Designer And Entrepreneur Dan Matutina On The Future Of Branding

Dan Matutina, co-founder of Hydra Design Group and design studio Plus63, on staying creative, the increasing importance of branding, and why creative minds can help solve the world's biggest challenges

Tatler Asia

In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

A passion for art and an unrelenting creative energy flows through Dan Matutina, co-founder of Hydra Design Group and multidisciplinary design studio Plus63.

The Gen.T honouree has worked with clients including Apple, Google, Samsung, Wired, Coca-Cola and Uniqlo, providing brand, strategy and design solutions that span identity, apparel and objects. For Matutina, nothing in the creative realm is off limits. 

Matutina underscores the importance of smart, clear and meaningful storytelling for every brand. His work also showcases how elegant design plays a key role in the process. At Plus63 they go so far as to "experiment with new ideas, extending [the] scope to include prototyping furniture pieces or custom objects for memorable retail experiences, and developing business strategies for brands". 

Here, Matutina shares more about his life and work, in his own words.

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I look up to a lot of designers and creative people, especially those who came before me and paved the way for younger generations. In no particular order:

  • Bruno Munari. An Italian designer, inventor, artist and writer. His writing and works have always been an inspiration. What I absolutely love about him was the variety of his works. He didn’t box himself in one particular field. 

  • Half Project, by Drew Europeo, Rex Advincula and Nicc Balce. In the late '90s and early 2000s they were web design legends, not just in the Philippines but the whole world. Looking at their works when I was a student inspired me to become a designer and illustrator. 

  • Roman Mars. Founder, producer and host of 99% Invisible, the best podcast on design and architecture.

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There’s a lot of potential in the creative industry in the Philippines right now. People go to design events and conferences, like Graphika Manila. Collaborations happen among different industries and disciplines, and companies, both big and small, are investing in design. 

Even small and medium-sized businesses invest in good branding. There’s promise in design work because companies see the value in spending for it. While there’s still a lot that needs to be done, we’ve come a long way. The government also recently identified the creative economy as one of the industries they want to focus on and help grow. 

While creativity alone can’t solve all the problems in the society, it can be one of the most important contributors. This was very apparent when the pandemic started. I experienced first hand how design can help in a time of need. The Philippines is a developing country and I think the creative industry can be a force to help move the country forward.

I love design because it’s a combination of two things I am passionate about: art and science. I especially love Frank Chimero’s book, Shape of Design. This quote in the book came from one of Aristotle’s writings: “The technical know-how, skill, craft and art involved in production, manufacturing and making; using good deliberation, understanding, resulting in deliberate desire to be carried out with cleverness.”

I’ve always had the “you’re only as good as your last work” mindset. It motivates me to create good work. If I fail and create something that didn’t work, I can learn from it and hopefully create something better. 

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My role models are Chris Lee of Asylum in Singapore, Oki Sato of Japan's Nendo and Tnop Wangsillapakun of Tnop Design in Thailand. They’re all doing thoughtful and diverse design works in their home countries. The works that their studios are producing are borderless, clever and inspiring.

It’s important to take a break when you have a creative block. It will help you relax, loosen up and eventually come up with a solution to your problem. I play games, watch films, read a book, listen to a podcast or chat with other designers and creative friends.

See more honourees from the Architecture & Design category of the Gen.T List.

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