“I start my day with a black coffee and end my day with a slow cooked meal. In between, I’m inspired by the experience of human connection to design. I am fortunate to deliver this to HM clients every day.”
It’s no surprise Andres’ favourite colour is black. Born and raised in the coffee region of Colombia, Andres spent his childhood holidays at an uncle’s coffee plantation. Here, he rode horses, played with his cousins in the rainforests, and watched the local workers picking coffee beans.
Despite this picture postcard environment, Andres was no fan of black coffee. Ironically, it was Australia that sparked a deep appreciation and love of coffee. Notwithstanding his indulgence in black coffee, Andres remains remarkably calm: an approach to life he attributes to his mother. As the youngest of four children, and with a significant age gap to his two older siblings, Andres spent many hours alongside his mother, a teacher by profession.
My mother used to work hard, waking up early, preparing classes and I found myself eager to help her. I soaked up every moment with her and learnt so much: about the importance of being prepared, about life skills, and how to cook. She really was, and is, my hero.
This first-hand cooking education with his mother, and a two-year stint working in a Melbourne restaurant, has enabled Andres to elevate his culinary skills to new levels. Skills he also uses to relieve stress. “Lately, I’ve been obsessed with slow cooked meat, Mexican style: an approach that can take eight to 10 hours to cook. Then I add onion, coriander and other (secret) ingredients to the meat, and straight into tacos. Just so tender and delicious!”
But the journey for Andres hasn’t been without challenges. In late 2019, Andres was filled with self-doubt. Despite his previous successful creative advertising role at BBDO Colombia, Andres was struggling to garner a foothold with creative agencies in Australia. “There was a point in late 2019 where I thought to myself ‘you know what, I think this is over’,” reflects Andres. But with an impressive portfolio, and the encouragement of peers, Andres pushed past this period of self-doubt and doubled-down on his passion for design.
Then in 2020, everything changed in a matter of days. Just as COVID-19 started spreading its tentacles across the world, the opportunity to join HM materialised.
A fellow designer recommended Andres for an opening and the connection was instant. “I experienced a wonderful alignment of thinking and creativity with Miguel and Nancy at HM and they essentially said ‘when can you start?’”
When like-minded creatives intersect and collaborate, there’s an energy that’s palpable. Andres draws creative inspiration from Herb Lubalin, an American Graphic Designer, Art Director and Typographer who had a significant influence on design in the 20th century.
It was Lubalin who, amongst a long list of accolades, created Avant Garde, one of the most progressive and commonly used fonts.Andres is drawn (literally and figuratively) to the classic style of designers like Lubalin who crafted ideas and designs by hand and who took the time to compose skilfully executed ideas without a computer in sight.
In life, Andres appreciates the values of a slow, considered approach. Slow cooking and slow design. Not slow in a lumbering, self-indulgent sense. Rather, slow in a carefully considered way: one that values the craft of well-articulated design and considers every aspect of the human experience.
For Andres, good ideas should be given the right amount of time to percolate; much like a good coffee. Rush, and you end up with a bitter result. “That’s not to say I don’t have deadlines,” adds Andres. “Our industry is all about deadlines. Personally, I know the best ideas come when you have time; quality time gives you a quality result.”
This attitude and approach to design extends to his personal life. Andres reflects on a recent experience on the tangibility of a simple postcard, and all that it represents. A friend who recently visited Canada, took the time to send Andres a postcard with a simple message. “It cost my friend less than $3 to buy and send the postcard but it was such a joy to receive, to have that tactile experience – one that you can’t get from a text message.”
When he’s not listening to indie rock or enjoying his favourite Mexican dishes, Andres can be found taking an analog approach to his design.
"I like to start all my designs with a brush or pencil on paper. I get a greater sense of creativity when doing my initial designs and concepts on paper, before taking these onto the computer. There’s something natural and instinctive about this approach. It just feels right."
Andres Zapata currently works as a Designer at HM, a purpose-driven creative agency globally recognised for meaningful work that gets results. HM empower bold organisations and brands through beautifully crafted strategic design and marketing.