All Work and More Play: Daniel Rueda And Anna Devís’ Unique Design Narratives
Most of us don’t look twice at the boring rear walls or back doors of our buildings. For us, architecture exists solely for utilitarian purposes. But these seemingly mundane structures are weapons of choice for Valencia-based design duo Daniel Rueda and Anna Devís, who interact with their surroundings to create fun, playful design narratives.
Having met in university, where they were studying architecture, the couple, both 27, got together over their shared interests in design and began photographing locales that caught their eyes. And as they say, the rest is history. Their passion project soon snowballed into a career, where they leveraged their unique creative talents — Rueda is a trained architect and self-taught photographer while Devís is an illustrator and designer — to build their own brand. Putting a twist on street photography, the couple have an extremely distinct aesthetic: their Instagram feeds are a smorgasbord of vibrant colours, geometric elements and bold patterns.
Daniel Rueda (DR): “People usually refer to our work as ‘architecturally-inspired self-portraits’ because we create simple, minimalistic images, where the purpose is to tell a story in such a way that the background becomes as important as the subject in the frame. When you scroll through social media nowadays, there is an overload of imagery; so, we try to stand out with a different take on design. We also want people to develop an interest in architecture, so we look for the brightest, most colourful locations and strong elements that could potentially catch people’s attention.”
Anna Devís (AD): “It started out as a game — we would share these fun shots we took on our social media pages just to make people smile. And over time, it grew. We started becoming perfectionists. So, it happened quite organically. Like any other couple that travels, we take a lot of pictures when on a trip — but we don’t like selfies that much! We prefer taking snaps of each other using the front-facing cameras of our phones. So, it’s not like we were actively looking for it, but whenever we visited a beautiful place, we would take these interactive snaps. And in time, we realised that we could actually tell stories through the images. So rather than just standing in the frame, we decided to try to send visual messages that need no translation using only our cameras and bodies.”
DR: “There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to put together that one perfect shot. The first thing we do is make a sketch of our idea. So, for every concept, Anna makes a funny little drawing because she’s the crafty one. This drawing needs to be as detailed and complete as possible because only then can we think about the other aspects like location, clothing, prop and composition. Ideating is another crucial step in our process. We try to look for places that have strong geometrical elements, are colourful yet also minimal — and this is where our architectural background factors in. Once we’ve frozen on the idea and have everything ready, we wait patiently for the right light to shoot in. The rest of the process — or post-production — is rather easy because it just involves editing a couple of images at most.”
AD: “In some of our shots, we try to manipulate reality and perception. We want people to think that some images are Photoshopped when, in fact, they aren’t; or if they actually are, we use Photoshop to distort them — but as minimally as possible. For example, the image with my egg-yolk hat blending into the grey wall might look like it’s been manipulated, but it hasn’t. Daniel and I actually made the paper cut-outs, looked for that ideal grey wall and hunted for the attire that would match the colour palette of the picture. In certain images — like the ones where Daniel and I are juggling bottles or where I’m flying and Daniel is holding on to me with a rope — a good bit of post-production work is involved. It really all boils down to the idea behind the image — that is what decides how much Photoshop is and isn’t required.”
DR: “We’ve worked with Netflix, Coca-Cola, HP and, most recently, Dior. We enjoy brand collaborations because instead of just showcasing their products — like most social media pages do — we try to tackle the brief in an innovative manner. Also, because we travel extensively, we have a broader perspective on design, and that helps us ideate better. We also enjoy the challenge that comes with the job — there’s usually a tight time frame within which we need to churn out our deliverables, so that pushes us to put out our very best work. And these tie-ups stretch our imaginations in the sense that some of the work we’ve conceptualised for brands, we wouldn’t ever have thought of otherwise!”
AD: “We love receiving feedback from the community of followers and fans we’ve gathered from around the world. People generally do get the emotions we’re trying to convey, so that is both heartening and encouraging. The thing is, there are enough individuals making beautiful content globally. Because of that, when you visit a place, you often feel like everyone else has already been there and seen what you’re about to capture. That’s why we try to add a personal touch to our shots. While executing our images, we try to tell a different story each time. At the same time, through our minimalistic take, we try to ensure that each one of those stories is easy for the viewer to understand. Because ultimately, if someone sees our pictures and immediately gets the humour in them, that’s when our mission is complete!”
DR: “This year, travel is on the cards. Next month, we’re going to France. And after that, we’re off to Amsterdam. Also, in a couple of weeks, we’re shooting the cover art for a music band’s album. It’s something we’ve never done before, so we’re quite excited!”
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