Style is… “personal creative viewpoint,” says Danika Rio Navarro, fashion designer and retailer, graphic designer and style blogger. What makes a person stylish is “their ability to define a unique aesthetic and the confidence to commit to it,” she continues. And commitment and style are two things this young woman understands, having displayed in recent years an outstanding devotion to her various design disciplines.
Danika graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Ateneo in 2010 where she received acclaim for her final thesis (but more on that later). After school, Danika immediately enrolled in SoFA Design Institute where she is currently completing further studies in Fashion Design and Marketing. Currently, she works as a freelance designer, dipping her toes in graphic, web and even wedding invitation design. And she is the creative force behind NAVA, a ready-to-wear boutique with several branches around the city, and hello-rio.com, her personal style website
Asked to describe herself succintly, Danika candidly offers “workaholic,” but quickly appends “creative, happy” to her apt self-assessment. We caught up with Danika to talk style and inspiration.
What is your personal style?
For graphic design: typographic, ‘pattern-ized’, sketchy/doodly, but still organized. For fashion: bohemian, layered, accessorized, but still polished.
What are your fashion must-owns, now?
At the moment, anything that’s wine red or army green, gold statement accessories, and color-blocked flats and heels.
Some people argue that fashion is superficial or surface. What would you say to that?
People who think this way about fashion just see the surface of the industry. I think fashion is easily branded as superficial because only the vain and glamorous part of fashion (shows, parties, ads) are what get projected and emphasized, most of the time. What most people fail to include is the dirty labor that comes before everything and that the fashion world is difficult. To survive in this industry, we have to be very patient and hardworking, intelligent and decisive, technically knowledgeable and constantly creative. It is a highly competitive industry, after all. To stay in this business, we also have to keep researching and studying because our work involves real people and their real lives. We have to work just as hard as others in order to survive.
What informs or inspires your creative process?
My common inspirations are real people (I visit personal blogs often), street style, artists and artworks.
You gained some renown for a Bible you designed back in college. You might have noticed we like books! Please tell us about the endeavor.
I still get pretty overwhelmed when I think about that project — the most insane project I’ve done, ever. It started as a crazy suggestion raised by my thesis adviser. Being the learner and Jesus-lover that I am, I accepted the challenge because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to grow as a designer, and also a chance for me to accomplish something that’s very much out of my comfort zone.
I was already a Bible-reader, a Christian — and a very active one in our youth ministry, at that. So accepting the project wasn’t so difficult, at first. It only got tough after I realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as doodling all over the pages. It got much more challenging when I started doing my market and product research. I panicked.
I conducted a survey among 100 Christian students before conceptualizing the redesigned Bible. After studying the results, I decided I wanted to focus on giving design solutions to the top 5 problems they raised: problems looking for books, chapters and verses; problem with durability; problem understanding the context of the passages; problem with the paper being too thin (they hate it when the highlighter or ink blots); problem with the presentation/design (many thought seeing loads of text was plain boring).
My Bible thesis was specifically designed to solve all these problems, with a reason behind every element. Some solutions were to make the pages thicker, add bigger margins on the sides for notes, bring out all the verse numbers and create a new margin for them, add attractive hand-drawn elements, add vital statistics and and icons per book. It was necessary that I touch every part and corner of the Bible.
Here are other fun facts: The book is 3.5 inches thick with 1570 black and white pages. All decorative elements are hand-drawn: testament covers, chapter numbers, book titles, icons, etc. The sketchy style I applied is the same artistic style I’ve been practicing since high school. Old high school friends will be able to tell that I designed that Bible.
The Bible won me 2 awards: 1) Loyola Schools Award for the Arts, also Dean’s Award for graphic design 2010; and 2) Top Award (Magenta Trophy, student category) at the Philippine Graphic Design Awards 2012.
With lots of help from a friend (who is now my boyfriend!), I finally finished applying all the solutions to my project by March 2010. It took me around 8 months to do the entire process: from research to study to planning to execution to production. Seriously still the most fulfilling and meaningful project I’ve done in my life. God was gracious to finish it and make it a huge success.
Tell us about your work as a designer, fashion and otherwise.
My work entails a lot of creative thinking and problem solving. I really cannot say that I am an artist, someone who expresses and puts a lot of personal emotions and thoughts into her art. I’m more of a designer: a planner, a problem solver. My work is always a combination of things that are pretty and purposeful — form and function.
And I just have to say, I love all my jobs! Being a graphic designer, fashion designer and blogger is great! I get to be creative all day, everyday and get paid for it! It’s awesome.
Learn more about Danika Rio Navarro
Check out Danika’s top book picks!
1. Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton
Because good typography is good design! All the basic steps and best examples can be found in this book.
2. Fashion from Concept to Consumer by Gini Stephens Frings
Because fashion is not just art, it’s business. This book helps me how to both create and market fashion effectively.
3. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
This has got to be the most life-changing book — next to the Bible of course!