Isabel Castillo Guijarro
Freelance Designer and Graphic Designer at Refinery29


Isabel Castillo Guijarro

Freelance Designer and Graphic Designer at Refinery29

New York City, NY


What do you do?

I’m a designer and a nomad at heart.

By design I mean graphic design, (logos and identities, advertising, some print work, web and packaging) but I don’t want to put myself any limitations, so I’ll design anything and everything!! I’m also into photography and a recently found love for architecture. I consider myself passionately curious, seek beauty in all aspects of life, love the wow effect of things and music.

And by nomad I mean I love to travel, due to a direct consequence of growing up in different countries. Jordan is probably one of the countries that has shocked me the most and I’m dying to go Thailand but my next trip is definitely going to be Cuba. I was in La Habana as a kid but I need to see it again, before it changes too much.


Do you have a website or online portfolio?

Yes! this is my portfolio and instagram. I’m also a pinterest addict and can’t live without spotify.

In terms of press/articles, I was featured on Envato last summer with a video interview and writen interview the year before, for being one of their top designers on studio.envato; I was also selected one of the Top 5 Designers in NYC, and Top 20 Emerging Designers Worldwide to develop concepts for Heineken’s ‘Lounge of the Future’.  Wich after a year long process, the Pop-Up Lounge opened during London’s Design Festival 2014; in 2013 I got a poster featured on and in 2012, while still a student at Parsons, my work was in an article on the NY times.

All of this has happened because of a deep desire of wanting to do more. With Heineken for example, I saw an ad on Is Nice That about a competition to design the lounge of the future. I looked over the competition guidelines, applied and next thing I knew, I was meeting the other 4 designers at Heineken’s office in New York, getting ready to go out and study the lounge scene from the coolest clubs in the city.


If you have multiple jobs and/or skills, which one do you wish you could do more often?

I read Puno’s interview on Freja Daily where she mentioned that in order to take care of the present and build a compelling future, you need: one project that pays the bills, one project that pays for the extras and one exciting personal project that pays nothing now but can have a high impact in the future.

And that’s where I am right now: working full time for Refinery29 and doing freelance work whenever I have the chance, but I really wish I had the time to get my hands dirty more often and experiment with real materials, completely away from the computer or any other technological device. I’m thinking hand lettering and typography right now.


Give us a specific example of how you do your job like a BOSS.

I never panic. At Parsons I used to see students cry, break down and completely lose it because they couldn’t take the pressure. I think that education, together with really demanding internships at Vogue Spain and Tribeca Film Festival, gave me a certain calmness to handle really stressful situations at work and with clients, which is proving to be very helpful throughout my career.

Although I must admit, I love the adrenaline rush of last minute decisions.


What are all the tools (digital or physical) you use on a regular basis?

Everything apple. Wacom tablet. Spotify. Instagram. Dot Grid Cahier notebook by Behance which I depend on for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in my life, from work tasks, countless to-do lists and travel destinations, to a random thought; oh! and a good pair of sunglasses, even in the cold winter of New York!


What are you working on right now?

I love having a million things going on at the same time … Besides exciting new challenges at Refinery29, I’m currently working on the branding of Bluestain, a rock band everyone is going to love from my hometown Madrid and a series of typographical posters for my own personal happiness!


What is frustrating you right now? 

My 6 month old Macbook Pro recently died on me (apparently 1 in 100k have issues), losing at least 4 months worth of work and personal projects. It completely killed me and frustrated me that I’m not more on top of backing up things. Having to speak with clients and start things over was very hard.


What are you putting off right now, but you know you have to get to, but you haven’t had the time?

More time for myself. Although it might sound very cliche, rushing one project after another is not the most productive work in the world. Constantly dropping ideas and figuring out new creative solutions without breathing in between might work for a while but won’t last forever. Clients are very demanding and rarely understand the creative process.

For me, similar to many creatives, inspiration is constant: always getting ideas from the things I do, hear, look or read… it never stops! So I think, dedicating more time to reconnect with myself through meditation and physical work, will eventually impact my creativity and benefit my work on the long run as well.

If you could hire someone for $20/hour, what would you have them do to make your day easier?

I would love to have a little-genius-manager-accountant, that loves coffee as much as I do; takes care of all the money that comes in and out; track receipts and all things business; find new clients, keep up with current ones, and promotes the brand.


If you could talk to an expert to gain more insight on something, what would it be about? Anyone specific? We may know them! :)

I’m fascinated by multi talented / multi-taskers / modern / renaissance entrepreneurial people that thanks to their immense creativity are able to work in all kinds of fields, do phenomenal work in each one of them and still have time left on their hands.

People like my boss, Piera Gelardi, who is an immense source of inspiration; or Tom Ford, another great example, who studied architecture, yet he is a fashion designer in love with photography and made this beautiful movie.

Some other great people: Roanne Adams, Jimmy Marble, Kristina Krogh and Verena Michelitsch.


What kind of opportunities/projects are you looking for right now?

What I love most is branding. The identity of a brand, a boutique, a restaurant … even a website! I’ve done work for different clients in the past but rarely the whole package, usually just the logo and main branding elements so, I’m really looking forward to create a new brand from beginning to end, with everything that it entails: logo, identity, typography, colors, packaging, advertising, spatial design, online presence ...

How are you looking for these opportunities/projects right now?

Initially through Behance and Envato.Studio, but now is mostly word of mouth or returning clients. I’ve realized though that working exclusively online is great on one hand but on the other, you don’t always get to meet the client in person. So I’ve started a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote my work!


Describe your ideal client and collaboration. 

The ideal client is someone that is willing to have unconditional trust on my work.

The best collaboration would be to have a space like The Factory, where a small group of artists from different fields and backgrounds, get together and produce amazing work.

Describe a client you would rather not have. What are your deal breakers?

The worst is when a client is extremely picky during the whole process, doesn’t trust you, constantly emails you/calls you/texts you with ideas, doubt every step of the way and when the design is finally done, they (f*cking) change it!! They change the typography on Microsoft Word, altered the logo, added ornaments …

And on top of that, have the guts to “bargain” with you a cheaper price because they think they “collaborated” and did most of the work.

What is your hourly rate, retainer, or salary range? 

It really varies depending on what the client is specifically looking for. Is very difficult to put a dollar value, since every project is unique. But i'm not crazy expensive and I've been told by clients that I should charge more. On each case but an identity could go between $400 to $800.

How should someone approach you about working with you? 

An email with background on the project and some reference of what they have in mind would be great. And maybe get together to discuss in person over some nice coffee!


This member profile was originally published on January 2015.