Creative Spotlight: Ten Years of Building Bridges with Deane Miguel Cruz and Lester Cruz
Words by Sara Rivera
Serious Studio’s mission of creating purposeful design comes from the determination of its founders who, when we asked what is one lesson that 10 years of Serious has taught them, they answered, “Assert yourself.”
As children turn ten, they start to think of themselves as “grown ups,” but really, they’re still just tall children, learning and having fun. Being ten is all about change, and such is the story of Serious—a flourishing team of creatives, an expanding portfolio, and the continuing pursuit for what Makes Sense and Looks Good. For Serious Studio’s tenth birthday, we got to talk to founders and Executive Creative Directors, Deane Miguel Cruz and Lester Cruz about growing up, doing good, and working together. Serious Studio’s mission of creating purposeful design comes from the determination of its founders who, when we asked what is one lesson that 10 years of Serious Studio has taught them, they answered, “Assert yourself.”
"You could say that all throughout my life, being creative was just something I’ve known was always in me”.
When did you first start to realize you were creative?
Deane: It was always something I was drawn to, so I knew it from the very start. Growing up, I was always excited for art class and opportunities to create. From our school’s poster-making contests to creating artworks for bulletin boards and craft-oriented projects—I was always bibo for anything art-related. Eventually, I moved from paper to the digital, as the age of the world wide web came upon us. I was fascinated by the idea of creating my own website and taught myself HTML and the like. From there, I discovered the Adobe Suite, and the rest is history.
Lester: When I was eight, I discovered the internet and wanted my own space in the web. I built my first website on Geocities (RIP), got my own domain, and published my own comics online. I eventually learned how to code, and taught myself design as well. I ended up enjoying the latter more as I came across Photoshop. Outside of design, my other love is music, which is a creative medium in itself. I guess you could say that all throughout my life, being creative was just something I’ve known was always in me.
I think everyone knows by now how or why Serious started, but what kept you going?
Deane: To be honest, I didn’t even realize how long we’ve been around. We’ve been running things like clockwork since 2012. Every project, every client and collaborator, continues to excite me. I enjoy the craft and process behind what we do, and since no two projects are alike, there’s always a new problem to solve, and there’s always a new opportunity to create.
Lester: We’ve worked with many people, clients, collaborators and team members alike— and all of them continue to inspire me to this day. There’s a sense of responsibility that I feel for our stakeholders, both inside and out. Knowing that all these people believe in Serious— what it stands for, and what it could be—is what keeps me going.
"Every project, every client and collaborator, continues to excite me.”
Any Serious Studio memories you want to share with us?
Deane: It’s difficult to pinpoint particular ones, given how long it’s been. In our ten years, as cheesy as it sounds, the best memories for me are the small everyday moments. From our lunches, our team trips in and out of the country, to slow afternoons in the office, exchanging memes on our Slack channel, and more.
Lester: Our first big project will always be memorable. By big, I mean that it allowed us to start adding more people to the team. I still remember how Deane and I took a selfie with the cheque we received. Seeing one of our international projects come to life, in New York no less, was also quite a memorable experience. I remember how surreal it felt to step inside 375 and to see the logo flashing brightly in neon, right on the busy streets of the Lower East Side. I felt quite proud about that. Another one would have to be Graphika Manila in 2018. We attended the first in 2006 and left the event feeling inspired. 12 years later, we were honored to be invited as a speaker.
Tell us about ‘Do Good’ and what it means to you.
Deane and Lester: I think that it’s something that we’ve always carried with us in the work that we do. We consider the impact of our work, but it was only recently that we decided to commit to it in the form of the ‘Do Good’ initiative. It’s quite new and is a work in progress, but we hope to be able to use our creativity for social impact projects. A particular project under this would have to be our Brand Aid series, wherein we provided free services to local businesses affected by the pandemic. More recently, we provided grants towards Creative Businesses. In the future, we hope to work on more advocacies as we continue to grow this arm.
What do people don’t know about Serious Studio that you want them to know?
Lester: The work you see is the product of many people collaborating and working hard behind the scenes. Serious is what it is today because of the people in it!
What’s one lesson that 10 years of Serious Studio has taught you that you think more emerging creatives should know about?
Deane and Lester: Assert yourself—which in itself has many layers to it. First is to assert your expertise. There is a reason why clients come to you, and that is because you are the expert in what you do. The second is to assert your worth. Many creatives fail to properly charge for their services, which actually affects the industry as a whole. Lastly, assert for your goals. Opportunities don’t just fall on your lap, you have to build bridges towards them.
"Opportunities don’t just fall on your lap, you have to build bridges towards them."
Anything else you wanna say?
Deane and Lester: It’s been ten years of doing the work we do, and none of this would be possible if not for the people we’ve worked with throughout the years. To our clients, especially the first ones that trusted us despite our naiveté, thank you for helping us create our first foundations as a studio and for taking a chance on us. To our current team, and even those that have left, thank you for believing in this studio and for growing with us. And to everyone else who have followed us, given a like, or shared our work—thank you for helping spread the word about us. We are grateful to all of you.
One quick Google search will tell you that Serious Studio was borne out of wanting to be taken seriously. In the few months that I’ve been a part of the team, and in conversation with Deane and Lester, I realize that it is in Serious that we all get to be children again—bold, curious, and eager in everything that we do. This year makes 10 years, here’s to 10 more and more to come.