This Creative Studio’s Secret Sauce Is Half Creativity, Half Science

Cadena + Asociados Concept Design makes singular experiences that draw from various cultures and creative disciplines.

The LatinoAmerican hotel in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo: Jaime Navarro)

Ignacio Cadena wholly believes in design’s ability to change the way we think about and interact with the world. This view stems from his multidisciplinary background, which propelled him to launch a creative studio, called  Cadena + Asociados Concept Design, which he founded more than two decades ago. Based in Santa Catarina, Mexico, the firm creates immersive, emotional experiences for brands that attempt to capture the heart of its clients’ work—specifically, a part of a company’s story that connects it to its greater purpose in society. Cadena talked to Surface about his creative approach, his guiding principles, and why he believes design is not a luxury, but a necessity.

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Churrería El Moro in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo: Moritz Bernoully)

How did Cadena + Asociados Concept Design come about?
I launched the studio 25 years ago in Los Angeles after finishing my Master’s degree at SCI-Arc, the Southern California School of Architecture. The studio was the result of my experience in the fine arts, fashion, photography, illustration, and industrial design. I also use my background to make documentaries and create experiences in the music industry to inspire a holistic approach to architecture and design. Cadena + Asociados Concept Design explores the [space] between art and science. Its visual concepts are derived from Latin America’s sociocultural roots, urban environments, and modern media.

Tell us about your core values. What’s the driving force behind your work?  
We firmly believe in collaboration, as well as cultural and intellectual exchange. Social development, personal enhancement, and an understanding of [people] are not achieved separately: Each depends on its relationship with the other—otherwise they will perish in isolation. We apply this passion to every project. Our approach is methodical and deliberately dualistic: Science and intuition work together in a fifty-fifty balance.

A rebranding of a yogurt shop, Nutrisa, in Monterrey, Mexico. (Photo: The Raws)
Carbón Cabrón grillhouse in Los Cabos, Mexico. (Photo: Documentación Arquitectonica)

What does good design mean to you?
Simplicity and strategy always produce great work. Beauty is an abstract concept. Problem-solving, transforming ideas, changing perceptions, and opening up possibilities with good old-fashioned creativity—that is the true role of great design.

What projects do you currently have in the works? 
We have projects launching in a range of industries—including hospitality, retail, education, brand building, product design, culinary, office, and health and wellness.

Bread bakery in Monterrey, Mexico. (Photo: The Raws)
Cielito Querido Cafe in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo: Jaime Navarro)
Tierra Garat coffeehouse in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo: Jaime Navarro)
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