Tam goes to Latam

Whilst trying to get comfortable in my seat, on the first of many flights that would come (fourteen to be exact), I started to realise that I was actually doing it: I was freaking going on sabbatical. After many years in this profession, (and still struggling to call myself a designer), I never thought that what started out as a break would end up as a self-learning about what design meant/means/and will mean to me in the future.

After a pretty hectic summer at the studio (that we can extend to a pretty hectic last 3 years), the only thing on my bucket list was to disconnect from the design industry in every possible way for the following 5 months. I was so sure…Was I? Just a week after landing in Mexico City, I found myself in a salsa cocktail bar, at 2am, passionately talking about how important it is for the creative industry to take responsibility for their project outcomes and how essential it is for designers to think about sustainability from the concept stage. (This is the point where Sophie Thomas would say: “my job here is done”).

And so I realized all these years working at TM weren’t just about design. They were about good* design, as it is understood in this studio like nowhere else I have worked before. Thanks to TM I am the type of designer I never expected to become, one that inherently thinks about the most environmentally friendly processes & materials, and challenge the status quo if necessary to get the most sustainable/ethical outcome. All of our team are like this and you find out just how rare this work ethos is when you speak with other designers. So, being over there, I had the need to talk about it, I had something to say, actually I have pretty strong opinion of what I think design is, and where it should go. I didn’t realise this before, perhaps because didn’t have the time since I moved to London.

Because is all about time and perspective. Time gives you the possibility to look at things with perspective, they come together. So after that first surreal night of many on my (more than amazing) trip, I wanted to know what people from the industry in Latam have to say about sustainable design (or if it was even a thing!). That’s how I started an inspiring round of visits, meetings and talks from Mexico to Chile. I can’t be thankful enough to all those people from the industry who shared their time with me and let me into their world. Camila Berger (Agencia Felicidad), Fernanda Vaca (Cocolab), Carolina Rivera and the students of UC Mexico, the photographer Paco Díaz, the illustrators Paulina Morgan & Pablo Luebert, Marilyn Castellón & Gaby León (Proyecto Espíritu) and many more professionals from different fields that I had the pleasure to meet and discuss with to find different and always interesting points of view.

On a more personal level, this time off came exactly when I needed. Meeting old friends, meeting new friends, speaking my mother tongue after so long, living in nature, see mind-blowing landscapes, feeling the sea, fulfilling my curiosity, being surprised, struggling, being challenged… and many other feelings that I had been collecting for 5 months. Hopefully I will find a way to catalyse these experiences into something positive that makes me a much better designer (and person!)

Thanks to absolutely everyone who has been involved in the best experience of my life, Thomas.Matthews and the Useful Simple Trust for giving me the opportunity, and to anyone I have shared something with on my 27,107km around that amazing land called “America Latina”.

Love, Tam.


Left: Anagram on a window at Neruda’s House, ‘La Chascona’, Santiago the Chile. Right: Terrace cultivation in Peru.


Left: “Santería” graphics in Havana, Cuba. Right: Sculptures at Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City.


Left: Some signs and lettering at Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Right: some signs on my skin in San José, Costa Rica.


Left: Seven Lakes area, Chile. Right: Pottery factory, Colombia.


Hanging out with the students of UC Mexico after my talk about “How to create sustainable projects”.


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