Alumni News

A single ticket to New York


We had a conversation with the Elisava Alumni, Marta Caro, about her professional career in the United States.

My name is Marta Caro and I obtained an Undergraduate Degree in Design in Elisava in 2012. Shortly after, and with a great desire to venture into the professional world, I had the opportunity to work at New York as a trainee for the well-known global design consultancy 2x4.

The thing is, when I sent my portfolio to 2x4, I didn't even imagine that they would be ever interested in my profile. I knocked on doors dauntlessly, because for me it was like a game of self-assurance, and I didn't have anything planned. The next day I received an email from the consultancy. I couldn't believe it! I was about to have one of the most important adventures of my life! After a chaotic Skype interview, they accepted my application, and they told me that I should start preparing everything, because they were waiting for me in a few months.

In 2x4 I had the opportunity to work with clients such as Prada, Pamm Museum, Rubin Museum of Art, Design Within Reach or Herman Miller, among others. I also got along very well with my co-workers, so that today I’m still befriended with them. I also found out certain cultural distinctions. Americans are very open-minded people, but at the same time it is difficult to establish a connection that goes beyond.

Liberty Statue, New York

When my scholarship with 2x4 was coming to an end, I thought I should take advantage of it and seek employment in the city. I was aware that there was still an economic crisis in Spain and I didn't want to fly back and be unemployed. That's how I started asking everyone in my professional environment if they knew about studios that were looking for graphic designers.

I found a job, the one that completely defined my professional career. I was no longer a trainee, now I was a junior designer in a start-up called The Line, a store far from anything conventional that mixed online and offline world ahead of its time. The online world included e-commerce store, where the concept of Stories was also introduced, an editorial content where the product is the centre of everything. The Apartment by The Line was its offline version, a large loft in Soho that invited visitors to stroll, sit and shop within the warmth of a real house. It’s an authentic experience where you learn the history of the objects and enjoy the atmosphere that detaches the whole.

The start-up experience was totally different from that of a consultancy. On the one hand, we had more control of the projects, our “children”. The creative team was very small, about 5 people, and we had complete creative freedom, and we understood each other very well (it was like working with a group of friends). On the other hand, there was a perceived lack of order and structure affecting the company on a global scale. For the same reason, I decided that the next visa should allow me to work as a self-employed person. Once obtained, I signed a new contract with the same company, this time as self-employed, in order to gain professional independence and attract new clients.

Soho, New York

I worked for 4 years at The Line. I learned a lot about many things, not only in design, but also in project management and business in general. I can also say that I made valuable friendships. I've been self-employed for two years now. I work a couple of days a week at Uniqlo Creative Lab, and the rest of the days I manage different projects with my own clients. I develop branding, digital design (mainly web pages) and also do video editing and photography art direction.

Little did I know that this experience would last years and years. Now I look back and I feel a completely different person, I am no longer that naive girl who came almost unconsciously, trying to discover what professional direction should take. This experience allowed me to grow both professionally and personally, and has made me have “the skin harder,” as they would say.

New York can be a tough city, full of contrasts and ups and downs. It's a city that vibrates constantly, almost the centre of the world, as some would believe. On a creative ground, it is a very rewarding city, which pushes you beyond your comfort zone. It's not easy, but it encourages you a lot. Art never ends. When you've seen an exhibition here, another one opens there. It's one of the reasons why I stayed this long. Artists, creatives and interesting people from all over the world live here, each with their own projects and ideas, and without realizing it, you go into the same dynamic and get your act together.

Flatiron Building, New York

Finally, some rather practical things:

Language: Spanish is spoken almost everywhere, but if you want to live in New York, it is mandatory to have at least a basic level of English for communication, especially in a working environment.

Visa: there are many options. I recommend doing the same thing I did, i.e., entering at the labour market as a trainee (with a J1 student visa). Here, networking it’s really important and it’s not easy to find a permanent job from Spain if you don't have a previous contract. Even so, another visa I recommend is the O1 (artist visa). Depending on many factors, the company that hires you might pay you 50% of the total cost.

Housing: living in New York, especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is expensive. People usually share a flat with other people to cover the expenses.

New York's skyline from Ellis Island

Transportation: travelling by train (metro) is the most common option. Trains are open 24 hours a day and there are always people, even in the early hours of the morning. Some lines still have quite old trains, where drivers announce the stops. It’s quite chaotic and alterations of the lines due to maintenance of the tracks are very common. In peak hours of working days the trains are packed (New York is a very dense city). Considering the size of the city, the average travel time is from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Holidays: in the U.S., people have hardly any holidays. The average is 15 days a year, not counting national holidays.

Weather: very extreme, in winter it can get very cold (sometimes it can reach -13°, and at 16:30 it is already nightfall). At summer, it is hot and moist. There are hardly any intermediate seasons and yet there is enough light, consistent throughout the year.

If you are interested in coming to New York and have some questions, don't hesitate to contact me through Elisava Alumni.

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