is you know, what brand and design is about, is expression through systems at the end of the day. And I think you know, at Athletics, you know, that’s when, we’re very, we’re design first obviously and we’re brand first, but it’s always expression through systems. And you know, I think that’s where I’ve seen you really shine is you’re taking that personality if you will, of who you are and what you’re all about and you’re being able to have it live and be an ingredient within a larger system, and having that system be really flexible and dynamic.

 

JPC

Yeah, sure. 

 

MO

Totally. And I wanted to just ask a little bit about your paintings. You know, I know that you do, as much as you’re a designer with us, you do your own artwork. And just yeah, tell us a little bit about that passion and how long you’ve been doing it and how that kind of informs your design work.

 

JPC

Yeah, painting. So that that comes a long way. So my dad, my parents, I’ll say my parents. Back in Columbia, my parents were like very into after-school programs. So either like music class or anything that will keep you busy and not just like be in front of a TV. So they put me in an art class and it stuck with me. And so I just kept kind of going. So when we moved to the States, one thing that I kind of got really into is graffiti. And from that I started to draw the little cartoons from the back of the newspaper, especially “The Boondocks”. I just decided to redraw “The Boondocks” and then mimicking the style of like bubble letters and graffiti. And you know, so like I decided to like get into this like drawing, it became a drawing habit where it was a habit for me to just continue to draw every time, either in the back of my notebook or any or like creating like covers for my notebooks. So little by little as I was kind of going now in high school and college, university, I kept that habit. So I never stopped drawing. I just kept drawing and drawing and drawing and drawing. Even through like design school, I just kept drawing and drawing and drawing. And now, you know, I mean, and now I’m an adult with a with a career, I’m still drawing. And so now what is happening is I’m taking all of those sort of inspiration and ideas that I have in my head and I’m literally creating a practice of painting. And so the paintings that I just finished last year, it was essentially creating a process where I was like I’m going to study, let’s study. But I’m going to, I want to take this pictures and create an abstraction of them. And then I’m going to do some drawings and then I’m going to make the paintings. And then I’m going to make this many paintings. It just became, so I literally slowly, but surely I started to create a kind of like just a practice where like every time after I finish work, I just like become a bit of a painter. And so I finished that last year and then this year I’m working on a new series following the same sort of process which is like there’s a concept that I want to explore. I’m reading a lot about it. Now I’m drawing a lot and then at one point, I switch to like the paintings which are the like the last part of the process.  

 

MO

Right, the last part of the execution. And almost yeah, it almost seems like as a designer you’ve taken the notion of process and steps and kind of applied it to your own painting.

 

JPC

One-hundred percent. I feel like if you, you know, like a true painter is gonna be like, too rigid! Too rigid! But kind of works for me, it kind of works for me because you know, like. 

 

MO

Process allows you the discipline to keep going and keep exploring. If it’s, and I’ve seen this in your own work. It’s like it can be arbitrary, but there has to be a system. There has to be a system to keep you iterating, if that makes sense. 

 

JPC

Yeah, that totally makes sense. And it’s what keeps me consistent and now I’m like seeing kind of the fruit of it where I can, I can be consistent and really create like a body of work that I could, you know, feel good about it. 

 

MO

Totally and I tell me a little bit about how they, how kind of your career as a designer and doing digital and how your paintings interact with one another. They’re very different obviously, but they kind of inform one another. Yeah, just how do you see them in your life? 

 

JPC

That’s a, yeah, that’s a great question. So I see them as, this is how I see them. I see them as separate. I see them as like two different sides of my brain. So design, it’s about systems and it’s about communication, right? It needs to be, so for me like we’re putting websites together, right? It needs to be clear. It needs to be, to communicate. We need to take the user down a journey to get to where they want to get. It needs to be clear. Where art for me is very emotional and it’s very, it is very much, it’s very personal, right? Now we have to say they interact is the personal, right? Because I take my work, my design work very personal. You know, like I care for it, the same that I care for my art. But the expressions are very different. 

 

MO

Right. 

 

JPC

And you know, within design, you know, we’re working with clients. For my paintings, I’m working with my own topics. But I can also create a nice sort of bridge because those topics can lend me to new ideas. So I’m exploring the topic, I’m literally running down like other ideas that come from that exploration. And those ideas are like any idea, right? Those ideas, you could express them however you want. They could become a drawing or a painting or they could become a concept in a mood world, right, for a website. So that to me is where those sort of bridges, like there’s just some like bridges that connect but I still sort of see them separately, right, if that makes sense. 

 

MO

Yeah, then they’re different sides of you in a way. They’re different sides of your personality in a lot of ways. That’s awesome. You know as we’ve, you know been over a crazy year and we’ve done a lot and we’ve all had challenges, just curious to know, you know, any dreams and hopes and aspirations for this year, you know that building off of all the painting and design work from last year?

 

JPC

Yeah, I you know, it’s you know, it was a tough year last year, you know, I think for everyone. But it was, at the same time because the distractions were less, I felt so productive in my personal work. And so what I’m hoping for this year is like I can harness that focus so that the focusness, if that’s even a word, but I want to harness that and like just keep pushing because I just really enjoy, you know, just working on my personal projects. So I’m just really, I want to stay consistent and productive and yeah, hope to kind of manage that as we slowly become, we slowly get back to you know, more like a normal flow. But yeah, that’s kind of like my. 

 

MO

It’s sorta like you know, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world. It’s all about bringing your personality to the table, you know, and making sure that that’s always top of mind. 

 

JPC

Yeah, yeah for sure. I think one of the things that I always, one of my first thoughts when we kind of went on lockdown was that I hope that everyone gets a chance to kind of like get right within themselves, you know. Because it’s such a, there’s less distractions. And now all you have is you and it’s a good time to then like think about like what’s really important to you. You know, is there anything that you want to like do better at work or with personal work, whatever that is. Like I was just hoping like hopefully everyone takes advantage of this to just get right because this is nice. It sounds awful but it’s like, it’s a break almost. 

 

MO

Yeah, yeah, totally. Well, this is awesome. It’s so great to chat with you and it’s so great to hear about your story. And you know, any parting thoughts before the end of this? 

 

JPC

No, this was great. It was fun. I yeah, I hope to hear more of these with my other co-workers. 

 

MO

Absolutely, absolutely. Well, thanks so much Jaime. And yeah, this is “In conversation”. And thank you so much.

 

JPC

Thank you, man. 

 

MO

All right, bye.

Check out Jaime’s design portfolio and fine art practice, and listen to the previous episode of In Conversation, featuring Jason Gnewikow on design and music, here