Anima Design is an international design and product-development agency with more than 20 years of experience, headquartered in Barcelona and with offices in San Sebastian-Donostia (Spain) and Shenzhen (China). It works in various sectors, focusing mainly on sustainable mobility, science & health, software, and home appliances, among others.
The company's team is made up of experts in innovation, design, engineering, and marketing, all with extensive international experience. Their multidisciplinary background and great ability to put themselves in the client's shoes give them a broad knowledge of the market and make it easy to collaborate with them.
The company has worked for more than 100 clients, developing more than 110 patents and exporting more than 70% of its creations. The products they have designed or produced have received more than 60 internationally prestigious innovation and design awards, such as the Red Dot Design Award, IF Design Award, German Design Award, and the European Product Design Award.
We interviewed Diego Quiroga, CEO and founder of the company, who talks about the studio, its designs, and its international track record:
Interiors from Spain: "Why the name "Anima?"
Anima Design: “Ànima" is a word that means soul or spirit, the spirit that we leave in every product we design, and it also means the technical part inside a whole that gives it strength and consistency.
Interiors from Spain: Behind an idea and a successful company, there is a story of a person, its founder Diego Quiroga. Tell us about your first design and your passions as a child and teenager that contributed to your entrepreneurial nature.
Anima Design: My first design was an electronic lock with a keypad to keep my mother out of my room. I made it when I was 8 years old from a calculator, the motor from a toy, and fishing line. The key combination activated the motor, which wound up a cable from which a metal bar hung that fitted in a hole in the floor as a lock. When I was a kid, my idol was McGyver, a series about an ingenious inventor who always solved everything with his ingenuity. My other idol was Leonardo Davinci and his resourceful inventions.
Interiors from Spain: You offer innovative solutions tailored to the customer's needs. How important is innovation in your work and how do you apply it to your designs in a personalized way?
Anima Design: There are projects in which we are only asked to make an aesthetic change and others in which we are challenged to come up with an innovative solution. In these cases, we look for ways to apply technologies to fields that are not yet mature from others that are mature. For example: One client challenged us to design a bicycle wheel with no spokes and we used the technology of a ceramic ball bearing used in wind turbines. Another example is the use of technology from the world of bicycles, which is highly developed in orthopedic products for seniors but a very underdeveloped sector in general. In all cases, we always try to apply available, economically viable technologies and take advantage of the customer's capabilities.
Interiors from Spain: What about sustainability? How do you face this challenge in the various sectors you work with?
Anima Design: Sustainable products start by being sustainable at the eco-design stage. There is no point in saying that a finished product is sustainable if it has not been looked at that way from the very beginning. So, at Ànima, we design products to be more durable, we try to combine materials that are easy to separate in later recycling processes, and we take into account their useful life, their carbon footprint, and their possible reintroduction into the circular economy. For example, a toothbrush made of both rigid and soft plastic cannot be recycled because it is not possible to separate its parts during the recycling process, so we will design it by combining the materials or making its parts easily separable at the end of its useful life so that they can be reintroduced in the future for other uses.
Interiors from Spain: You recently opened a new office in Barcelona where you offer a 360-degree service. What is this process that includes everything from planning and 3D design to producing prototypes on 3D printers and testing them?
Anima Design: We like to say that at Ànima you can come in with an idea and leave with a marketed product. We conduct research and discovery phases to understand the users and the products. Sometimes we forget the users, for an orthopedic chair, it is not just the elderly person sitting in it, there’s also the caregiver, who pushes it, folds it, helps them to stand up, etc. We try to make designs for everyone. We then design the concept and shape, and the features, using conceptual drawings that we then transfer to the computer using 3D-modeling software. From those files, we can make 3D prints or machined parts that we can use to test the products in a few hours or days, thanks to 3D printing, when 20 years ago it took weeks to have a prototype. Today, we can print in the morning, have a result by midday, and a new iteration in the afternoon. This speeds up the process and allows us to be one of the fastest design studios carrying out design and engineering. After the prototypes are validated, we have the production capacity for one piece or millions, either in Spain or out of our office in Shenzhen, China, or mixed solutions, such as making the molds in China and importing them to Spain to be manufactured locally. Lastly, we can handle parallel technologies associated with products such as electronics (bluetooth, wi-fi in connected products, lighting, touch, etc.) and we can define the product packaging. We also perform certified environmental-impact studies and carry out tests to certify products even in the stricter medical sector.
Interiors from Spain: You work with materials as varied as wood, cork, carbon-fiber polymers, graphene, etc. Which materials do you identify with most and which are the most complicated? Any new ones you would like to experiment with?
Anima Design: We are addicted to innovative materials and like to try everything. I am one of those who think that plastic is not our enemy but what we do with it. Well-used, recirculated plastic is less polluting than some types of wood. We are currently working on a composite from recycled sources that we are applying to projects such as a bicycle frame and a protection for ultra-light full-face helmets. It is something similar to carbon fiber, but from recycled fibers, strong enough to make a truck leaf-spring suspension and easy to produce using systems similar to injection molding.
Interiors from Spain: Many of your designs are for everyday objects to which you apply new technologies. How do you make these objects stand out from the competition?
Anima Design: Sometimes, the new technology cannot be seen; we try to make the design emphasize the technology. For example, we are designing a pencil with a lead (made of graphenite, an alloy of rare metals that we formulated ourselves) that never runs out and on the barrel we emphasize that it is hollow and has no lead. It is important to highlight its innovation.
Interiors from Spain: One of your latest designs, "the electric violin", fascinated us. Tell us about this piece and its development. What makes it so special?
Anima Design: It is an electric violin designed using computational design. Using mathematical formulas, we generate a 3D model that can be customized for any violinist in its geometry, weight distribution, etc. It is made of Japanese maple, carbon-fiber water printing and 3D-printed recyclable polymer.
Interiors from Spain: You have received more than 60 innovation and design awards of great international prestige. What do juries value most in your creations?
Anima Design: They almost always emphasize that they are timeless designs that will remain on the market for a long time, mainly because they are as simple as possible and do not add gratuitous aesthetic elements. They are elegant, yes, but they do not follow ephemeral fashions. As Davinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Interiors from Spain: Internationally, who are your main customers and markets? What do they appreciate about your work? Any advice for young studios that want to internationalize?
Anima Design: We became very strong in China since we landed there 18 years ago and we dominate the machine tool and home appliance sectors. In China, what they value most is the knowledge we have of Western products and Western users. To sell design services in China, it is necessary to get to know the client on a personal level and establish "Guānxi", or friendly personal relations, which are essential for creating bonds and long-term business relationships. In other countries, such as the Czech Republic and Poland, they value our creativity and power in engineering and development.
Interiors from Spain: You have an office in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. When did you open it and what are your goals? From your experience, what is the best strategy for success in this market?
Anima Design: Having an office in Shenzhen since 2016 helps a lot in this market. We opened it in 2016 with the help of a Spaniard and five locals. They are responsible for managing issues other than design, such as finding suppliers and quality control for the factories and the products that are designed in Barcelona and, in many cases, manufactured in Asia.
Interiors from Spain: What projects are you working on at the moment? Any new line of work you would like to experiment with in the future?
Anima Design: We are currently immersed in some very interesting projects. We cannot talk about most of them because of confidentiality, but some are related to the field of combating fetal diseases and cancer; in the field of mobility, we will launch passive safety products; and we will revive a legendary vehicle brand, producing sustainable models. In the home appliance sector, we are working with leading companies, as well as reintroducing an old brand from this segment with totally updated products using computational design. We are also starting to work with design methods that use artificial intelligence-generated bases.